Simple resume writing tips to help you stand out
Your resume is the most important document you'll submit in your job search. It's your front-line fighter, so to speak, as it's your first opportunity to present yourself to a potential employer.
A strong resume can help you stand out from the crowd, but a weak resume can remove you from the running, so you want to do all you can to make sure your resume is the best it can be.
It can be difficult to succinctly present all of your experiences and qualifications, but there are many ways to spruce up your resume without going overboard. To help you land an interview, Business News Daily rounded up some of the experts' best resume writing tips.
Keep your resume short and direct.
The No. 1 rule of writing a resume is to keep it short and to the point. The general rule is no more than one page unless you have a very good reason for it to be longer, like an extensive career or many highly applicable work experiences.
Your resume should target the specific job you are applying for. Sending the same resume off to every job you apply for will be a detriment.
"Don't write a generic resume that could work for any job," said Wes Lybrand, teacher and former assistant director at the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Career and Professional Development Services. Be sure to prioritize your skills and qualifications for each job you try to land. Your resume "should be focused, clear and concise."
An easy way to keep your resume trim is to only include recent, relevant experience. While that yearlong first or second job might have taught you a lot about the field, it's not always necessary to include every detail from your entire career history.
"If an experience noted on your resume is from prior to 2000, consider striking it," said Jane Trnka, executive director of the Career Development Center at Rollins College's Crummer Graduate School of Business. "The skills listed are probably not the most relevant to the work you are currently doing or plan to do in the future."
Create an original resume template.
While it's helpful to refer to a professional resume template, don't follow it rigidly, said Claire Bissot, SPHR and managing director of CBIZ HR Services. Employers appreciate originality.
"I often pass over resumes that match Microsoft Office templates," Bissot said. "The templates are meant to be a guide to get started, but it should be expanded on to make it your own."
Format your resume in ways that make you look good. For instance, Bissot recommended, if you advanced in a company quickly, draw attention to that growth; if you excessively job-hopped, bullet those jobs without providing specifics, and detail more applicable positions. This will play to your assets.
When structuring your resume, make sure the information is presented in a logical order, said Veronica Yao, a former recruiter and current marketing and community manager at #movethedial. "A hiring manager [will] read your resume starting at the top and ending at the bottom. However, if they don't finish reading the whole thing – and they often don't – you still want to ensure your strongest points come across."
Choose three or four former positions or experiences that best highlight the skills required for the position you are applying for. Employers value brevity; this is not the time to list every position you have ever held. For example, if you are applying for a marketing position, you could include your former retail experience and bullet the communication, branding, and interpersonal skills you learned in that position.
Craft a career snapshot.
More recently, career experts have urged job seekers to do away with the old "objective" statement and instead consider including a brief summary, called a "career snapshot," at the top of their resumes.
"With the career snapshot, you present a branding statement that briefly explains your unique value as well as your skills and qualifications," said Tomer Sade, founder and CEO of FACTORE. "This would then be followed by a few bullet points that highlight your experience and your accomplishments. Whatever you list here should be relevant to the position you're applying to."
"The top third of your resume is prime resume real estate," added Lisa Rangel, an executive resume writer and official LinkedIn moderator at Chameleon Resumes. "Create a robust summary to capture the hiring manager's eye."
Think of your career snapshot as an answer to the question "how would you describe your work experience in one sentence?" The summary is an opportunity to sum up your most relevant and important skills, experience, or assets right off the bat.
Optimize your text.
If a company uses an applicant tracking system (ATS) to collect and scan resumes, a human hiring manager may never even glance at any application that doesn't fit the job criteria they've entered. Trish O'Brien, vice president of human resources at Caliper, emphasized adapting your resume to the position to increase your likelihood of passing the first level.
"Make sure you've carefully reviewed the posting and ... [used] the appropriate keywords in your resume to get past the screener," O'Brien said. "Be truthful, but understand that the first pass on your resume is likely via an ATS."
A helpful tip is to make sure you include keywords from the job post in your resume. TopResume suggests copying and pasting the job description into a word-cloud generator to identify the most frequently used terms, and making sure the terms that apply to you are used in your resume. You can also create a "core competencies" or "areas of expertise" section of your resume to list all of your hard and soft skills, and then reiterate those skills when you bullet your experience.
