Resume Writing: It’s the ‘Little’ Things That Separate You From a Call-Back and the Trash Can

The phrase ‘it’s the little things that count’ may sound clichéd, but in the realm of resume writing, it’s everything. Even the best resumes won’t survive if they’re littered with spelling errors and sloppy formatting, or even something as simple as faulty structure. By paying attention to minute details when creating a resume, and following these five helpful tips, your cover letter and resume might just land you a call-back, rather than a spot in the trash.

  1. Structure – Before you start dabbling with spell-check and proofreading for errors, check to see that your resume flows chronologically and also in order of importance. There should not be a five-year gap between job #1 and job #2. If so, as Ricky would say to Lucy, “You’ve got some es’plainin’ to do.” Make any gaps less obvious by noting contract work you performed, or continuing education courses you took during that period. Perhaps you had a change of heart and contemplated a career switch – list that job, even if it doesn’t pertain to your field. You may have to go into some detail during your job interview about that switch, but it looks far better than leaving a big giant hole on paper, or trying to hide an elephant at a child’s birthday party.
  2. Make your Cover Letter Count – Resume cover letters can make or break applicants in the very first line. “Dear Sir or Madam,” is not going to cut it here. Would you want a letter coming to you like that? It’s informal and it sounds like you copied the same thing and sent it out to 50 different companies. It takes five minutes to Google who the CEO of a company is, or to make a simple phone call to ask who the human resources manager is. Don’t be shy. Receptionists get phone calls like that all the time. Simply tell him or her that you’d like to know who the human resources manager is, or to whom you should address an employment resume. There. Easy as that!
  3. Format – This is not the same thing as structure. Structure refers to the order of your resume, whereas format refers to the way it is laid out on paper. With plenty of resume templates available, this should not be a big issue, unless you’ve got a temperamental space bar, which nine-and-a-half times out of ten, is not the case. Don’t be lazy here. Make sure your margins line up correctly. If you have multiple fonts (let’s not go crazy here), make sure there’s an element of consistency, where all your headings are in bold and the locations of your previous employers are italicized.
  4. Spell-check! Remember that feeling of pride when you won the fourth-grade spelling bee? Don’t throw it all away! Even with modern advancements such as spell-check, just about every resume submitted to a potential employer will have at least one typo or spelling error, even when word processors automatically point them out. Open your eyes – those mistakes are right there in red!
  5. Extras are important – This one is especially true for student resumes and entry-level resumes. Your prospective employer knows you’re a little wet behind the ears – it’s right there next to the school you attended. The last thing you want to do is hand in a near-blank sheet of paper and confirm to your future boss that, ‘yeah I am pretty clueless.’ List internships, awards, academic accolades, community service, professional memberships, and outside-of-school training. These details show a strong desire to grow personally and professionally – qualities that go a long way in masking inexperience.
So there you have it – five little things that can make a big difference in landing that job you really want. They take 15 minutes tops, and they can make the ultimate difference between launching a career and a self pity-party.