In today’s competitive job market, standing out from the sea of applicants might seem like scaling Mount Everest. Is my resume engaging enough? Have I highlighted the right skills? Does it reflect who I am as a professional? Such questions often whirl around in the minds of job seekers. In short, you want to use various ways of crafting a standout resume.
You’re not alone in this. We’ve all been there, meticulously editing every word, doubting if the format is relevant, or wondering if our experiences have been articulated in the best light. And while there’s a flood of generic advice available, what you need is a clear, concise guide that understands your concerns and offers actionable solutions.
Enter our definitive list of resume writing tips. This isn’t just another list.
It’s a carefully curated set of unique and informative strategies designed to answer the very questions you’ve been pondering.
So, whether you’re crafting your first resume or revamping an old one, let’s dive into these expert tips that will elevate your resume to the next level!
20 Resume Writing Tips That Make Your Resume Impressive
Let us dive into these powerful tactics, that help you craft a stand-out resume, one by one …
1. The “6-Second Scan” Rule
Why is it crucial? Job recruiters and hiring managers often juggle numerous tasks, making their time exceedingly precious.
Imagine your resume is in a pile with dozens of others, and the hiring manager only allocates a mere 6 seconds to glance over it. That’s precisely where the “6-Second Scan” rule comes into play — ensuring your resume catches the eye within that brief window.
Consider employing the F-pattern or Z-pattern reading strategy.
When people skim through content, their eyes naturally move in an F or Z pattern. Position crucial content like your name, skills, and your most significant achievements along these lines.
- Top Horizontal of ‘F’: Your name, contact information, and a hyperlinked LinkedIn profile or portfolio, ensuring easy reachability.
- Second Horizontal of ‘F’: A succinct, power-packed professional summary, designed to grab attention.
- Vertical of ‘F’: Your skills or strengths, followed by notable achievements, highlighted with bullet points.
2. Use a “Skills” Section
Why is it vital? Your skills are your ticket to being noticed in that stack of resumes! By prominently showcasing them, you provide a snapshot of your capability and compatibility with the role.
Beyond just listing your skills, create a distinct section that pairs them with achievements or experiences. Use a combination of industry-specific terms and power words to illustrate each skill.
Example: Instead of simply stating “Team Leadership”:
Team Leadership: Steered a cross-functional team of 12, enhancing project delivery efficiency by 25% through strategic workflow redesign.
- Position this section just beneath your professional summary to ensure immediate visibility.
- Limit yourself to your top 5-7 skills to avoid overwhelming the reader. This is not a comprehensive list but a sneak peek into your professional prowess.
- Tailor them according to the job role. If you’re applying for a sales position, prioritize showcasing skills like “Strategic Sales Planning” or “Customer Relationship Management.”
In weaving these strategies into your resume, not only do you make an immediate impact, but you also sculpt a narrative that intrigues the hiring manager, hopefully prompting them to delve deeper into your professional story!
Remember, your resume is not just a factual account of your career journey but a marketing tool, showcasing the best “product” available – You!
Bonus Reading on Skills in Resume –
- Your 50+ Big Questions on Skills in Resume Demystified
- How to Highlight Skills in Your Resume Smartly
- 24 Important Skills on Resume that Make It Stand Out
- Showcasing Transferable Skills – How to Do it Smartly?
3. Achievements Over Responsibilities
Why is this essential? Imagine a shop window with products. Would you be more inclined to buy if you knew exactly what the product does (its function) or if you knew how the product could benefit or transform your life (its value)?
Similarly, responsibilities tell what you did, but achievements in your resume illustrate the value you brought.
Transform each responsibility into an achievement by asking, “What was the positive outcome or impact of this responsibility?”
Rather than saying,
“Responsible for marketing campaigns,”
“Designed and executed 5 major marketing campaigns, resulting in a 30% increase in online engagement and 15% rise in sales.”
4. Quantify When Possible
Why is it crucial? Numbers provide clarity and scale.
When you quantify your achievements, you offer a clearer picture of the scope of your responsibilities and the impact of your actions. It also provides concrete proof of your claims.
For every major point in your resume, ask yourself if there’s a number you can attach to it.
Even if your role wasn’t directly related to numbers (e.g., a writer or a designer), there are often metrics you can use to showcase your value.
“Managed a team and increased productivity,”
“Managed a dynamic team of 15, implementing agile methodologies that boosted overall productivity by 20% within six months.”
- It’s not just about big achievements. Sometimes, even small, consistent improvements, when quantified, can make a significant impact. For instance, “Improved customer service response time by 2 minutes” can be a big deal in industries like food delivery or emergency services.
- Use percentages, time frames, dollar amounts, or other metrics relevant to your field. If you saved time, say how much. If you managed budgets, provide a ballpark figure.
Incorporating these strategies helps a potential employer swiftly grasp the scale of your capabilities and the tangible value you could bring to their organization.
Always remember: specifics sell! Your resume is more convincing when you can provide clear evidence of your past successes.
5. Use Power Verbs
Why are they important? The words you choose paint a picture of your actions.
Think of power verbs as the vibrant colors that make your achievements pop out on the canvas of your resume. They portray you as an active, influential contributor rather than a passive participant in your roles.
Begin each bullet point of your work experience with a strong action verb that encapsulates the core of your contribution. Rotate verbs to avoid repetition and enhance variety.
Example: Instead of:
“Did monthly analytics reports,”
Analyzed monthly data trends, highlighting key performance metrics to guide future strategies.
6. Tailor to the Job
Why is this crucial? Every job, even within the same industry, has unique requirements.
Sending a generic resume is like wearing the same outfit to a beach party and a formal dinner – it doesn’t fit both occasions. Customizing showcases your keen interest in the role and highlights your suitability.
