Your resume is content design
Tips for applying content design to your resume
I teach a UX writing course at a university and toward the end of the semester, offered to review resumes for my students. Here are ways I recommended applying content design lessons to their content design resumes.
Write for the user and the goal
Before typing a single word, think about who your user is. You may need a few versions of your resume, tailored to different types of roles.
Resumes do not need to be a comprehensive life story — they need to showcase how you are the best candidate for the job. So if you have an experience that is very relevant for one application and a different experience that is more relevant for another, it’s fine not to include them all, all the time. Or, include them both, but tweak the descriptions to highlight the most transferable skills for each opportunity.
Content needs to carry its weight
Every word in a resume, like every word in a product, needs to add value. Many of the resumes I reviewed included the student’s physical address — who cares? This has nothing to do with being a good candidate for the job. If location is important, the city and country is enough.
I recommend giving your resume a once over and pulling out things that do not add value in getting you closer to your goal — nailing that perfect job. You don’t want clutter to distract from how fabulous you are.
Just because online resume templates may have placeholders for company name above placeholders for job titles, doesn’t mean you need to follow that pattern. You are the content designer here and you decide what to emphasize.
My students are young and at the beginning of their careers and none had worked at companies I’d ever heard of. However, many had held relevant positions and titles that as a recruiter, would definitely feel relevant enough to keep me reading. Why not swap them? Title first and company second? Do what makes sense and often that’s not the default.
Apply UX writing best practices
Front loading, scannable content, F patterns, and all the rest of the common microcopy best practices are also relevant for resumes!
The most relevant, impressive entry on almost all of my students’ resumes was the degree my course was a part of — but none of them led with the fact that it’s a bachelor’s degree! By starting with the institution name, as a recruiter, I have no idea if the candidate audited a class or two, did a PhD, or anything in between. A first degree (BA) is something these students are working hard for and which gave them lots of relevant knowledge they can apply in their first content design role: lead with that!