A resume is an important professional document for those seeking employment in most industries. An effective resume expresses the skills and experiences that make you a qualified candidate for a position. Learning some tips for creating a strong and impressive resume may help you distinguish yourself from other candidates and make it easier for hiring managers to determine whether your credentials are a good fit for their organization. In this article, we provide 24 tips to help you draft, format, write and refine a killer resume.
24 tips for writing an excellent resume
Here are some tips for writing an excellent resume to impress hiring managers:
1. Know your audience
The first step to writing an effective resume is to know your audience. Researching a company and thoroughly reading job descriptions may help you understand what skills and characteristics the organization values. For each position you apply for, target your resume to meet the needs and interests of the company.
2. Use keywords
When possible, include any keywords from the job description in your resume. For example, if the job description asks for an enthusiastic communicator, include the phrase “enthusiastic communicator” within your resume. Using keywords may communicate to the resume reviewer that you understand their expectations and have the qualities they are looking for in a candidate.
3. Consider formatting
Effective formatting can demonstrate your organizational skills. It can also make your resume easy for the reader to review, which may reflect your professionalism. Implementing good formatting strategies such as using headings and subheadings to distinguish each section of your resume may improve your resume’s readability. You can also use strategic formatting to structure your most relevant skills and experiences at the top of your resume.
4. Explain relevance
If you have limited direct experience in the industry for which you are applying, you might use your resume to explain any relevant transferrable skills you have. For example, if you are a recent graduate with experience in food service, you might express how your communication and teamwork skills apply to the industry in which you are applying.
5. Keep it brief
A typical resume is one to two pages long. Reviewers often spend only seconds skimming resumes, so being concise may help you express your skills efficiently. For example, using bullet points instead of paragraphs or complete sentences may help you quickly highlight your skills and experiences.
6. Tell a story
You may use your resume to show your career progress. For example, including promotions and acknowledgments throughout your resume can show your growth and the value your employers find in your work. Your resume can tell the story of your advancement throughout your career.
7. Quantify successes
Quantifying your successes can help to show your accomplishments. To quantify your work, provide specific numbers and figures associated with the successes of your work. For example, a resume for a sales associate might state, “Increased store sales by 32% by implementing customer rewards program.”
8. Demonstrate diverse skills
Candidates may demonstrate a variety of skills on their resumes. Choosing to highlight a diverse skill set may communicate your well-roundedness as a candidate. For example, consider including a variety of soft and hard skills on your resume. You might express your interpersonal, communication, leadership and time management skills in addition to your technical skills related to using software or industry-specific equipment.
9. Include links to your professional profiles
Including direct links to your digital portfolio, webpage or professional social media page may make it easy for hiring managers to connect with you online. Hiring managers may review your online profiles to see examples of your past work which may further demonstrate your qualifications for a position.
10. Explain employment gaps
If your resume shows any gaps in your employment history, prepare to explain these to a potential employer. For example, if you took time to travel, you can explain how your experiences apply to your candidacy.
11. Show eligibility
You may use your resume to prove your eligibility for a position. For example, if you are applying to a position that requires a certain educational degree, license or certificate, you may state that you have those credentials on your resume. This may save time by communicating to the hiring manager that you already have the credentials for the job.
12. Make contact details easy to find
It is important to include your contact information on your resume so that hiring managers can follow up with you. Many candidates list their contact information in the header of their resume along with their first and last name. Using this formatting ensures that your contact details are easy for the hiring manager to find. Most candidates include their home address, professional email and phone number on their resume.
13. Use conventional formatting
Although the specifics of what goes into a resume may vary by industry, following the formatting conventions for resumes within your industry may show professionalism and attention to detail. Following resume conventions may also make it easier for the reviewer to find and assess your skills and experiences. Adhering to conventions may also help you know what content to include on your resume. For example, most resumes include sections for employment history, education history and skills, but some industries may also include sections for licensure and certification.
14. Proofread thoroughly
Another way to demonstrate professionalism is to ensure your resume is free from spelling and grammatical errors. You might read your resume aloud or have someone else read it aloud to you to catch minor errors in syntax or grammar. Another proofreading strategy is to walk away from the resume for a few hours or overnight before proofreading.
15. Save and submit your resume as a PDF
Unless otherwise specified, it’s typically best practice to submit your resume as a PDF when applying to a job posting. Submitting as a PDF may preserve your resume’s formatting.
16. Highlight key skills
Including a skills list may help you quickly summarize and highlight your most relevant skills. A skills list is quick and easy for the reviewer to skim, so it can efficiently communicate your qualifications. When writing a skills list, you might include a combination of hard and soft skills.
17. Document your relevant experiences
In the work history section of your resume, you can include an outline of your most relevant experiences. These can include any volunteer or internship experiences you have. For each position, it is typical to include:
Your job title
The company you worked for
The location of the company
Your dates of employment
Three to four bullet points describing your responsibilities and accomplishments
18. Focus on performance
When listing your work experiences, you might focus on your performance in those roles to showcase your effectiveness. For each of your responsibilities, you can explain the results of your work to communicate your success in those roles. For example, a project manager may state that they “Oversaw a team of 10 developers to meet deadlines and exceed deliverables by 15%.” This description focuses on what the manager did in their role and the results they achieved.
19. Be specific
Choosing precise language and specific details can help you clarify your responsibilities and accomplishments and differentiate your work from that of others. For example, you can be specific when communicating your organizational skills by saying something like, “Created a file management system to organize a database of over 300 patient records.”
20. Write an opening summary
An opening summary (sometimes called a professional summary or objective statement) explains your most relevant skills, experiences or professional values to the reviewer. For those with three or more years of industry experience, writing a professional summary may allow you to explain your most relevant experiences to the reviewer to highlight those skills among a longer list of industry experiences.
A recent graduate or current student with limited industry experience may use their objective statement to explain their reasoning for applying to a position. For example, they might say something like, “I am a recent graduate with a passion for animal welfare looking to develop my veterinary skills through volunteering at a nonprofit animal rescue.”
21. Implement good design principles
In addition to the structure and formatting of your resume, you may also consider implementing design elements for organization and professionalism. For example, using consistent formatting such as font style and size across all subheadings can help create sections that visually organize the resume.
22. Choose active language
When describing your work history, using active verbs may make your writing more concise and specific. Some common active verbs to include in a resume may be:
23. Use a professional font
It is important to choose a font that is easy to read and makes the most of the available page space. Using a simple font and choosing a font size between 10 and 12 points may improve the readability of your document.
24. Adapt your resume for each application
Every job listing is different, and every company may have different preferences, needs and interests when reviewing candidates. For each position you apply for, adapt your resume to meet the specifications identified in the job description.