Your resume is only as good as the message it delivers
Are you struggling to write the perfect resume? If the answer is yes, you're not alone. Unless you've had a lot of experience creating resumes, chances are that you're unsure about what to include and how to create a truly compelling message that can capture an employer's interest. If so, then you could almost certainly benefit from some incredibly useful resume tips.
In this post, we'll explore 17 of the top resume tips and tricks used by many of the most accomplished resume writers in the industry. By incorporating these tips into your resume creation strategy, you should be able to craft the type of resume that can help you to win more interviews and land a fantastic job.
The basics: top 10 resume tips you need to know
We'll begin with the top 10 resume tips every job seeker needs to know to craft a compelling resume. One of the reasons that so many job seekers struggle with resume creation is that they just don't know what employers expect to see in a solid resume offering. These 10 tips can help you to ensure that your resume meets those expectations in a way that captures their attention.
1. Gather your resume information before you begin
Our first tip may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many job seekers fail to follow it. Before you even begin to lay out your resume, start by gathering all the information you'll need to spin your resume narrative. Try to keep it as organized as possible, so that you have the facts you need readily available as you create each part of your resume.
That information includes:
All the contact details that an employer will need to reach out with an interview or job offer
A comprehensive list of your skills
Your work history, including company names, job titles, and employment dates
A list of your most notable achievements in each role
Your educational history, including certifications and continuing education
Information about any volunteer activity
Details about relevant awards
Any other relevant information that can demonstrate your qualifications
2. Select the right format for your resume
You should also focus on picking the right format for your resume - a decision that will largely depend on your experience level and career needs. There are three formats available:
Reverse-chronological. This format option is simple to use and the most popular choice for job seekers. It simply requires you to list your employment history and education in reverse-chronological order, starting with the most recent position you've held. As for why it's so popular, the answer is simple: most employers prefer to see resumes using this format.
Functional. The functional resume format is sometimes used by job seekers who have little experience or who are trying to switch careers. It focuses most of its attention on your skills, rather than career experience. Unfortunately, many employers view it with a skeptical eye, so make sure that it's the best option for you before you use it for your resume.
Combination. The combination, or hybrid, resume offers a balanced mix of those two extremes. It focuses equally on experience and skills, while also employing the reverse chronological technique in its employment section. It can be used by career-changers, those with gaps in their work history, and veteran workers who have a great deal of experience.
Related post: The Best Resume Format to Get Hired
3. Use a clear structure
When it comes to useful resume tips, we'd be remiss if we failed to note the importance of using a clear and easy-to read structure. To achieve that goal, you need to separate distinct types of information into their own sections, so that employers can quickly identify the information they want to see. Every great resume includes the following sections:
You can also include additional optional sections like awards, volunteer work, and other relevant information. Just make sure that those sections contain details that add to your resume narrative by further highlighting your qualifications for the job you're seeking.
Related post: 11 Key Things to Put on Your Resume
4. Include all relevant contact information
Speaking of contact information, it's important to include multiple ways for employers to reach you for interviews. So, in addition to your full name, you'll want to provide a phone number, email address, and professional social media URL (for example, LinkedIn). You may also benefit from including your professional website, if it contains examples of your work that employers need to see.
5. Create a compelling resume headline
It's also helpful to add a headline right below your contact information. Many job seekers just list the job title that they're seeking. However, you can use this headline space to create a more compelling message that can help your resume to stand out from the competition. To do this, create a headline that includes that job title along with descriptive language that can capture the employer's attention.
For example, if you're applying for a position as an Office Manager, you can add more flavor to your headline by writing something like:
Dynamic Office Manager with 7 Years of Experience in Productivity Enhancement and Cost Management
6. Use a resume summary instead of an objective statement
If you're used to including an objective statement on your resume, then this tip is for you: try a resume summary instead. While an objective statement can be a wonderful way to outline your career goals, it's not really something that captures an employer's imagination. After all, employers are more interested in what you can do for them.
A properly constructed resume summary paragraph can be the best way to make that case in the briefest way possible. This short, three- to five-sentence paragraph should help you to highlight your relevant experience, top skills, and quantifiable achievements, creating the job search equivalent of a salesperson's elevator pitch.
Related post: 27 Great Resume Summary Examples to Get Hired
7. Don't forget to include soft skills
As you craft your core competencies or skills section, make sure that you include more than just the key hard skills listed in the job posting. Those job-specific skills are important and need to appear in your resume, but they typically won't be sufficient to help you differentiate yourself from rival candidates. To do that, you will also need to include relevant soft skills. In fact, those soft skills may be the thing that separates your resume from everyone else's.
Related post: Soft Skills Explained - and the Top 7 for Your Resume
8. List relevant jobs in your professional experience section
Start with your most recent job and work your way backward. The perfect resume should detail all your relevant professional positions within the past 10 to 15 years. If you recently graduated from college, include your internships and any work experience that took place since you entered college.
For each role, list the following information:
- Company Name.
Job Title. If your title is specific to your organization, you can include a translation of sorts in parentheses next to your official job title.
Start and End Dates. Include the month and year for each of these dates.
