No two jobs are exactly alike – and for that reason, your resume shouldn’t stay the same from application to application. Your resume needs to vary from job to job if you are going to prove to an employer that you are the right fit for their specific role.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to write a brand new resume for each job you apply to. You can get a step up on the competition by building a strong foundational resume that you then tweak according to each job opening.

To help you in that effort, I offer this list of five essential things that you need to include in your foundational resume. Follow this advice, and you’ll stand out from the crowd and gain a series advantage over the other job seekers vying for the role:

1. Education

There is always some question about where to place your educational experience on your resume. To some degree, the weight of your education – and, therefore, its position on the page – is slightly dependent on the industry you’re in. In general, however, the most important thing to remember is that your resume should be written with the reader in mind.

The takeaway: My golden rule is, if you graduated less than 12 months ago, you should list your education at the top. More than 12 months? Your work experience since graduation is likely more important to a hiring manager, so list that before your education.

2. Honesty

Lying isn’t uncommon on resumes, but that doesn’t mean it’s a fruitful way to advance your career. Hiring managers were not born yesterday, and a single question about one of your resume lies might be all it takes to bring the whole interview crumbling down.

Education, employment dates, job titles, and skills are the biggest problem areas when it to comes to stretching the truth. Conveniently, they’re also the easiest to verify – hiring managers, like the rest of us, do have access to the Internet, after all.

MugKeep it real, because even if your false credentials land you the job, it will most likely come back to haunt you in the future.

The Takeaway: Have a gap in your employment history? It’s more than likely you weren’t sitting around doing nothing. Speak to the time you may have spent volunteering, leading your own projects, or participating in skill-training activities. Be creative with your time, and present your skill set in a powerful way.

3. Length

A lot of people think the one-page resume rule is dead, so if you’ve been stressing about squeezing your experience into a single sheet, you can breathe easy.

However, there is one giant exception to this: If you have less than five years of experience, it’s best to stick to one page.

The Takeaway: You’re not going to get passed on simply because your resume is two pages long, but it’s important to remember that resume length does play into the hiring manager’s perception of you as a candidate.

It’s also important to remember that the longer your resume is, the less likely it is that the hiring manager will see what you want them to see. A longer resume doesn’t automatically mean the hiring manager is going to spend more time reading it. On the other hand, a clear and concise resume means that the hiring manager is more likely to focus on the most important bits.

4. Consistency

It’s important to establish a simple and pleasant reading experience for hiring mangers – after all, these people are often looking at hundreds of resumes each and every day. The easiest way to do this is to be consistent when formatting your content.

For example, if you use bold, centered text to title the first section of the resume, then use that same style for the remaining section titles, too. If you’ve used a one-inch space between your first and second sections, continue with that spacing for the remainder of your resume.

The takeaway: A good-looking resume on its own isn’t going to land you the interview. The information on your resume still needs to be first-rate. But by displaying the content in a visually appealing and digestible way, you are most likely to get the attention you want from hiring managers.

5. Personality

GlassesIt’s no secret that hiring managers look for indicators of your potential cultural fit by examining your hobbies and interests. Placing a little personal information on your resume will help set you apart from other candidates and give hiring managers a glimpse into how you’ll fit in with the company.

The takeaway: At the end of the day, hiring managers are human too – take advantage of the fact that they might share similar interests. Look at it as a way to show your potential employer what you can do and what unique skills you can bring to the table.

For example, if you mention that you’re active in a sports league, prospective employers may see that as a sign that you know the value of teamwork. Hobbies can be a powerful way to present your skills and cultural fit to employers.


Make sure your basic resume contains these five things, and then tweak it as necessary for each job posting. The result will be a powerhouse document that helps you tower above the competition.

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