For most job seekers, updating their resume is one of the most daunting tasks that they often face. As recruiters may spend as little as three seconds reviewing a resume before they stop reading, it’s vital to have the proper format and the right information for recruiter retention.

Amy Cell, chief matchmaker at Amy Cell Talent, offered students and recent graduates at the SPARK digital marketing clinic on Wednesday, Aug. 9 a few tips on resume writing.

What employers look for in a resume

According to Cell, employers want to know three specific things: if you can do the job; if you can do the job well; and if you are the right fit. Employers assess if a candidate can do a job based on relevant coursework, internship experience, relevant work, major/high GPA, volunteer experience, clubs/associations and community activities.

Candidates can demonstrate if they can perform a job well by listing the following things on their resume:

  • The ability to work in a team
  • Verbal communication skills
  • Decision/problem solving skills
  • Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
  • Leadership experience/abilities
  • Ability to obtain and process information

Cell also said to research the company and the position so applicants can present themselves as ideal candidates with the right skills and knowledge to do the job.

Education Section

The proper place for the education section on a resume is dependent on the level of job experience and if a candidate recently graduated. Those with a lot of work experience can place their education after their work experience, with advanced degrees going before undergraduate degrees. GPA’s may be included, but it isn’t relevant if a candidate has considerable work experience. Professional certifications should also be placed in their own heading below the education section, or included below the degree if a candidate only has one certification.

Work Experience

One thing that candidates struggle with is listing their work experience. Each job position should have 3-5 job accomplishments that are concise and clearly demonstrate what an applicant did in their role. Quantifiable metrics are great to include if they are available, but keywords are especially important in showing recruiters that an applicant would make a good fit for the position. It’s also important to use active verbs and make sure that every section in the resume is written in the same tense.

To help come up with accomplishments, Cell mentioned several questions that applicants should be asking themselves:

  • What did I do that was above and beyond my normal duties?
  • How did I stand out among other employees?
  • Was I recognizable by a supervisor for a job well done? When and why?
  • Did I meet or exceed goals or quotas?
  • Did I win any awards or accolades?
  • Did I save the company money?
  • What made me really great at my job?
  • Any software programs and tools that I used which are necessary for the job?

Proper format

There are a few formats to consider when laying out the work experience on a resume: chronological, functional and combination. Chronological is the most common format among job seekers, as the experience section lists a candidate’s past jobs reverse-chronologically.

Functional resume focuses on skills and experience rather than the timeline of an applicant’s work history, making it useful for job seekers who are changing careers, have gaps in work history or have experience that isn’t related to the position.

A combination resume, or hybrid, is a happy medium as it highlights relevant skills while providing enough information about a candidate’s work history.

On top of the format, a resume should be easy to read by both recruiters and applicant tracking systems with a simple 11-12 point typeface.