Think beyond your job duties.
Hiring managers don't want to read a list of your job duties. They want concrete examples of your accomplishments in previous positions that show how you can make a difference in this new position. Rangel noted that specific merits are more engaging to read than just your experiences. For example, "I reduced operating expenses by 23% in six months" is far more interesting to an employer than "I have 30 years of sales experience," she said.
When deciding what information to keep or cut out of your resume, focus on striking abstract traits and qualifications in favor of concrete, quantifiable results.
"The best resumes highlight a job candidate's actions and results," said Bob Myhal, director of digital marketing at CBC Automotive Marketing. "Employers want employees who get things done, and who take great joy and pride in what they do. Rather than a laundry list of your qualifications, your resume should reflect your accomplishments and enthusiasm for your career."
You shouldn't ignore your skills section either. Sade reminded job seekers to list any industry-relevant apps or programs they're familiar with, and find ways to incorporate examples of their soft skills (e.g., work ethic, reliability) into their job descriptions.
Use the right language to stand out.
Trite, lackluster descriptions of your job duties and accomplishments won't do you any favors. Make sure you're using strong action words like "achieved," "designed," "improved" and "established" to describe your roles and projects, said Sade. This, he said, will make you sound confident while imparting vital information. But be cautious about depending on action verbs – make sure to include details about how you improved a process or achieved a goal.
"Words such as 'professional,' 'results-driven' and 'detail-oriented' provide very little helpful information," Sade said. "It's better to use actual job titles than these words." [Read related article: 25 Action Words to Include on Your Resume]
Diya Obeid, founder and CEO of applicant tracking software company JobDiva, also said that you should remove buzzwords like "go-getter," "team player" and "go-to person" from your resume. These come off as fluff and only take up precious space on your resume.
List your social media profiles.
Many hiring managers today screen candidates on social networks. Save them a step by providing your profile links on your resume. Seasoned applicants with a professional social presence would do well to include URLs for their LinkedIn profile, Twitter account and blog, if applicable.
"If, and only if, your social media accounts are filled with professional posts pertaining to your industry, listing them on your resume can be advantageous," said Richie Frieman, author of Reply All … and Other Ways to Tank Your Career. "They can show you have a strong network and are up to speed with modern-day marketing and communications practices. The hiring manager will see that you like to keep up with what's happening and that you care about learning more."
Your social profiles can be a powerful tool to supplement your experience and position as an expert in your field, but only if they are leveraged correctly. [See related article: How to Brand Yourself on Social Media]
If your social profiles are not professionally applicable, do not list them on your resume, and make sure they are set to private.
Check for errors.
Triple-check your own work, and then have someone else look over your resume to ensure it's 100% clean. There is no room for sloppiness on your resume, said Obeid – a hiring manager will likely automatically dismiss your application if they spot a typo or grammatical error.
"Make sure it's error-free and easy to read," Obeid said. "HR reps equate typos and errors with laziness. Use good English – the written word has a huge impact on the employer."
However, typos aren't the only type of mistake to watch out for.
"Review formatting very closely, including font, alignment and spacing," said Bissot. "Related issues can often be perceived as a sign of lacking technical skills and/or attention to detail."
Yao added that candidates often submit applications that are addressed to the wrong employer or outline experience that's irrelevant to the role.
"Receiving a resume that's crafted and addressed to someone else (or, worse, a competitor) can be a huge turnoff and will set a negative tone even if they do choose to continue reading your application," she said.
Yet another reason not to use generic, cookie-cutter job applications is that some companies have very specific instructions as to what they want to see in your resume, cover letter and work samples. Failing to do what's been asked could mean an automatic no from employers.
"Candidates weed themselves out when they don't follow instructions," said Raj Sheth, founder and CEO of DecaSource. "Attention to detail makes up a huge part of any resume or job application because it shows that you care about your work and your reputation. Carefully read what the employer seeks in an application, and make sure yours matches up." [Read related article: The Only Resume Cheat Sheet You'll Ever Need]
Additional reporting by Sammi Caramela, Adryan Corcione and Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.