Brand You, Part 2

Writing a résumé that gets read

Rebecca Anderson, director of career services for the UC Berkeley Information School, leads an annual career workshop for our students called “Brand You.”

If you couldn’t make it to last year’s event, don’t fret: You can listen to the podcast and read our how-to guides: What’s Your Brand? and 7 Tips on Creating Opportunities for Yourself With LinkedIn.

Take creating your own brand one step further by creating a résumé that reflects your new brand statement and that employers will want to read.

At a high level, remember what employers are looking for when they read your résumé. They want to assess your skills, strengths and experience to see how fast you can hit the ground running. They’re also asking themselves, “Why are you applying to this job in particular?” “Why does it make sense as the next step?” “If you were X, why are you now applying for Y?”

Your résumé must convey those answers in interesting ways. Here’s how.

Formatting to Catch the Goldfish’s Eye

Seconds count! Most hiring managers spend no more than eight seconds reviewing your résumé­—less than the nine-second attention span of a goldfish. You can maximize your potential employer’s time by having a really well-organized and predictable résumé­. Your name, your experience—all the relevant elements should be clear at a glance.

First, make your name big and put it at the top. Also include your email and phone number, but not your address as employers aren’t going to reach out to you by mail.

In general, your education should be at the top only if it’s the most interesting thing about you. If you recently graduated or completed a certificate program with us, you could move that up or mention it in a summary. If not, put your education at the bottom or somewhere off to the side. You don’t have to include months or years, especially if you’re concerned about age discrimination.

For most non-senior-level jobs, your résumé should one page in length. For new grads in particular, it’s a bit much to have two and especially three pages. If you must have more than one page, be sure that the vital information is on the first page.

For senior, director or executive-level positions, a two-page résumé and the attendant experience are expected.

Save It for LinkedIn

If you presented at a conference, you can put that on your résumé; but if you were just an attendee, put that on LinkedIn instead. Here are some other examples of what to keep off your résumé and showcase on LinkedIn:

  • If you are trying to break into a new industry and need to show industry awareness
  • You went to a conference to learn something new and don’t have a lot of other examples to speak to that skill

Here’s an exception: If you’ve been working in, say, environmental services for a while and you attend a conference about it, leave it out.

Better yet, join the LinkedIn group for that conference so you can network with the other attendees.

Skills Sections: Dos and Don’ts

“Projects” is a great section for your résumé, especially if you’re a career changer. If you’ve done a really cool project in your Extension class or for a local nonprofit group, list that to showcase your new skills.

You can list unpaid and paid gigs and provide the project title and client; there’s no need to state that the project was unpaid. Maybe you chaired the PTA or ran a food bank—that’s professional experience that belongs on a résumé.

Don’t include a job objective. We know your objective is X job because you’re applying for it!

“Languages,” “Skills,” “Tools,” “Community” and “Philanthropy” are all optional résumé sections.

But, don't include a skills section if you can only show soft skills: Saying you’re “good at team-building” doesn’t mean anything concrete to a hiring manager. If you can make those soft skills harder or more quantifiable, then include statements like “I'm good at developing team-building scenarios,” or, “I'm familiar with Myers–Briggs.”

Don't just say you're “good at surveys”; instead, list SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics. 

Listing basic Microsoft Word, Microsoft Office or Google Suite will make you look dated, unless the job ad specifically calls for those skills. (Exceptions: High-level, advanced skills in Excel, Access or SharePoint).

In general, you should only include new, high-tech skills. You don’t have to be an expert in each skill, but make sure you are at least a level two (out of five). You need to know something well enough that if you’re asked to do something on the job, you can research an answer and hack it together.

For instance, Rebecca Anderson uses Photoshop to edit family photos. She puts it on her résumé because she considers herself at least a level two, even though she has to look up tutorials on YouTube each time.

“Strengths” or “Core Competencies” is an unnecessary section for most professionals. Recruiters will tell you that they don’t like to see a “Strengths” section because they should be able to see them in your experience. In other words, don’t tell the reader that you’re good at team-building; make it obvious in your experience so that the reader can see how you’re good at team-building.

“Hobbies” is also an optional section. If your hobby is rock climbing, depending on your industry, you probably don’t need to include that. Photography, however, is a skill that could be useful in many workplaces.

Sometimes there are things that we are sentimental about that don't need to be on the résumé. You don’t need an “Honors and Awards” section or to list every accolade you’ve ever received. If you have a couple of awards that make sense to include, go ahead and put those in. If you include lots of irrelevant awards, you risk sounding as though you are merely trying to show off how smart and awesome you are.

Similarly, don’t include a “Community” section if it only demonstrates how involved you are. However, if it’s showing new skills or strengths that you might use on the job, it may belong on your résumé.

Describing Accomplishments

Print out the job description, highlight the keywords and then make sure those keywords are in your résumé.

The STAR method (Situation, Task, Activity and Result) is a popular way of framing your accomplishments. Or, as Laszlo Bock (previously the senior vice president of People Operations at Google) recommends, frame your strengths this way: “I accomplished X, relative to Y, by doing Z. Most people would write a résumé like this: ‘Wrote editorials for The New York Times.’ Better would be to say: ‘Had 50 op-eds published compared to average of 6 by most op-ed [writers] as a result of providing deep insight into the following area for three years.’”

Notice the use of action verbs. This is the kind of thing you want in your résumé: What did you accomplish? Don’t just list what you did, or say “Responsible for X.”

How did you do it?

How much money did it make?

Did you collaborate with the team?

What tools or skills did you use to do it?

Designing Your Résumé

The format will vary somewhat by industry. If you’re applying for a tech or a retail position, you can be a little more innovative and introduce some thoughtful elements of design. The two-column-style is a new résumé format you might want to try. But too many graphs or pictures are distracting and may even conceal your skills.

In an industry like consulting, an innovative résumé isn’t as important. You could try a slightly different font or color.

Do a visual check when you have finished creating your résumé. Hold it a few feet away—does it appear daunting, like a wall of text? Or does it have too much white space? Have friends do the same check when reviewing your résumé. If it seems like a wall of text, edit it down and bold key phrases.

The Functional Résumé for the Career Changer

For the career changer, a functional or hybrid functional résumé will highlight transferable skills as compared to a traditional chronological résumé, which lists professional experience as a series of jobs.

In a functional résumé, give examples of transferable skills from previous jobs. To make it a hybrid functional résumé, include a little section called “Employment History” where you do list your previous work so it doesn’t seem like you have little to no employment history.

A résumé doesn’t need to go in-depth on all your previous jobs, especially ones that are less relevant to the position or field are you applying to. Instead, focus on a small number of previous work that relates to your desired job. Direct the reader to your LinkedIn profile for a full employment history.

Wrapping It Up


There are a lot of elements to take into consideration as you put your résumé in order. You want it to stand out from the rest and really make your skills and experiences shine. You may also be interested in reading our “Top 10 Résumé Tips to Get You Noticed” for a quick checklist of do’s and don’ts.

For more guidance, check out next career clinic, Making A Successful Career Transition, on October 13, 2018.