The Pocket Guide to Writing a Resume

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Full document available for purchase here

Intro

Hello and welcome.

I’m Quinn Hanson. Thanks for being here.

This document is meant to be one piece in a series of resources for those looking to stand out in their job search. From conducting a job search to resume building and interview prep, there is a lot to cover. Here we will focus on resume advice.

Why focus on resumes?

The short answer is that we all need a resume at some point in our careers to get into a new role.

The long answer is that companies don’t just go around handing out job offers. Businesses have lengthy recruiting and hiring processes and a resume is the cornerstone piece. Step one in the job search process is usually sending your resume in online for a particular role. Even if we have a network of people that can help us get a foot in the door at their respective companies, we will still need to pass a long a resume to someone. A resume is effectively a ticket into a company.

Additionally, not everyone is going to be an entrepreneur and work for themselves for their whole life. As Daniel Vassallo says, “Becoming self employed is easy. Staying so is hard.” With that perspective in mind, it’s clear that most of us will need to find employment somewhere.

This guide will share an inside look at how hiring decisions are made, from someone who works in recruiting and gets people hired as a day job. I’ve seen countless resumes, interviewed hundreds of people, helped people get hired in dozens of companies and want to pass this information around so everyone knows what is going on behind the scenes.

We’ll start off by going over resumes and some tips to consider when making one. The accompanying samples of commented resumes includes over a dozen examples to take a look at as well.

 Let’s go!

Necessary disclaimer: Nothing in this document is a guarantee of success nor a validation of the practices used in hiring. This is simply a document of information to consider when looking for new roles. Businesses operate in unique ways and not everything herein will be relevant at all times. Use your discretion.

Résumés

Résumé – a document to present your background, education, skills and accomplishments. (Also spelled as resume). Wikipedia

If you’re here and reading this, I assume you have a resume or at least know what they are. The Wikipedia article linked above does a great job breaking down what they are and their historical relevance. What not everyone realizes about resumes is their true purpose.

What is the point of a resume? If you are thinking to yourself, the point of a resume is to get a job, I would encourage you to pause for a second and take a step backwards. Before someone gets a job, there is a multi step process for interviewing prior to being hired. Initial phone calls, the scheduling of an interview and depending on the job, there can be multiple rounds of virtual or in person interviews or assessments. The resume is you putting your hand up in a sea of people to express interest in the role. The point of a resume is to get an interview.

There is not a best format for making resumes that is collectively agreed on. With that in mind, we’ll go over some tips to consider when making a resume and the accompanying document has  commented resumes that will shed light on how a hiring manager interprets a resume.

At a high level, a resume generally has a few specific sections;

  1. Basic info (Name, contact info, location)
  2. Education (school, degree(s), focused area of study)
  3. Professional Experience (reverse chronological list of what you accomplished, company name, position title(s), & location)
  4. Personal (optional)

Minimize the custom formatting. Moving resumes between Google Docs, Word, PDF and other programs will break the formatting and result in bad looking resumes.

Basic Info

A resume needs to include basic information at the top. Your first and last name, phone number, email address and city you live in. Adding in a job title is an option as well (e.g.

Civil Engineer, Customer Success Manager, Operations Lead, etc.).

Name – This one is pretty simple and hard to get wrong. “First Name Last Name,” ex:

Quinn Hanson, should be the first thing someone reads when they pick up your resume. The font size for a name should be bigger than the other text.

If putting a nick name, make sure it’s appropriate. Ex: Quinn “laziboi” Hanson is going to tell a hiring manager you don’t actually want a job. Elizabeth “Liz” Hanson is a much more appropriate nick name than laziboi.

Phone number – nothing fancy here, just the number in an easy to read format.

Format should be 111-111-1111 or (111)-111-1111

Do not list a phone number as 1111111111

If you have a particular country code (e.g +41), you can include it, but I would encourage you to look for a free country specific number via Google Voice (or a similar VOIP service). More details below under Location.

Email address – This is going to get detailed. An email address on a resume can say a lot about an individual. It’s important to have a professional, appropriate email address to avoid causing a hiring manager any concerns.

An email address needs to be professional looking

 firstname.lastname@domain.com is a great example of a professional email address. E.g. quinn.hanson@website.com.

other options include lastname.firstname@domain.com (hanson.quinn@…) firstinitialLastname@domain.com (qhanson@…) firstinitial.lastname@domain.com (q.hanson@…) lastnameFirstinitial@domain.com (hansonq@…)

This is not an exhaustive list of what is acceptable, but the point is to make it close to your name.

