Having a well-written, targeted resume increases your chances of impressing hiring managers and recruiters and landing an interview. Your resume is a promotional document that helps market your abilities to potential employers. It also provides you the opportunity to present yourself in a concise, clear manner while highlighting your skills and talents for a career you’re pursuing.
If you’re not using a professional resume writer to compose or improve your resume, you can do it yourself without too much trouble. Keep in mind, however, that writing a resume is more than putting your job experiences down on paper. You need to position yourself appropriately for the job you’re pursuing. You also need to create an appealing business document that’s eye-catching and easy to read—you only have six seconds to capture an employer’s attention. Check out these 23 tips to writing the perfect resume.
#1 Add your Desired Job Title (Career Title)
Since you only have six seconds to capture an employer’s attention, having your desired job or career title at the top of your resume will give your reader an idea of what your resume entails. Use the job title from the job posting you’re targeting, and align your relevant experiences and accomplishments to that title.
#2 Keep Accomplishments Separate from Typical Job Duties
Accomplishments should stand out from your regular daily responsibilities. For instance, “greeted customers, answered phones, managed office…” are responsibilities that almost everyone does regularly. Key accomplishments should reflect specific tasks with remarkable results: “Slashed production costs by 50% via new process improvement implementation.”
#3 Back Up Accomplishments with Specific Facts
Adding your accomplishments is crucial to boosting your overall worth to potential employers. But, don’t list accomplishments without using facts to back it up. Being too vague with your accomplishments tends to lower the strength of your resume. Try adding numerical data (if possible) or provide the specific result of your efforts.
#4 Tailor Your Resume to The Appropriate Target
Your resume is not a full-length biography of everything you’ve ever done in your career. It’s a marketing document used to highlight your skills and talents relevant to the job you’re pursuing. With that said, you need to ensure your resume is tailored correctly to your target job. This means adding the appropriate keywords, including relevant experience, and highlighting your pertinent skills first.
#5 Avoid Any Personal Pronouns in The Document
With LinkedIn, using first-person is a great way to promote yourself. Actually, first-person writing is expected in your LinkedIn profile, so potential employers can get a feel for your personality. But, personal pronouns are not used in a resume format. The reason is that your resume already speaks about yourself, adding in these pronouns make the document wording redundant.
#6 Keep Work Experience Limited to 15 or 20 Years (MAX)
For most resumes, work history is typically cut off at 15 to 20 years. Most recruiters find that only 15 to 20 years of work experience is enough to land an interview. Besides, listing job history beyond 20 years or adding job history that isn’t relevant can hurt your chances at getting a call back.
#7 Utilize White Space for Legibility
Cramming all kinds of words onto your resume might seem ideal, so you can display all your information. But, while you’ll want to list relevant information on your resume, you also want it to be appealing to readers. Make it as legible as possible, so don’t forget to include ample white space between words, paragraphs, lines, and bullets.
#8 Include Action Verbs
Action verbs are put in place at the beginning of each accomplishment within your resume. They help communicate to a reader your expertise or achievement in a brief, descriptive sentence or two. Some examples include spearheaded, coached, designed, planned, and enhanced. Remember to use variations of these words and avoid repeating similar action verbs on the same page of your resume.
#9 Keep Your Resume Within One to Two Pages
Most employers don’t want to read a five-page (or longer) resume. Resumes (or CVs) with more than two pages are usually reserved for medical doctors and scientists. Majority of resumes should be between one to two pages. How can you tell if you need a one- or two-page resume? The guideline for this is if you have 10 years of experience and less, stick with one page. If you have 15 to 20 years of experience, or more, shoot for two full pages (no half or quarter pages here!).
#10 Leave Out Controversial Information
Even though your resume is about you, remember that you’re trying to impress potential employers with your skills—not your beliefs or personal preferences. Leave out controversial or debatable information that can cause discomfort during conversation. This includes politics, religious views, and sexual preferences.