Achievements. Brainstorm a list of your accomplishments and major contributions that benefited the organization during your tenure.
9. Focus on achievements, not responsibilities
You'll notice that we advised you to include achievements for each job listing, rather than your job duties or responsibilities. The reason for that is simple: employers know that every worker has responsibilities, so including that information on its own in your resume won't impress anyone. However, if you can include actual achievements, and quantify them with real numbers, it will help employers to understand the type of value that you can provide if they hire you.
For example, how did you help save the company money, generate revenue, improve customer satisfaction, or increase productivity? Include real numbers, along with dollar and percentage signs to highlight that value.
10. Include the right educational details
Create a record of all your education, beginning with your most recent degree. List the institution, its location, the name of your degree, your major and minor, your graduation year, and any honors associated with the degree, such as summa or magna cum laude. Do the same for any relevant certifications you've obtained or additional training opportunities or workshops you've attended.
Five tips for writing a resume that gets seen
While the preceding ten resume tips are vital for ensuring that you create the most compelling resume possible, the following five tips can take your resume from average to exceptional if you use them correctly.
11. Use the right keywords
Let's begin with keywords. Many employers use applicant tracking systems, or ATS, that scan your document to rank candidates. That system will look for specific keywords in your resume. If it finds those keywords, you'll have a better chance of passing the screening and moving on to the next stage of the review process. If the ATS doesn't find those keywords in your resume, your candidacy will be at an end.
So, what are keywords and what should you do with them? You can typically find the right keywords by reviewing the job posting and job description. Pay careful attention to required skills, experience, and educational credentials. The terms used to describe those required qualifications will usually be the same words and phrases that the ATS searches for.
You can create a list of those keywords and simply insert them in your resume - in the summary statement, skills list, and other sections. Always be sure to use the exact terminology you find in the job posting, to ensure that you have the right keywords in your resume.
12. Make sure that employers can easily skim your resume
It's also vital to think about how employers review resumes. The fact is that few resumes are read from beginning to end, unless they manage to somehow capture an employer's interest in the first few seconds. Most hiring managers only skim through each resume until they find that point of interest. Knowing that, your job is to make sure that their attention is grabbed as early as possible, to entice them to spend more time on their review.
Make sure that your resume can be easily skimmed by keeping it well-organized and tightly focused on your qualifications and value as a potential employee. You should pay attention to the details - like using power verbs to start your bullet points, to ensure that the first few words in each of those achievements draws the reader in and captures their attention.
13. Skip the fancy design elements
You'll also want to make sure that your resume uses a simple, basic design. Don't try to incorporate tables, text boxes, images, or unusual fonts. Many applicant tracking systems struggle to read those types of design elements, which means that your complex resume design may never be seen by human eyes.
Stick to simple formatting tricks like bullet points, bold or italicized text, and clear section labels.
14. Save your resume in the right file format
One of the most important resume tips you need to learn involves the document format that you use when you save your resume. Most employers will want to see either a Word document or PDF file, so stick to one or both of those options. Most ATS can read these files. Of course, if a company requests a certain file format, you should always follow those instructions.
15. Name your file correctly
It's also important to ensure that your file doesn't get lost when you submit it to the company. That's why it's so important to give your resume file a name that can be easily found by any prospective employer. Don't send a file named “My resume,” since that document may be difficult for hiring managers to manage. Instead, provide more details by using a file name like:
“John Doe's Office Manager Resume”
Two tips to help you avoid immediate rejection
Our last two tips are designed to help you avoid being immediately rejected by employers. Both are critically important for ensuring that you avoid making a bad impression on your readers.
16. Proofread the document
If you want to get your resume rejected as quickly as possible, filling it with misspellings, poor punctuation, inaccurate information, and bad grammar is one of the best ways to do it. Naturally, that's the last thing you want to do when you're hoping to land an interview and job offer. Fortunately, there's a straightforward way to avoid that fate: proofread your resume. In fact, you should proofread it several times to ensure that it's as perfect as possible.
We also recommend that you take that proofreading to the next level by having someone else review it after your edits are done. Find a friend or family member with strong English skills and ask them to read it several times. Make sure that it's someone who won't be shy about critiquing your work!
17. Update your resume and tailor it to each job
The last of our resume tips is all about freshness and proper targeting for the job you seek. As a rule, you should try to update your resume every few months, even if you're not changing jobs that often. That will allow you to update your achievements and skills in real-time, so that you don't struggle to remember your accomplishments the next time you're looking for a job.
In addition, you need to make sure that you modify your resume every time you submit it to another company, to ensure that it specifically targets the job you're seeking. Effective tailoring will require you to adjust your included keywords to match the job posting, add or omit relevant skills to ensure that you meet the job's requirements, and potentially change your headline and resume summary to align with the company's needs.
Using these resume tips can maximize your chances of job search success!
There's no one-size-fits-all strategy for landing more interviews and job offers. After all, every employer has its own unique needs, and the hiring process can vary from industry to industry. Nevertheless, learning how to employ these resume tips in your resume creation process can help to increase your odds of success and ensure that the right decision-makers see your resume.