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Resume Tips

Why a Well-Crafted Resume Matters

Before we delve into the actual writing, here are some tips to consider why writing a good resume is so crucial to professional success.

First Impressions Count

Your resume is often the first interaction you have with a potential employer. It’s your opportunity to make a strong first impression and stand out from the competition.

A well-crafted resume showcases your skills, experience, and qualifications in a clear and concise manner, helping employers quickly see why you’re a great fit for the role.

Remember, recruiters and hiring managers may only spend a few seconds scanning each resume, so making a positive impact immediately is crucial.

The Role of a Resume in Your Job Search

A well-built resume serves as a personal marketing tool that highlights your professional journey. It’s more than just a list of jobs and education; it’s a strategic document that can open doors to interviews and job opportunities.

A strong resume can effectively communicate your value to potential employers, demonstrating how your background aligns with their needs. By tailoring your resume to each job application, you can show that you’re not just qualified, but the ideal candidate for the position.

Essential Resume Writing Tips

The following tips are key to writing a great resume. Make sure to keep these in mind every step of the way!

Understand the Job Description

Tailoring your resume to match the job description is one of the most effective ways to improve your chances of landing an interview. Start by carefully reading the job description to identify key skills, experiences, and qualifications that the employer is seeking.

Then, adjust your resume to highlight how your background matches these requirements. By using the same language and terminology found in the job description, you can demonstrate that you understand the role and are well-suited for it.

This not only helps you stand out to human reviewers but also ensures your resume is optimized for applicant tracking systems (ATS).

Use Action Verbs

Using strong action verbs in your resume can make your experiences and achievements more compelling. Action verbs convey confidence and competence, helping to paint a vivid picture of your capabilities.

Instead of saying “responsible for managing a team,” say “led a team,” “oversaw operations,” or “coordinated projects.”

Here are some examples of powerful action verbs to use in your resume:

          • Achieved
          • Improved
          • Managed
          • Designed
          • Developed
          • Implemented
          • Increased
          • Led
          • Created
          • Streamlined

These verbs not only make your resume more dynamic but also help to clearly convey your contributions and impact.

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Quantify Your Achievements

Employers love to see concrete evidence of your accomplishments, and quantifying your achievements is a great way to provide this. Use numbers, percentages, and data to illustrate the results you’ve achieved in your previous roles.

For example, instead of saying “improved sales,” say “increased sales by 20% over six months.” This not only provides a clearer picture of your impact but also helps potential employers understand the scale of your contributions.

Other examples include:

          • “Managed a team of 10 employees”
          • “Reduced costs by 15% through process improvements”
          • “Increased customer satisfaction ratings by 30%”

By quantifying your achievements, you can provide tangible evidence of your skills and effectiveness, making your resume more persuasive and memorable.

Best Practices for Resume Building

Get started on building a great resume with the following tips so that you highlight your best skills and experience:

Choose the Right Resume Format

Selecting the right resume format is crucial for presenting your information in the most effective way. Here are the three most common formats and when to use each:

          • Chronological Resume: This format lists your work experience in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job. It’s ideal for individuals with a steady work history and is the most widely used format. It highlights your career progression and stability.
          • Functional Resume: This format focuses on your skills and qualifications rather than your work history. It’s perfect for those with gaps in their employment, career changers, or those with a diverse range of experiences. It allows you to showcase relevant skills without being confined by a chronological timeline.
          • Combination Resume: This hybrid format combines elements of both chronological and functional resumes. It highlights your skills and abilities while also providing a chronological work history. It’s suitable for those who want to showcase a strong skill set alongside a consistent work history.

Choosing the right format helps to present your strengths effectively and aligns your resume with the expectations of potential employers.

Keep It Concise

A concise resume is more likely to capture the attention of recruiters and hiring managers. Aim to keep your resume to one or two pages, focusing on the most relevant and recent experiences. Here are some tips to help you achieve this:

          • Prioritize Information: Include only the most relevant details that align with the job you’re applying for. Remove outdated or unrelated experiences.
          • Be Specific and Direct: Use clear and concise language. Avoid long paragraphs and stick to bullet points where possible.
          • Highlight Key Achievements: Focus on your most significant accomplishments rather than listing every task you’ve ever performed.

By keeping your resume concise, you make it easier for employers to quickly understand your qualifications and strengths.

Use a Professional Font and Layout

The visual presentation of your resume is just as important as its content. A clean, professional font and layout make your resume more readable and appealing. Here are some tips:

          • Font Choice: Use professional and easy-to-read fonts like Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman. Stick to a font size between 10 and 12 points for the main text.
          • Consistent Formatting: Ensure that your headings, bullet points, and spacing are consistent throughout the document. This creates a cohesive and polished look.
          • White Space: Use white space effectively to avoid clutter and make your resume more readable. Margins should be at least 0.5 inches on all sides.
          • Headings and Sections: Use clear headings and subheadings to organize your information. This helps employers quickly find the details they’re looking for.