Here are some things to avoid.

 No drug reference email addresses. e.x. weedsmoker@weed.com or

Blazer420@domain.com

 No email addresses that allude to never wanting a job. e.x. sevendayweekend@domain.com

Avoid numbers when you can no 69s, or 420s in your email address

no numbers over 4 digits long. Ex: quinn87675439@domain.com looks like an autogenerated, spammy email address

Avoid putting your birth year in your email address.

Avoid silly email addresses. E.x: Ilovetrains@domain.com, hotdogsaresandwiches@domain.com or 33babysitter@domain.com

The reason for avoiding unprofessional email addresses is to prevent the hiring manager from writing you off immediately. Yes, a bad email address can absolutely lead to negative judgement. It’s assumed that when someone sends a resume in to apply for a position, they are putting their best foot forward. If someone’s best foot forward looks immature, goofy, or out of line for any reason, it’s a bad sign to the hiring manager. Email addresses are free, so if needed, make an new email address for resumes and job applications that is as close to your name as possible.

Location

When an application is submitted through an online job portal, e.g. Indeed, Ziprecruiter, Career Builder, Workday, or any company’s website, it goes into a database. Those databases are called applicant tracking systems (ATS) and they (basically) organize applications into a spread sheet full of rows of people and columns of information pulled from the resume. One of the columns the ATS will specifically label is the location on the resume. A far away location may deter the hiring manager if the role is in person. If there is no location, the priority level on calling someone drops because it is assumed they are far away.

So, to minimize the chances of someone skipping your resume, include the city and state you’re in. A specific address is good too, but city and state work well.

Most businesses are looking to hire people that can start quickly. Having to bring someone in from outside of the area delays the hiring process, costs more money, and is a bigger risk. Being in the same relative location as the company is ideal. (For in person roles at least. For remote roles, the most relevant location data is your time zone).

Tell No Lies

At the end of the day, yes, it can be hard to prove exactly what someone actually did at their past places of employment or during their education. That does not mean it’s a good idea to lie about what you did.

The saying, “past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior” applies here.

Someone that is willing to lie their way into a new role will likely lie in some way once in their current role. That will be noticed, and it won’t go well.

Professional relationships built on lies do not last long.

Relationships built on lies do not last long.

Education and Experience

The education and professional experience sections should make up the bulk of your resume. This is the real meat and potatoes of the resume. The majority of your resume real estate should be dedicated to experience, and more specifically, to what you accomplished.

Note, there is no need for a summary, personal profile, or objective on a resume.

A resume is a summary of you and your accomplishments that has one objective – get an interview. Dedicating additional space to any kind of summary is unnecessary.

Whatever information that you might want to convey in a summary can be moved to the professional experience section. As a writing exercise, it’s helpful to write a short biography. The important parts from the bio can then be outlined in the experience section.

Education

The education section is pretty straightforward. The goal is to lay out what kind of degree you have, from where, when, and other noteworthy info, e.g. minors, focuses, leadership classes, etc.

Samples:

BA: Psychology – University of Oregon – 2020

 Minor in Youth Brain Development

BS: Construction Management – Northern Arizona University – 2012

 Specialized in Concrete construction practices

AAS: Manufacturing Technology – Minneapolis Community College – 2013

Focus on CNC Machines

In progress: AAS in Spanish

High School Diploma – East High – 2021

Student Body Vice President 2019-2021

Junior Varsity volleyball

MS: Mechanical Design Engineering – Oregon State University – 2018

 Focus on Bio-inspired robotics

BS: Mechanical Engineering Technology – Montana State University – 2014

 Minor in Business Administration

Certifications:

US Air force Financial Improvement Audit Readiness Course – 2015

US Navy Supply Officer Department Head Course – 2014

Seth Godin’s AltMBA program – 2019 Cohort

Design Concepts and Applications – 2017

Why all the samples?

The fast answer is because there are a lot of different ways to demonstrate and highlight education.

There are more ways to highlight education, see the accompanying resume samples for more ideas

Did you notice how none of those listed a GPA?

In most cases, a GPA is not necessary. Someone that is coming right out of high school or college and does not have many other achievements to highlight can use their GPA if it’s noteworthy. Most schools use a 4.0 grading scale, a noteworthy GPA is generally 3.6 or higher.

If you’re beyond college, there is no need for the GPA.

Is high school necessary to include?

Usually not.

If you are applying for a summer job in your home town while in or just after high school, then yes include it. If you are in the middle of college and looking for a role in your home town then sure, include it, it doesn’t hurt anything. Aim to fill the resume with work accomplishments before putting a high school on a resume.

