Remember the last time you walked into a fancy restaurant? I know not many of us in the science field have the funds to frequent those places, but try to think about the main differences between an average establishment and a 5-star restaurant. The quality of food should of course be first, or so you would hope, but what is a close second? The presentation!
The same goes for your resume! While the content is always the most important piece of your resume, the presentation is what will catch the hiring manager’s eye and make him or her want to read more. Think of your resume as your first impression with your future boss. Unfortunately, resume writing is not something that is generally taught, yet that one document has the potential to make or break you when it comes to your career.
So where do you start? In this age of technology, most people search the internet. There is an overabundance of information available online, yet very little of it is helpful.
One thing that can potentially save you a lot of time when you are preparing your resume is a template. However, there seems to be a lack of reliable resources available when you search online. There is no “one fits all” template and you definitely don’t want to use the same generic template that everybody else is using.
The thing about a resume is that you want to stand out and be remembered, but you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. I have seen resumes that were so disorganized or cluttered that it was hard to find any useful information. I have seen resumes that were so colorful that it hurt my eyes a little bit just to look at them. Those are some of the things to look out for.
If you stand out because your resume has no clear headings, you had so much information that you had to use a size 8 font or remove the margins, or you figured that you would make your font color a bright green throughout the resume, you might not get a second chance with a hiring manager, or anyone else in that particular company.
As scientists, we need to be careful. You want to mostly stick to the traditional, conservative template.
So how do you stand out?
The most important things to remember are organization, space and readability. Trying to fit too much information onto one page can be detrimental. A hiring manager generally spends less than 30 seconds looking at each resume. If he or she can’t find the relevant information easily, they move on to the next resume. I have heard of hiring managers having as much as 800 applicants to a single position. While the norm is more in the range of 100 to 200 applicants, the odds are still against you and you have less than 30 seconds to make a positive impression.
While you do want to stick to a more traditional and streamlined resume, you can absolutely add a personal touch! Just be careful not to go overboard! Your resume should always be a dynamic document that represents you as a professional. You want to customize your content to each individual position you apply to – and remember, presentation matters!