These Are the Secrets of the Perfect Resume, According to Harvard Experts

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A resume is your calling card — your introduction to a potential employer. Unless you’re an accomplished veteran in your field, it is usually the only thing a hiring boss will know about you, at least until you get an in-person interview (which you probably won’t if the resume fails to impress).

Countless career counselors and other experts have given advice over the years on how to craft a great resume, but some of the best is that offered not long ago by Harvard University’s Extension School Office of Career Services.

This extensive and authoritative guide to impressing potential employers, which includes a number of sample resumes in varying formats, starts by cataloguing the most frequent mistakes people make with their resumes: spelling and grammar errors, missing email and phone information, lack of good organization or concision, excessive length, and the use of passive language instead of “action” words. So make sure you’re correctly using words people get wrong all the time.

In addition, according to the guide, don’t use personal pronouns, abbreviate, use a narrative style, number or letter categories, use slang or colloquialisms, include a picture, or mention your age or sex. Two additional “don’t”s recommend against listing references (they’ll ask if and when they want them) and starting each line with a date (these should come at the end of the line).

The recommendations aren’t all negative, however. Be consistent in format and content, the guide stresses. Make the resume easy to read, using consistent spacing and employing italics, bold type, underlining, and capitalization for emphasis. List headings (like Experience) in order of importance. Avoid information gaps (like that missing summer). And make sure that your format will translate correctly to a .pdf.

One other important piece of advice: Hiring managers tend to have to sift through scores and sometimes hundreds of resumes, so prepare yours for people who are likely to scan through documents quickly.

Many people want to impress with their resume so they can find a well-paid job. The median pay across all jobs in America is $46,072 a year. There are many professions that tend to pay much higher than that — here are the highest paying jobs in America.