A professional font and layout not only make your resume look good but also enhance its readability, making it easier for employers to absorb your information quickly.

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Resume Formatting Tips

Formatting your resume is a crucial step to ensure your document looks professional and appropriately showcases your most relevant qualifications. Here are some tips to consider when formatting:

Consistent and Clear Headings

Using consistent and clear headings throughout your resume helps organize your information and makes it easier for employers to navigate.

Here’s how to format your headings effectively:

          • Use Standard Headings: Stick to common headings like “Work Experience,” “Education,” “Skills,” and “Certifications.” This helps employers quickly locate key sections.
          • Maintain Uniformity: Ensure that all your headings are styled the same way. Use the same font, size, and formatting (e.g., bold or underlined) for all section titles.
          • Hierarchy and Subheadings: Use a hierarchical structure with main headings and subheadings to break down information further. For example, under “Work Experience,” you might have subheadings for each job title.

Consistent and clear headings improve the readability of your resume, making it easier for hiring managers to find the information they need.

Proper Use of White Space

Effective use of white space can make your resume more readable and visually appealing.

Here are some tips to use white space effectively:

          • Margins: Ensure your resume has adequate margins (at least 0.5 inches on all sides) to prevent the text from looking cramped.
          • Line Spacing: Use sufficient line spacing (1.15 to 1.5) between lines of text to enhance readability.
          • Paragraph Breaks: Break up long paragraphs into smaller chunks or bullet points to create more white space.
          • Sections: Use white space to separate different sections of your resume, making it easier to distinguish between them.

Proper use of white space helps avoid a cluttered look and allows employers to quickly and easily scan your resume.

Highlighting Key Information

Making important details stand out on your resume can draw the reader’s attention to your most impressive qualifications.

Here’s how to highlight key information effectively:

          • Bold and Italics: Use bold or italics to emphasize job titles, company names, or key achievements. For example, “Managed a team of 15 employees” can be written as Managed a team of 15 employees.
          • Bullet Points: Use bullet points to list responsibilities and achievements. This breaks up text and makes it easier to read. Each bullet point should start with a strong action verb.
          • Font Size: While the main text should remain consistent, you can slightly increase the font size of section headings to make them stand out.
          • Color: Use color sparingly to highlight headings or important sections. Stick to professional colors like dark blue or gray to maintain a polished look.

By highlighting key information, you ensure that your most important qualifications and achievements catch the eye of potential employers.

Additional Tips for Writing a Resume

Here are a few more best practices to consider as you make your next resume the best it can be!

Tailoring Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are used by many employers to screen resumes before they reach human reviewers. These systems scan resumes for keywords and phrases that match the job description.

To optimize your resume for ATS, follow these tips:

          • Use Keywords: Carefully read the job description and identify key skills, qualifications, and terms. Incorporate these keywords naturally into your resume.
          • Simple Formatting: Avoid complex formatting, graphics, or unusual fonts that might confuse the ATS. Stick to standard fonts and use bullet points and headings consistently.
          • Standard Sections: Use common headings like “Work Experience,” “Education,” and “Skills” to outline your resume so the ATS can easily identify and categorize your information.
          • Avoid Abbreviations: Spell out acronyms and abbreviations at least once (e.g., “Certified Public Accountant (CPA)”) to ensure the ATS recognizes them.

By tailoring your resume for ATS, you increase the likelihood that it will be seen by human recruiters.

Proofread and Edit

Proofreading and editing your resume is crucial to ensure it is free from errors and clearly communicates your qualifications.

Here’s why and how to do it:

          • Check for Errors: Spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors can make a negative impression on employers. Carefully read through your resume multiple times to catch any mistakes.
          • Read Aloud: Reading your resume out loud can help you catch errors or awkward phrasing that you might miss when reading silently.
          • Use Tools: Utilize grammar and spell-check tools, but don’t rely on them entirely. They can miss context-specific errors.
          • Take Breaks: After writing your resume, take a break before proofreading. A fresh perspective can help you spot mistakes more easily.

A polished, error-free resume demonstrates your attention to detail and professionalism.

Get Feedback

Getting feedback from others can provide valuable insights and help you improve your resume. Here’s how to effectively seek feedback:

          • Ask Trusted Individuals: Request feedback from friends, family, or colleagues who are familiar with your industry or have experience with hiring.
          • Professional Review: Consider using professional resume review services or career advisors who can offer expert advice.
          • Be Open to Criticism: Constructive criticism can help you see areas for improvement that you might have overlooked.
          • Incorporate Feedback: Evaluate the feedback you receive and make necessary revisions to enhance your resume.

Having someone else review your resume can help you identify weaknesses and ensure that your resume effectively showcases your strengths.

Common Resume Mistakes to Avoid

Tips for writing a resume include what not to do as much as what to do. Avoid these common resume writing mistakes to ensure high-quality professionalism.

