Don't Be Afraid to Boast
Roberts and Dixon both say one of the biggest barriers to creating the best resume possible is confidence.
“People have the hardest time selling themselves,” says Dixon. Roberts says many times clients will have decades of experience but lack the ability to consolidate it and recognize what they really have to offer potential employers.
Before even putting a resume together, Dixon suggests sitting down and listing every job you've ever had. She says this will not only put your background into perspective, but pinpoint relevant job skills that might otherwise be overlooked.
Let the Job Description Guide You
When it comes to language, Dixon and Roberts emphasize using the description of the job you’re applying for as a guide. You can apply terms within that description to any relevant experiences or skill sets from past jobs. This is essential, as employers will quickly scan resumes looking for key phrases and industry terms.
Roberts says adding a 3-4 sentence summary at the top of the page serves as a “written 30-second pitch” that encapsulates “who you are as a professional” and provides an opportunity to work in keywords from a job description.
Don't Get Fancy
While some may think making your resume stand out means using showy fonts or artwork, Roberts and Dixon say that is not the case. No matter what the job, you should stick to a fairly standard format.
Begin with your name and contact information at the top of the page, followed by a chronological, bulleted list of work experiences and functional job skills, with your credentials, such as degrees or certificates, at the bottom of the page. Type the resume up in Microsoft Word using a 12-point font. Roberts suggests sticking with more conservative fonts like Calibri, Arial, or Garamond.
One Page or Two?
Both Roberts and Dixon say that, while being able to fit everything on one page may look neat and tidy, it's not necessary and, depending on your amount of work experience, can actually weaken a resume. If someone has had a number of jobs over the decades, for example, Roberts says fitting that information on one page is unrealistic. If one page isn't enough, two pages will work just as well.
Don't Mind the Gaps
For those reentering the workforce after a number of months, or even years, creating a new resume may seem like a futile endeavor. But Roberts says these job seekers can still list experience outside of the traditional workforce. For example, stay-at-home parents or anyone who was looking after a sick relative can list their roles and responsibilities as caretakers. Those who were incarcerated can list any jobs or duties from their time in prison. You can also list volunteer experience.
When you're sending your resume out to multiple employers, it's reasonable to be worried about who can access your information, especially your home address. Roberts says that while he understands the concern, companies are legally obligated to protect your information from falling into the wrong hands.
If you still have reservations, however, Dixon says you can forego the street address and just put down your city, state, and zip code.
If you need additional help, visit the Carnegie Library’s Resume & Career Services webpage (carnegielibrary.org/services/for-job-seekers) or contact the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation’s Financial Opportunity Center by phone at 412-621-7863 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brashear Association Neighborhood Employment Center
Call 412-390-3588 or visit brashearassociation.org.
Located in Allentown, the Brashear Association Neighborhood Employment Center offers job readiness assistance to unemployed and underemployed adults in South Pittsburgh.
Eastside Neighborhood Employment Center
Call 412-441-9833 ext. 10 or visit enecpittsburgh.org.
A project of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, the Eastside Neighborhood Employment Center provides help with making or updating a resume, along with many other services for those seeking meaningful employment opportunities.
Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania
Call 412-304-3685 or visit goodwillswpa.org/career-service-online.
Among its many other programs, Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania has online career services with workshops covering resume and cover letter writing, and more.
Call 412-552-7100 for Downtown, 412-436-2225 for Allegheny East, or visit careerlinkpittsburgh.com and click “Jobseeker Services.”
Job seekers in Pittsburgh and throughout Allegheny County will find a comprehensive online guide to constructing a resume, as well as options for more individualized one-on-one counseling.