#11 Avoid Highlighting Your Age
Yes, age discrimination is wrong. Period. Yet, it is quite common for employers to disqualify candidates based on age. However, you can avoid this by not bringing attention to your age on your resume. Do this by removing dates for employment that is beyond 15 to 20 years. You can also avoid listing it in your career summary or cover letter: “Offer 25+ years of experience…” Instead, describe what you can bring to your potential employer without factoring age into the copy.
#12 Don’t Use A ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ Resume
A big mistake many job seekers do is use a resume that “fits all jobs.” In truth, there is no resume that can be designed for that purpose. Using that sort of resume won’t receive any responses or recognition. Instead, customize your resume for each job to which you apply.
#13 Leave Pictures for LinkedIn
As with the personal pronouns, pictures shouldn’t be included on your resume. Since your resume is a representation of your talents and skills, you don’t want to distract readers from the main content by inserting a picture of yourself. Instead, use self-portraits on LinkedIn since it’s more personable and interactive.
#14 Don’t Be Negative
This tip is huge. Conveying any negativity to your future employer within your resume is a big mistake. Telling them you were angry due to a layoff or detailing what you hated about your previous employer immediately causes potential employers to pause. They’re not keen on hiring someone who may speak bad about them in the future.
#15 Use Keywords
Keywords exist in every job description and you can use these keywords to your benefit. Look for words that are used more than once, and considered the most desired skills in the job description. Include these keywords in your own resume, but use them sparingly (no keyword stuffing!) and make sure the keywords you use match your experience.
#16 Display Correct Job Titles
Sometimes in resumes, the job titles you have can be blurred or skewed depending on your responsibilities. Use the correct title for your positions. For instance, if you worked in management, don’t put your title as Management or even Manager. Be specific about your title. “General Retail Manager,” or “Lead Office Manager.”
#17 Always Proofread
One of the biggest issues with some resumes is the lack of proofreading. A single misspelled word or grammatically incorrect sentence can inhibit your chances of landing an interview. Your document may also come across as amateurish or rushed. Spend a little extra time on your resume, and carefully proofread for misspellings and grammatical errors before sending it to potential employers.
#18 Use Bullet Points
Most people tend to use bullet points in their resumes to highlight accomplishments, but there are some resumes that have paragraphs or blocks of copy explaining their experience. While it’s OK to have a brief paragraph to open your job experience, you’ll want to follow up with bullet points of stellar accomplishments. Bullets are easier to scan and make for a faster read.
#19 Critical Information Goes First
Numerical data, percentages, and awards should always be listed first in your job history, key accomplishments, or bulleted accomplishment lists. These not only are attractive, but they’re the first bit of information that should be used to capture your potential employer’s attention.
#20 Use The Right Font Face and Size
With the exception of artistic industry resumes, font type for most resumes should be clear, legible, and pleasing to read comfortably. Avoid garish fonts such as Brush Script, Chalkduster, and Braggadocio. In retrospect also stay away from overused fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, and Courier. Moreover, keep font size above 10-pt. Anything smaller than 10-pt tends to put a strain on the reader’s eyes.
#21 Leave Hobbies Off
Hobbies are similar to controversial topics that shouldn’t be included in your resume. However, instead of being controversial, hobbies are more often viewed as irrelevant. The only time a hobby should be included is if it’s relevant to your resume focus. If it isn’t relevant, leave it off.
#22 Don’t Lie
Another top mistake seen in resumes is over embellishing information. Of course, enhance your accomplishments with careful wording and phrasing, and ensure the phrasing doesn’t stray from what you actually did. But, don’t include expertise, accomplishments, or duties that you’ve never actually done. Not only does this make you appear untrustworthy, but employers always find out.
#23 Update Your Resume Consistently
Your resume isn’t supposed to remain stagnant! Anytime you pick up a new skill, get a new certification, or a new job, always update it in your resume. Keep your document updated with the latest accomplishments you’ve achieved or newest skills you’ve acquired. Remember to also drop off older information or outdated skills, which are common in the marketing and technical industries.
Use these 23 tips to enhance or create a perfect resume each time.
Have any resume writing tips not listed here? Sound off in the comments!