Including Irrelevant Information

Including irrelevant information on your resume can distract from your qualifications and make it harder for employers to see why you’re a good fit for the job. Here are some items you should leave out:

          • Personal Information: Avoid including details like your age, marital status, religion, or social security number.
          • Unrelated Work Experience: Focus on jobs and experiences that are relevant to the position you’re applying for. Unrelated jobs can take up valuable space and dilute your qualifications.
          • Hobbies and Interests: Only include hobbies if they are directly related to the job or demonstrate relevant skills. Otherwise, they can appear unprofessional.
          • References: There’s no need to include references on your resume or mention that they are available upon request. This can be provided separately if requested by the employer.
          • Photographs: Unless specifically requested, avoid including a photo of yourself to prevent potential bias.

Keeping your resume focused on relevant and professional information helps maintain a clear and concise presentation of your qualifications.

Using Clichés and Buzzwords

Clichés and buzzwords can make your resume sound generic and unoriginal. Here’s why it’s best to avoid them and what to do instead:

          • Overused Phrases: Terms like “hardworking,” “team player,” and “detail-oriented” are often seen as empty words because they are used so frequently. Instead, provide specific examples that demonstrate these qualities.
          • Lack of Specificity: Buzzwords can be vague and fail to convey your actual skills and achievements. Instead of saying you “think outside the box,” describe a situation where you solved a problem creatively.
          • Show, Don’t Tell: Use concrete examples and achievements to illustrate your abilities. For instance, instead of saying “excellent communication skills,” you might say, “delivered presentations to audiences of over 100 people and received positive feedback.”

By avoiding clichés and buzzwords, you make your resume more engaging and impactful.

Not Tailoring Your Resume

One of the most common resume mistakes is failing to tailor it for each job application. Here’s why customizing your resume is important and how to do it:

          • Relevance: Tailoring your resume ensures that it highlights the most relevant skills and experiences for the specific job you’re applying for. This makes it easier for employers to see how you fit their needs.
          • Keyword Optimization: Customizing your resume helps you incorporate keywords from the job description, improving your chances of passing through Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).
          • Demonstrates Interest: A tailored resume shows that you’ve put effort into understanding the role and the company, demonstrating your genuine interest in the position.

To tailor your resume, adjust your professional summary, highlight relevant experiences, and include specific skills mentioned in the job description. This targeted approach can significantly increase your chances of getting noticed by potential employers.

Key Takeaways

          • Customize your resume to match the job you’re applying for by incorporating relevant keywords and focusing on the most pertinent skills and experiences.
          • Enhance the impact of your resume by using powerful action verbs to describe your responsibilities and achievements.
          • Select a resume format (chronological, functional, or combination) that best highlights your strengths and suits your work history.
          • Ensure your resume is error-free and professionally polished by thoroughly proofreading and editing for grammar, spelling, and formatting issues.
Pro Tip:

Provide concrete evidence of your successes by including numbers, percentages, and data to illustrate your accomplishments.

FAQ

Updated: May 21, 2024

Your resume should ideally be one to two pages long. For most job seekers, a one-page resume is sufficient, especially if you have less than 10 years of experience. If you have a more extensive career history or significant accomplishments, a two-page resume is acceptable. Focus on including only the most relevant and recent experiences to keep it concise.

The skills section should highlight your key abilities that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Include both hard skills (technical abilities, software proficiency, languages) and soft skills (communication, teamwork, problem-solving). Tailor this section to match the skills listed in the job description.

Address employment gaps by focusing on any productive activities you engaged in during that time, such as freelance work, volunteer experiences, continuing education, or personal projects. Be honest about the gaps and be prepared to discuss them in your cover letter or during an interview.

A professional summary is generally preferred over an objective statement. A summary provides a concise overview of your career, skills, and key achievements, giving employers a snapshot of what you bring to the table. An objective statement is more about what you are looking for, which is less relevant to employers.

To make your resume stand out, focus on the following:

  • Tailor It: Customize your resume for each job application.
  • Use Action Verbs: Start bullet points with strong action verbs.
  • Quantify Achievements: Provide numbers and data to back up your accomplishments.
  • Keep It Clean and Professional: Use a professional layout and format.
  • Include Keywords: Use relevant keywords from the job description.

No, you don’t need to include every job you’ve ever had. Focus on the most relevant and recent positions that align with the job you’re applying for. Typically, you should include work experience from the past 10-15 years unless older experiences are particularly relevant.

If you have limited work experience, focus on your education, relevant coursework, internships, volunteer work, and any transferable skills you’ve gained through extracurricular activities or projects. Highlight any achievements or responsibilities that demonstrate your abilities and potential.

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Conor McMahon, CPRW

Conor McMahon, CPRW

Content Writer

Conor is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) for Hloom.com. He has over three years of professional writing experience as well as experience in professional development training. As a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches (PARWCC) Conor has written on career development topics ranging from resume and cover letter best practices, employer/employee communication, job seeking help, and more. He received his degree in Music Industry at Northeastern University and plays guitar in his free time.

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