Top 12 Resume Tips
Whether you’re a recent graduate writing your very first resume or updating your professional resume to progress your career, it’s a good idea to learn what makes a good resume. While your cover letter is important, there’s no denying that your resume carries most of the weight when it comes to a job search. This is especially true if it has to pass through applicant tracking systems (ATS) that often determine whether your resume even reaches the eyes of a hiring manager.
These 12 resume writing tips will help you stand out, make it through an ATS scan and impress the all-important recruiter.
1. Customize every resume
The days of creating one resume and making dozens of printed copies are in the past. These days, every resume that a candidate sends out should be carefully customized to the actual job position and company.
How is that accomplished? Study the job listing and be sure the content on your resume matches the job summary and the necessary qualifications. You want to make the hiring manager see firsthand that you possess the necessary experience, skills and qualifications to be hired for the specific position.
2. Choose the right resume format
Whether you opt for a chronological resume format, combination resume format or functional format, your resume format must showcase your strengths, skills and work experience. If you have a spotty work history, for example, a functional resume may do you more justice than a chronological one.
For more on choosing the right resume format, visit our resume formats page.
3. Write a powerful resume summary
Since the resume summary is placed near the top of the resume, it is one that you should spend extra time thinking about. You want to make an impression right at the start. It’s the area where you need to include your strongest attributes in just a few sentences.
You can mention your current job role and a quick summary of your professional career experience. It should not say that you are simply looking for work but instead match the job description that you are looking for. If you are seasoned in the industry, you can mention your years of experience and major contributions. If you are an entry-level candidate or changing careers, focus on writing a resume objective where you state your career goals.
4. Limit your work experience to the past 10 years
It is not necessary to include every job that you ever held on your resume. We recommend limiting yourself to the last 10 years to ensure you are discussing relatively recent and relevant work experience and achievements. Include the job roles that highlight your career experience and skills that will meet the qualifications for the specific role you are applying to.
Besides outdated information, you don’t want to cram your resume with unnecessary information. A hiring manager needs to see what is relevant. A straightforward resume will be appreciated by the hiring manager, who can see at a glance that you possess the experience, skills and qualifications that the company is looking for.
5. Use keywords from the job description
As mentioned, your resume should be written for each specific job role you are applying for. This is also important for including important keywords in your resume. Keywords are vital in being recognized through applicant tracking systems (ATS).
Mirroring the language used in the job description of the position — the skills and experiences that the role requires — in your resume is a great way to make sure you have a good chance of getting past ATS. Just match the skills and experiences you possess with the keywords. For example, if a job posting stresses “project management” and you can claim that skill, list it in your resume and provide a work history example or two where you displayed good project management.
6. Use action verbs, achievements and numbers
A hiring manager reads many resumes for a specific job. You need to write a resume that will make you stand out. Passive language is one of the most common resume mistakes. Phrases like “I was responsible for” do not tell recruiters anything about how you did the job. Instead, use action verbs like “oversaw” or “achieved.”
While hiring managers are certainly interested in your skills, they will be even more impressed with your contributions and how your creativity and innovation can benefit their organization. Where possible in the sections featured on your resume, include any pertinent numbers that help quantify your success for that particular achievement (e.g., “Created new customer service response system that increased customer satisfaction by 20%”). These numbers and facts will impress the hiring manager and give them a good look at the highlights of your career. List your most impressive and important achievements first.
7. Create a robust skills section
Recruiters are often just as interested in your resume skills and qualifications as in the jobs you’ve held, so even if you choose a chronological format, you should create a robust skills section. Mention all of your relevant hard skills and soft skills, and note any certifications, awards or notable achievements.
8. List your education and relevant honors
If you have a decent amount of work experience in your chosen industry, you will want to list your job experiences ahead of your education. However, your education section is still important so be sure to list it following your work experience. Rather than mention your specific GPA, do mention any high honors that you achieved. In other words, showcase a summa or magna cum laude status or the fact that you were in an honors program.
You may also include any continuing education, online courses and professional development, as part of the education section on your resume. This will show that despite having already worked in the industry, you are still willing to attain any skills to strengthen your career further.
9. Include social media URLs
If you have a LinkedIn profile, it’s a good idea to provide it in your resume so hiring managers can get more insight into your qualifications and connections. Depending on your industry, it may also be a good idea to include links to any professional websites or blogs you have.
10. Keep your resume to one page
Although resume length can be debated, it is typically suggested that a job candidate should try to organize a resume to fit into a one-page format. The more condensed you highlight your attributes, the more chances you have that the hiring manager will read the entire resume.
A one-page resume is ideal if:
- A candidate is applying for an entry-level position and possesses a limited amount of experience.
- A candidate has less than a decade of work experience.
- A candidate has held more than one position with a single employer.
- A candidate is in the process of trying to change careers.
The only time you should consider a two-page resume is if you have more than a decade of related experience.
11. Use proper fonts and margins
You have one chance to make an impression so it’s best to be sure that your resume is set up as easy to read and as professional looking as possible.
- Choose an easy-to-read, 10 or 12-point professional resume font like Calibri, Cambria or Arial with 1.15 line spacing
- Be sure the 1-inch margins are even on all sides
- Divide your resume into clear heading sections
- Bold each section heading
- Reduce or eliminate any extraneous whitespace
Remember, despite what resume format you select to meet your specific industry, your main goal of creating a resume format should be on readability for the hiring manager.
12. Proofread (seriously)
Nothing will ruin the hard work you have put into creating your resume like typos. Carelessness is off-putting for recruiters, so taking the time to proofread your resume is always a good idea. If you use our Resume Builder to construct your resume, our built-in tools will help do the proofreading for you.
These 12 steps will help get your resume read by the hiring manager and invited for an interview. To recap, be sure to include only relevant information and specific keywords to meet the job description that you are applying for. Organize your resume to highlight your achievements and make you stand out among other candidates. Proofread the finished resume carefully for typos and other errors. Then, save it as a PDF. You will then be ready to apply.
How to present your accomplishments on your resume
How do you put all these excellent resume tips into practice in a way that will display your accomplishments well and catch the eye of potential employers?
Start with a substantial work experience section and education section, as well as a resume summary that addresses the main needs of the job. Make sure your accomplishments, skills and work experience complement each other. Give these sections defined, easily identifiable headers and are optimally organized with the correct format. Use bullet points to display your skills, certifications and accomplishments clearly.
Consider a resume template that fits your personality and the job you want, for extra impact.
FAQ: Resume Tips
Q: What fonts and font sizes should I use on my resume?
Above all else, you should focus on a straightforward, professional look. Go with 11 or 12-point font for your text, and 14-16 font sizes for headings. Stick with a font that you would commonly find in a Microsoft Word document, such as Arial, Times Roman or Garamond.
Q: Can I use italics, bold and caps in a resume?
Yes, using italics, bold and bullet points can be a very effective way to create distinct sections and draw attention to important information in your resume. Opt for these over using graphics or icons that run the risk of confusing recruiters or ATS.
Q: Can a resume builder help me create a better resume?
If you are uncertain about how to go about resume writing and want to make sure your resume doesn’t hold back your job search, a resume builder can help. ResumeHelp has a free resume builder tool you can use to help you create the best resume for your job application.
Our resume builder provides job-specific suggestions to fill out your resume, and takes care of the layout and organization of your document for you. Even better, it’s simple to create, save and download numerous versions of your resume for different job opportunities.