Whether you鈥檙e contemplating sending out an application to a few targeted companies, or you鈥檙e ready for a major聽career change, your聽resume has a big impact on how potential employers perceive you. And, well, whether or not they even decide to move forward with a phone screening or an in-person interview. Maybe you鈥檝e even taken the first step and researched the聽best companies聽for your dream job, or have tapped聽Instagram for career advice and inspiration. Whatever stage you鈥檙e at in the process, it can鈥檛 hurt to start building a smart聽resume. To lend a helping hand, we spoke with New York City career coach聽Win Sheffield聽on how to get your best boots, erm, heels on the ground.

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1. There is no 鈥渞ight鈥 format for your resume. 鈥淪ure, there鈥檚 more latitude for creativity if you are in graphic design than in law, but even attorneys can聽choose between an objective, a summary or a title expressing their expertise,鈥 advises Win. The takeaway? Don鈥檛 stress so much about the visual appeal of your resume that you lose sight of the content. When you鈥檙e wordsmithing those bullet points, consider the language used in the job description, and try to mirror it. Don鈥檛 be afraid to show some personality, either. This is a great opportunity for personal branding.

2. Feature聽your biggest accomplishments up top. 鈥淩esumes get a 10-second first chance and if you don鈥檛 make it through that round, you won鈥檛 get a second chance,鈥 says Win. 鈥淭hink about putting examples of your best achievements at the top of your resume in a key accomplishments section.鈥 They can be from any part of your career (no need for chronological order), but be sure to highlight them off the bat.

3. Don鈥檛 stress too much about page length. Suffering from a serious case of trying-to-cram-it-all-on-one-page syndrome? Listen up! 鈥淏oth one-page resumes and two (or more) page resumes will annoy someone. Use what you need to convey your message. I generally recommend that people with more than 10 years experience use two pages. You鈥檒l probably need it,鈥 Win offers. If you鈥檙e junior, don鈥檛 struggle to fill up more than a page. 鈥淲ith two or fewer years, most people have to pad to get past the one-page mark,鈥 Win says.

4. Ask your mom or BFF to聽proofread your resume. 鈥淗ard to believe, but spelling errors are common on a resume. When you鈥檙e trying to distill your professional essence onto a piece of paper, every detail counts.鈥 Think you can catch every little mistake yourself? It鈥檚 not worth the risk. 鈥淒on鈥檛 be that person,鈥 says Win. Go the extra step and get a trusted friend or family member to glance over your resume. They鈥檒l often catch flubs that you might have missed 鈥 even though you scanned it countless times.

5. Fill any gaps in your resume. 鈥淲hatever it is you were doing that you don鈥檛 want to share, don鈥檛 leave a gap on your resume. Whoever is reading your resume will only assume something worse and just discard it,鈥 Win says. If you weren鈥檛 actively working for a period of time, consider phrases like 鈥渁ttending to family responsibilities,鈥 鈥渃onsulting鈥 or 鈥渟uccessfully raising three children.鈥澛營f possible, put聽down volunteer experience, coursework or freelance gigs you did during that time period. Once you鈥檙e at the in-person stage with a hiring manager, you鈥檒l be able to explain in more detail how you made the most of that time. Be sure to think about how you鈥檒l describe it in advance so you don鈥檛 get flustered!

6. Avoid these expressions at all costs. Win shared a list of terms that are so typical or vague that they鈥檙e not worth mentioning. Delete these phrases now: hard worker, quick learner, professional, team player, strong background,聽outstanding in your field, produce work that is on-time and under budget, innovative, highly motivated聽and excellent communicator.鈥淓veryone who has ever submitted a resume is all of these things and you will not stand out by mentioning them!鈥 Win says.

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