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While the Internet has made some major changes to the way many of us look for work, a good resume is still of crucial importance. It may well be the only exposure an employer has to your skills and abilities, so you should be sure that it’s a document that can convince a hiring manager that you’re capable of filling the position.
The best way to do that is to create a resume that specifically targets the needs of a particular job posting — but rewriting it from scratch can be a time-consuming process. Instead, use this guide to create a template that can act as a foundation for any job you might want to apply for. With a strong template in place, all that’s left is to add in the specifics when it’s time to send it off to a prospective employer.
Setting Up the Document
First things first, open up a blank document in Word. Then, navigate to the Page Layout tab, click on Margins and select Narrow. This will allow us to use more of the page, which is very important for a resume. You’re looking to give whoever’s reading it as much information about you as possible, but ideally you should be able to fit all of it onto one page.
Now, add in your contact information at the top of the page. The specifics will vary depending on the country you live in and the field you work in, but generally anyone reading your resume will be looking to see your full name, an email address, a contact telephone number, and your physical address.
Don’t worry about making this information look attractive for the time being — we’ll style the document as a whole later on. One thing that’s important to remember is that your personal information should be in the body of the document, rather than included as a header. Screening software can sometimes ignore text that isn’t formatted that way, which might result in your resume going unread by an actual human.
Next, insert a section break, by navigating to Page Setup in the Layout tab and using the Breaks dropdown menu. The Continuous break works best here, as we’re looking to divide the document into sections that sit on the same page. These breaks will make it easier to edit individual parts of the resume later on.
The particular sections you include may well vary depending on the types of jobs you’re applying to, but a standard selection would be to start with a short paragraph about yourself, then feature distinct sections covering your work experience, education, and finally any miscellany. Make sure each section is clearly and appropriately titled.
You will probably be able to fill out your education section fully, but for the other sections, only include the most important information. You only need to put down the credentials that are likely to be used on every single application — skills and experience related to particular jobs, not to mention your opening paragraph, should be crafted to fit a particular job description. This is a template, not the finished resume.
Styling the Document
Now, it’s time to make your resume look visually appealing. In this case, that means producing a document that’s legible above all else. The information should be enough to grab the attention of whoever is reading it, so your color and design choices should be relatively subdued by comparison.
Start by choosing an appropriate typeface. You should use the same one throughout the resume to keep things consistent, unless you want to use a complementary font to distinguish your contact information from the other sections. Choosing a sans serif typeface will make your writing easily legible and prevent it from being incompatible with an automated screening program — Helvetica, Calibri, and Trebuchet MS are all good options.
Next, it’s time to address your contact information. Your name should be on its own line at the top of the page, and the text should be the largest that you use, with your contact information being placed just underneath in a much smaller size. Beyond that, you’re free to arrange things as you please, keeping in mind that the purpose of this document is functional above all else.
Go through the various section titles and make them stand out. Making the font bold or a slightly larger size works, as does italicizing it — it’s a personal choice. However, each section’s title should be formatted in exactly the same way.
Finally, it’s time to fine-tune the content of each section. Approach this from the perspective of someone who’s job is to look at hundreds of resumes; what information are you going to be looking for, and what’s the best way of presenting it? Use bold fonts and bullet points judiciously so that your resume is easy to digest.
When everything is set up as you like it, it’s time to save this document as a template for future usage. Click on the Office icon, then choose Save As and select Word Template.
Using Your Template
With your template up and running, it should be a snap to put together your application the next time you see a job listing that’s relevant to your skillset. When that happens, simply open the file up and start adding in extra information about skills, qualifications and experience that make you a good fit for that particular role.
Once you’re happy with the results, save a copy as a normal Word document for future use. Name the file something that makes sense, perhaps labelling it with either the name of the company that you’re applying to or the type of job it pertains to. If you apply to a similar job in the future, you’ll be able to tweak this new version of your resume rather than starting from scratch. If you’re in a field that requires you to send out a lot of resumes on a regular basis, consider taking the time to build a folder structure to keep things organized.
However, this shouldn’t be the file that you send along to the hiring manager, for two very important reasons. The first is file format — there’s a lot of debate as to whether a PDF or a Word document is more appropriate. Obviously, if you’re given specific instructions, then you should follow them. Otherwise, a PDF is perhaps the best option, as it’s sure to keep your formatting intact and it can be opened in everything from a web browser to Word itself.
Secondly, you should think about the title of your document. Remember that whoever is sorting through these applications is going to have plenty more than yours, and so a file titled ‘resume’ is only going to cause them hassle. Make sure your full name is in the file name to make things easier for them, and double-check any specific instructions on naming conventions before you submit.
For more, learn how Jobscan can help tailor your resume to job descriptions.
Image Credits: Resume letters via Shutterstock