From One Paragraph to One Page: How to Beef Up Your Resume
Did you catch the recent Office episode when Pam was applying for a new job? After spending pretty much her whole career at Dunder Mifflin, her resume was a blank page with a few lines on it—text so brief that it “could fit on a Post-it note.”
Sure, it was funny (and yes, she still got the job!)—but for some of us, it hit a little too close to home. You often hear the advice, “ keep your resume to one page ,” but what if you type out your education and work experience, and you still see a half page of white space left?
Don’t worry. Whether you’re right out of school or you’ve been at the same company for years like Pam, here are a few strategic ways to fill up that page.
Do: Consider All of Your Professional Experience
Did you leave off your babysitting gig or that pizza place you worked at while you were in college because you thought it sounded “young?” Well, it’s time to reassess—some of those jobs can be surprisingly useful.
Begin the resume-lengthening process by typing out all (yes, all) of your previous jobs and adding a few bullet points to each. You might not include every one on every version of your resume, but it’s helpful to see what you have to work with.
Then, think about the position you’re applying for, and consider including any job that gave you relevant or transferable skills. My first resume, for example, included my time at Abercrombie and Fitch— it was sales experience , and I knew that skill would directly translate to my dream job in fundraising. Were you a shift leader at Starbucks? That’s management experience. And even a babysitting or tutoring job demonstrates that you’ve been hired and deemed responsible.
Do: Expand Upon Accomplishments
Once you’ve finalized your list of jobs, remember that you have a luxury more experienced job seekers don’t—space to get into more detail. Imagine that you and another candidate both held the same first job in social media . The other candidate, who’s also listing many other positions, may only have space for one bullet point—e.g., “maintained integrated online social media program”—but you can use your extra space to really flesh that experience out. List out how many thousands of fans you grew the organization’s Facebook page by, your experience editing videos for YouTube, and the monetized campaign you led on Twitter.
Or, say you were an executive assistant responsible for some event planning. Don’t just say, “Assisted with 10 events per year,” separate it into bullets explaining your expertise in designing invitations, finding venues, and overseeing set-up. Just because you’ve only held one position doesn’t mean you don’t have a variety of experiences—and when you’re starting out, being able to detail all that out will go a long way in showing the hiring manager what you have to offer.
Do: List Volunteer Experience
If you’re short on work experience but you’ve done some volunteering, this can ( and should !) be its own section. It’s a great way to list additional skills and responsibilities—plus, sharing that you built houses for Habitat for Humanity or ran three charity races last year gives hiring managers additional insight into who you are. Within this section, list each of your volunteer positions the same way you do your paid jobs, with your title (even if it’s just “Volunteer”), the organization, dates of service, and your accomplishments.
Don’t have any volunteer experience? Sign up for something now! Even if you’re stuffing envelopes or hanging flyers, that experience is one more line on the page than you had before—not to mention valuable (and hopefully rewarding) experience.
Do: Section Out Your Skills
Let’s say you have some foreign language, software, and leadership skills, plus a few more competencies, noted in your “Skills” section. That’s great, but it’s a bit of a laundry list, and odds are it will get skimmed.
So try this: Break out one skill that directly relates to what the position calls for and put it in its own section. Does the job description specifically ask for someone with fluency in a second language or software expertise? Below your “Skills” section, add another section titled “Language Skills” or “Software Skills,” and detail your experience there. This not only adds a couple more lines to the page, but it highlights what makes you a particularly strong candidate.
Don’t: Stray from Standard Margins and Font
So what if, even after all of the tips above, you still have a half page left over? While having some white space is OK, don't go to extremes changing the margins and font size to make your resume “look bigger.” This is obvious and comes off as unprofessional—like you didn’t think you had enough to fill a page or you’re trying to “fool” the hiring manager. If you’re really at a loss for what to include, consider including your website or social media profiles or listing your references at the bottom of your resume.
Above all, though, don’t let these early resumes intimidate you. Everyone’s been in your shoes at one point (even the hiring manager)—and hey, the only way you’re going to grow your experience is one position at a time.
Sara McCord most often writes about making a better professional impression. She's been published on Mashable (where she was a regular career contributor), as well as Forbes, Newsweek, TIME, Inc., and Business Insider. A Staff Writer/Editor for The Muse, Sara has experience managing programs; recruiting, interviewing, and referring job applicants; building strategic partnerships; advising executive directors; and supporting a national network of volunteers. See more of her writing on her website or follow her on Twitter @sarajmccord.More from this Author