If you are in college and looking for job in a different town than you went to high school in, don’t include it. (No one outside your town knows about the high school). Once you are in college or have a college degree (associates, bachelors or beyond), it’s assumed you finished high school (or equivalent) and thus it’s not necessary to dedicate resume space to it. Remember there is finite space on a resume and dedicating any of it to something unnecessary should be avoided.

Experience

This is the most impactful part of a resume. This is where accomplishments and what you are capable of should shine through.

Some Do’s:

Add numbers, metrics, and quantitative information to your resume. A few examples;

Increased sales by 25% resulting in $1,000,000 more in revenue

Decreased customer turnover rate by 18%

Improved NPS score from 63% to 91%

Hit 130% of quota every month for 15 months in a row

Saved 60 seconds on a key process resulting in savings of $250k in a one year period

 Redesigned single family home layout to use 15% less sheet rock which reduced time & cost by 5% & 7%

 Supported 200 people and 225 devices as the only in house IT person

note, the bullet point accomplishments do not need to spell out every detail of how something was accomplished. Bullet points open the door for a hiring manager to ask you for more information. More detail can be included on a longer resume, which can be brought with to an interview (not used to apply).

Make the format consistent. Position title, name of company, and dates are the most important thing to get down for every company.

Analyst, Bank of America 7/2017 – Current

Business Development Manager, Light Shine 3/ 2015 – 6/2017

Accounts Payable Specialist, Game Stop 3/2020 – 8/2021

Taylor the language on a resume to match the description of the role being applied for

 If previous job duties align but the job title is slightly different, use the job title the new company is using

If the job description says to meet or exceed expectations or quotas, discuss which quotas you previously met or exceeded

If the job description asks for specific software skills (e.g. tableau, excel, salesforce, python, etc.), list your experience with those. No, don’t lie about any of it.

Some Don’ts:

Don’t copy and paste the job description into a resume.

Don’t try to mislead someone by putting in wrong dates, leaving dates off, or embellish on experience or accomplishments.

Don’t repeat yourself. There are too many things to include, don’t take up space by repeating yourself.

Don’t include references on your one page resume. They can (and should) exist on a stand alone document. A one page resume has too little real estate to give space to a reference that won’t be called until after the interview process has already started.

 Don’t include the amount of hours you worked or previous pay rates for former roles.

Don’t put a personal photo on your resume.

Don’t allow for typos & grammatical errors.

When Discussing Experience —>

Keep the tone past tense

Use language that matches the job description

Be as specific as possible

Examples of getting specific —>

 Customer service –> Processed 200+ customer requests per day via phone and email support.

Built IT infrastructure –> Designed, tested, and implemented X, Y and Z programs to handle 3,000 phone calls and 200 devices a day.

Production worker –> Produced 400-500 widgets a day operating a standing press

 Design Team Lead –> Promoted to lead and train a team of 4-6 on Illustrator, photoshop, and Canva

 Accounting Manager–> Led and directly supervised a team of 4 Accounts

Payable and 3 Accounts Receivable specialists

 Dishwasher –> Organized and ran a high volume dish washing station to provide 600+ people per day clean dinnerware

 Host –> Controlled the flow of 450+ guests into the restaurant using

Opentable, resulting in 10% increase in volume

 Cashier –> Processed $3-$5,000 dollars of cash and credit card transactions per hour resulting in the shortest line for shoppers

When making a resume:

Name, phone, email, location at the top.

When applying for a new role, keep the resume to one page. A longer resume can be used once in the interview process.

 No objective statement needed. The only objective of a resume is to get a job interview.

No summary or profile needed. A resume is your summary & profile.

Relevant education should be included. If any education beyond high school was completed, then there is no need for high school to be included.

No GPAs needed.

Professional experience should take up the bulk of the resume real estate.

Past tense tone, focus on accomplishments.

Don’t copy and paste a job description into your resume. Focus on what you actually did and what you accomplished.

Use numbers, specifics, and quantifiable information as much as possible.

References do not go on a resume.

Formatting should be consistent.

Experience should be in reverse chronological order (most recent at the top).

Resources:

Harvard Resume and cover letter info.

How Toby DMd his way to a job

Google doc templates (number 3 is my favorite)

Turn your resume into a website

Making a great LinkedIn Profile

Grammarly – for resume editing

The Billion dollar job (from a tweet)

Negotiating Salary

87 Interview questions

Answering Common Interview Questions

Need something else? Follow & Ping me on twitter

@ Quinn_Hanson22

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