The rules and guidelines to set up your resume are always changing, but here are some standards to stick by.


Ahh, the resume. Your entire professional career, succinctly squashed into a page-long Word document. We’ll admit it--drafting up that effective CV can certainly be a challenge, but nailing it is absolutely essential; get it right and you’re one step closer towards landing that big interview. We'll help you answer some common resume questions like, "How long should a resume be?" so you can focus on how you're gonna woo your interviewer.

The protocols have changed a lot over the past couple of decades, though, and they can be tough to navigate at times. With all the advice that’s out there, it can make resume creation more complicated than it needs to be. No need to worry, though, we’re here with the answers to those burning resume formatting questions.

“How long should my resume be?”

The quick and dirty answer is just one page . Typically, hiring managers won’t flip or scroll to a second page for a recent college grad. This doesn’t mean that all of your experience isn’t relevant or special! But remember, they’re trying to find the best candidate in as little time as possible, so you’ve got to make sure your best skills and experiences are visible upon first glance at a single page.

“Should I list all of my work experience? How far back am I allowed to go?”

That’s two questions, but we’ll allow it since they’re closely related. When you’re crafting the perfect resume, you don’t want to list everything you’ve ever done. It’s doubtful that the hiring manager will care that you used to babysit baby Gretchen across the street when you were in middle school (unless you’re just starting high school -- then go you for starting on your resume early).

Depending on where you are in your life, there are general rules for how far back you should go. If you’re:

Currently a freshman or sophomore in college , feel free to include anything from high school, but no earlier than that.

Currently a junior or senior in college , only include stuff from high school that are extremely out of the ordinary or relevant to the job or internship you’re applying for.

Currently a recent college graduate (within the past 1 - 1.5 years) , only include experience from college and no earlier. Even if what you did in high school was impressive, you don’t want hiring managers to think you didn’t do anything special in college.

Currently 2-10 years out of college , don’t include any college experience unless it’s super relevant to what you’re applying for (e.g., internships, fellowships, co-ops, etc.). If your resume looks like you might be a bit of a “job hopper”, only include the most recent jobs and really highlight your responsibilities at those gigs.

Currently 10+ years out of college , if you jumped jobs often or have had more than 2-3 jobs (which is most people), don’t include anything older than 10 years. More often than not, the knowledge that you have from older jobs is obsolete, and you want to show off your new skills on the latest software.

These are general rules of thumb, and there’s exceptions to every rule. But basically, you want to look at your resume with a critical eye. Don’t just list anything and everything -- it’s more beneficial to cut down on the fluff and focus on what’s relevant to the job you’re applying for. Always ask yourself -- what would impress a hiring manager if they read your resume?

Rihanna in her music video for "Rehab" singing "I should just let you go"

You don’t need to list your academic achievements if you’ve been out of school for more than a year, to be honest. Via Giphy .

“Is it okay to be creative when designing my resume?”

While the purpose of a resume is separating yourself from the rest, it’s incredibly important to think critically about the vibe of the industry you’re headed into before you decide on how to design your own resume. Typically, business-related fields necessitate resumes on the simple, straightforward side, where your skills and experience will do all the talking. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; you can use bolded text to emphasize elements you believe need some extra attention. If you want to show off your creative side though, def take the chance to create that online portfolio and link it from your resume. Bing bam boom -- you can show off your other skills without cluttering up your resume in the process.

On the other side of the coin, if you’re headed into a creative field like copywriting or graphic design, you get the chance make it entirely your own! As long as you don’t go overboard, adding some color, interesting design elements, or even some sort of unique graphic can be exactly what you need to stand out.

“Should I add a skills section?”

Depends -- do you have any skills that are unique to you or a particular industry or job function? And no, Microsoft Office doesn’t count. Most employers expect you to know at least the basics of navigating around Word and Excel, so unless you’re looking for a job that typically doesn’t use Microsoft, scratch it off the resume. Also, adding in that you have “basic conversational skills in Spanish” is hardly impressive (and takes up valuable real estate on your resume).

The types of skills and/or software knowledge that you might want to add (if you have them) are things like:

  • HTML & CSS
  • SPSS
  • Fluent in Bulgarian, written and spoken
  • Zendesk
  • Salesforce

Break out a separate skills section if you can’t easily or naturally mention them in your experience section. If you were recently in a customer service job that used Zendesk, you can work out a bullet point like, “Maintained prompt and friendly user support through Zendesk”. Make sense? If you’re not sure whether or not you should include a skill on your resume, ask a mentor or even a friend or peer. Chances are, if they all know Microsoft Office, you’re not going to stand out by including that on your resume.

Britta from the show Community saying "I got skills"

So show ‘em you got ‘em. Via Giphy.

---

Though perfecting your resume can seem daunting, there’s no need to stress. Keep these tips and tricks in mind when working on yours, and you’ll be suiting up for your next big interview in no time.

Not sure where send that final version? No worries. Go ahead and sign up on Planted and we’ll work on hunting down an internship or job worthy of your masterpiece.

---

Justin is a freelance writer, photographer, and Fordham University senior studying digital media and journalism. When he’s not typing away, he’s out on the street with his camera, schmoozing photogenic strangers and taking their portraits, eating prosciutto, or lounging on a roof somewhere in The Bronx.

Original featured image by congerdesign .