Career

The World's Most Common Resume Questions Answered for Good

Writing your resume is a daunting task, especially when you're ready to go after that first job. You want it to stand out from the stack of other resumes on a prospective employer's desk--not in a bad way, but in a way that showcases your professional demeanor and helps you ease open that door so that you'll be recognized for your outstanding capability and performance. 

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Question #1: How am I supposed to show experience when I have to have a job to get experience?

Your first job is a challenge. You need experience to get a job, but you have to work somewhere in order to get experience! Luckily, you have several options for acquiring the skills you need to make yourself stand out in your chosen field even before you take that first position.

  • Showcase your reliability at previous jobs. Even if you worked as a cashier at a local fast food restaurant through high school, that's a customer service position where you contributed something positive to the company. Let potential employers know exactly what you learned in your last position and highlight work skills that are relevant to your current field.
  • Volunteer in industry-related positions. Future teachers, for example, could tutor students, work in an after-school program, or volunteer in the school system where they want to work.
  • Take the small jobs. Whether you're in college, working toward a technical degree, or still in high school, show your interest in the field and willingness to work your way up by taking related positions in your field. A future IT security professional might start by taking a help desk position: a foot in the door and a start, even if it's not the one you'd like.
  • Include internships. These are the best way to gain experience in your field. 
  • Start a blog, a YouTube channel, or a Facebook page. As you establish yourself as an authority in your industry, you'll look great to potential employers! Just remember that they will be checking into your content as part of the employment process. Keep your content clean, professional, and accurate.

Question #2: What's the ideal resume length?

Deciding how long your resume should be is difficult--and it's a question that has to be answered on an individual basis. Ultimately, the answer is this: your resume should be long enough to cover all of the relevant information, share the important facts about your employment history and your related skills, and show potential employers why you'll be a great fit for their company. More specifically, these guidelines will help you develop your resume. 

One-page resumes are the best length for most individuals. This is especially true of first-time workers or those who are transitioning to a new industry. You don't have work experience yet, so you don't need much space.

Two-page resumes are appropriate for professionals who have been in a given industry for a while and have a long list of work experience, accomplishments, awards, and recognitions.

Three-page resumes are typical only of those in academic professions or who have been heavily published. Occasionally, industry professionals who have received extensive awards, have multiple patents, or who have made major contributions to the industry will use this style. Three-page resumes are inappropriate for first-time job seekers and other individuals who haven't had the opportunity to acquire extensive experience in the industry.

Question #3: How Do I Choose a Resume Format?

Resumes typically come in three basic formats: chronological, functional, and mixed. Chronological resumes simply list your work history, starting with your most recent position and working back 10-15 years. Functional resumes start with job skills. A combination resume uses both: it might, for example, start with a list of skills, then go on to show job history. 

As a first-time job seeker, you may discover that functional or combination resumes are more practical for you. You have plenty of skills. You just need the experience to back them up! Later, you'll adapt your resume to a chronological format in order to showcase your reliability and allow employers to easily see your past work history.

Question #4: What words should I use in my resume? What words should I avoid?

Forbes has put together a great visual list of words that hiring managers don't want to see on your resume. The key to writing a great resume, however, isn't just avoiding overused phrases like "go-to person," "synergy," "thinking outside the box," "results driven," and "team player." It's about showing potential employers what you've accomplished. List examples. If you're an extremely creative individual, list times when your creativity has contributed to the workplace, whether you were volunteering for a charity organization, completing your internship, or working at a dead-end job to support yourself through college. Are you a results-driven individual? Note the results you've achieved. Hiring managers want to see what you've achieved, not hear more about how you view yourself. You might not have a long list of accomplishments yet, but there are plenty of things that you've managed to do--and that's what your resume should focus on.

Writing a golden resume takes time and attention to detail. The job of your dreams won't fall into your lap, but a great resume that catches the attention of a hiring manager will go a long way toward making your employment dreams come true. You only have a few seconds before the hiring manager will set your resume aside. Put in the time to make sure yours is in the "keep" stack.

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Ryan Bonnici

Ryan Bonnici

Ryan Bonnici is the Senior Director of Global Marketing at HubSpot. He’s an experienced digital marketing leader having held roles previously at Salesforce, ExactTarget, Microsoft and Qantas Airways. He's an experienced digital marketing consultant having worked with a wide range of businesses from thermal clothing sales to executive coaching services. For more frequent updates, follow him on Facebook (@growthguy) or Twitter (@ryanbonnici)