Art by Jonan Everett
During my senior year of college, I decided that I wasn’t going to become another boomerang kid who moved back home, unemployed and with no post-graduation plan.
I took steps to prevent that scenario: I completed an extra internship, attended job fairs to meet prospective employers, and participated in extracurricular activities to build my network. I also crafted, revised, rewrote, and continuously edited my résumé.
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My résumé used to be really, really bad. In fact, it kept me from getting my dream job. I’m not just saying that — I know it did, because sometimes I re-applied twice to the same company (for the same position!) after just a few weeks.
When I made changes to my résumé, I was invited in for interviews by the same companies that had rejected me just weeks earlier. A great résumé alone won’t land you a job, but it can be the ticket to an interview.
My new résumé got me job interviews at Google, eBay, and nearly two dozen top startups, including Buzzfeed, Spotify, Venmo, and Oscar. I also got interviews at a major political campaign, a huge government contractor, and a billion-dollar foundation.
I went from struggling to secure interviews at all to setting myself up for the best interviews possible.
Just one simple change made a huge difference: Rather than just listing a bunch of stuff I had accomplished, I designed an outline for my dream job interview, tailored to each company.
Once I reframed my résumé around my goals, several changes followed naturally. Here’s how to make a good résumé that will help you snag the interviews you want:
- Highlight your strengths and successes.
- If you don’t want to talk about it in the interview, cut it from the résumé.
- Emphasize results you've achieved first, and then talk about your skills.
- Tailor your résumé to each job that you apply to.
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1. Highlight Your Strengths and Successes
If you’re struggling to come up with relevant content, ask yourself a few questions:
- Which stories do I want to tell in this job interview?
- What do I want to keep out of the conversation (unimpressive jobs, underdeveloped skills)?
- When have I demonstrated the exact skills this job requires?
- When have I achieved the same kinds of results that could make a difference in this role?
2. Cut Points That You Don’t want to Talk About in the Interview
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but take a look at your résumé. There is probably a bunch of extra information in there as filler. I had a bunch of soft-skills bullet points like “participated in weekly team meetings,” which didn’t communicate anything particularly impressive or relevant. Hiring managers are skimming, so make their job easy by cutting information that they won’t care about.
3. Emphasize Results First, Then Skills
In my dream job interview, I wanted to show my impact rather than tell it. For example, this is one of my résumé bullets: “Increased Facebook following by 40 percent and total Facebook reach by 60 percent.” This replaced “Ran company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.”
When possible, share the exact numbers. If you want to emphasize your skills or methods, you should still front-load the impact. For example, write “Increased site traffic and conversion KPIs with targeted SEO strategies,” rather than “Used SEO strategies to boost site traffic.” Companies hire candidates who will give them results.
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4. Tailor Your Résumé to the Employer
Yes, it takes time, but not that much of it. Especially if you keep a document with optional sections and bullet points to swap out. I have a list that contains about twice as much information as I actually use. This way, whether I’m applying for a more technical role or a more writing-heavy one, I already have the material to swap out. This is especially useful if you’re applying to jobs in more than one field or for more than one type of role.
The Bottom Line on How to Make a Good Résumé
Through these changes, I made it easy for employers to like me, understand how I could help their company, and see why I would be good at this particular role. Plus, I had the X factor that made me stand out from other applicants. And I did all of this on one 8.5-by-11-inch PDF.
All of the initial interviews I landed after making these changes were positive experiences. Plus, many of them successfully led to second-, third-, and final-round interviews, and eventually job offers. My old résumé lacked direction, but my new one is now one of my most effective job-search tools.