4 Ways to Add Substance to a Thin Resume

Resume Builder _add Substance Thin Resume


So your resume looks a little thin. Or very thin. Maybe your work history section contains exactly one job—a job you’ve held for thirty years, or one year, or one month. Maybe your work history section contains no previous positions at all, and you’re wondering if you should add that lifeguarding gig you held as a teenager. Before you give up and start submitting your one-line resume to employers with your fingers crossed, keep these tips and considerations in mind.


1. Start with your summary.

Your summary should be about three lines long, no matter who you are or how much relevant experience you can claim. If you have no track record to speak of (which new graduates and younger applicants often don’t) then don’t focus on the past; focus on the future. You haven’t held a professional job yet, but you’re ambitious, and your future will be impressive as your past is thin. Focus on the road ahead. 

2. Move to your education section.

So you haven’t earned a graduate degree. And you can’t claim a bachelor’s degree either (at least not yet). But that doesn’t mean your education section has to be a blank line. If you’ve taken any college level courses at all, describe the ones you’ve completed. If you’re currently enrolled, state your course of study and intended completion date. Then list your certifications, community college work, online courses, adult education classes, and supplemental courses offered by private instructors. Explain any and all of the training you’ve received that might benefit your potential employer.

3. Explain your work history.

So you’ve held only a few professional positions, or none at all. That’s fine, as long as you can take either of the following steps:

  • If you’ve held only one job for the bulk of your career, then that means your primary employer was pleased with your work and the two of you maintained a lasting and functional relationship. Leverage this fact. Explain how your skills met your employer’s needs, and list each stage of growth and expanding responsibility you attained in this position. List every one of the awards, acknowledgements, leadership roles, and special accomplishments you achieved while you held this role.
  • If you’ve been away from the job market for a long time, turn your gap into a selling feature. Have you organized, sponsored, led, built, coordinated, joined, ran, volunteered, studied, researched, collaborated, wrote, designed, or supportedanything. If so, pick the verb that applies, put it on your resume, and explain what you did. If you held any positions, or participated in any organizations from the PTA to the homeowners association to the local food bank, then don’t let this go unmentioned.

4. Make your skills section shine.

If your work history and education sections are looking a little threadbare, let your skills section pick up the slack. Be very clear about what youcando andwilldo, even if what youhavedone isn’t taking up much space on the page. List your programing proficiencies, foreign languages, budgeting skills, scheduling skills, and administrative abilities above all else. These five talents will support success in almost any job, and your potential employers should know about them. 

Create a Confident Resume

Above all else, be confident. Your resume should convey a sense of pride, and should offer no trace of apology or defensiveness. Visit LiveCareer and use a Resume Builder that sets the perfect tone and launches your job search in the right direction. 

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