Before tweaking your resume, thoroughly study the job description. Identify the top skills and qualities they’re looking for. Now, ensure those exact phrases and related accomplishments prominently feature in your resume.
This doesn’t mean fabricating experiences, but reshaping and emphasizing relevant ones.
Example: For a Digital Marketing Manager role emphasizing SEO and team leadership:
- Generic: “Managed online marketing campaigns and team members.”
- Tailored: Led a team of 8 in devising and implementing SEO-driven marketing campaigns, achieving a 25% growth in organic website traffic in 6 months.
- Power verbs breathe life into your actions, making them memorable. Instead of merely ‘doing’ things, you’re achieving, innovating, and transforming.
- Tailoring your resume is like tuning a radio to a specific station. A generic approach results in static, while precise tuning delivers a clear, crisp signal, ensuring your resume resonates with the recruiter’s expectations.
7. Ditch the Objective
Why is this change essential? Think of the various resume objectives as the “Once upon a time…” of old fairy tales. While charming, it doesn’t captivate today’s audience. The professional summary in your resume, however, is like the blurb of a bestselling novel — intriguing and instantly showcases your worth.
Create a compelling “elevator pitch” as your professional summary. This concise, 2-3 sentence statement should encapsulate who you are as a professional, your top skills, and what you bring to the table.
Example: Old Objective: “Seeking a managerial role where I can apply my skills and grow.”
Transformed Professional Summary: “Dynamic team leader with 5+ years of experience in driving operational excellence, boosting sales by 30%, and nurturing high-performance teams. Proven expertise in strategic planning and efficient resource allocation.”
8. Tell a Story
Why does this matter? A resume that tells a story isn’t just a list of jobs, but a cohesive narrative of your career journey. Like any gripping tale, it should have a clear progression, showing how you’ve grown, learned, and added value over time.
Structure your resume in a way that showcases a logical flow of your career. Highlight the challenges in your career that you faced, actions you took, and the resulting outcomes.
This C-A-R (Challenge-Action-Result) strategy can transform bland job descriptions into engaging stories.
Example: Standard Point: “Managed a team of sales professionals.”
Storytelling Version: “Inherited a team with declining sales figures (Challenge). Implemented a tailored training program and introduced motivational incentives (Action). Successfully reversed the trend, achieving a 20% sales boost in the first quarter (Result).”
- The professional summary is like your resume’s movie trailer. It should make hiring managers want to see the whole film.
- Stories are inherently memorable. When your resume tells a story, it sticks in the recruiter’s mind. It showcases not just what you did, but how you made a difference. It provides context, making your achievements all the more impressive.
9. Keyword Optimization
Why is this pivotal? Imagine applying to a concert and being denied because your ticket didn’t have a specific stamp.
Similarly, many resumes never reach human eyes because they lack specific “stamps” or keywords that ATS systems scan for. Optimizing for these ensures your resume isn’t sidelined by software.
Scour the job description for specific skills, tools, and qualifications mentioned. Integrate these terms naturally into your resume. Avoid stuffing; instead, weave them into your achievements and roles where they genuinely apply.
Example: For a job listing seeking someone proficient in “digital marketing, SEO, and Google Analytics,” rather than just stating:
“Oversaw online marketing strategies,”
“Directed digital marketing campaigns, enhancing site visibility through SEO best practices, and regularly analyzed performance metrics using Google Analytics.”
10. Use Professional Hyperlinks
Why does this matter? Links in your resume are like doors to other rooms showcasing your achievements and professionalism.
But a cluttered, lengthy, or unprofessional link can give off the wrong impression, similar to a shabby door in a grand mansion.
Transform long, generic URLs into custom, branded ones. Websites like LinkedIn allow you to customize your profile link. For portfolios, use domain names that resonate with your name or expertise, and ensure the content is up-to-date and relevant.
Example: Standard LinkedIn URL: linkedin.com/in/john-doe-123456789
Customized Professional URL: linkedin.com/in/johndoe
- Think of ATS systems like initial gatekeepers. If you don’t converse in their language (keywords), you won’t be granted an audience with the main decision-makers (hiring managers).
- Professional hyperlinks are more than just about appearances. They reflect attention to detail, tech-savviness, and brand consciousness.
With the surge of digital tools in the hiring process, ensuring your resume speaks the language of ATS systems while also appearing polished and professional when viewed by human eyes is essential.
Both strategies, when applied, ensure you’re making a strong first impression, whether it’s with a machine or a manager.
11. Embrace White Space
Why is this crucial? Think of your resume as a museum exhibit. If every inch is crowded with artifacts, visitors (or in this case, recruiters) can’t appreciate any single piece.
White space acts like the pathways and benches in a museum, guiding the viewer and providing restful pauses.
Allocate space intentionally. Utilize bullet points, varied text sizes for headings versus content, and maintain consistent margins. Limit each section to the essentials, allowing each accomplishment to stand out.
Example: Instead of a paragraph like:
“At XYZ Corp, I led a team of 15 sales professionals, where we implemented new strategies that boosted sales by 20%, also managed regional sales campaigns and regularly reported metrics to senior management.”
Break it up:
XYZ Corp: Team Lead
Led a team of 15, implementing strategies resulting in a 20% sales increase.
Managed regional sales campaigns.
Presented performance metrics to senior leadership.
12. Avoid Jargon
Why does this matter? Resumes riddled with jargon can come off as pretentious or alienating. Imagine listening to a speaker in a foreign language without a translator.
Even if they’re brilliant, you’re lost. Your resume should resonate even with those slightly outside your field.
After drafting your resume, review it pretending to be someone without in-depth knowledge of your field, like a friend or family member. Can they understand your contributions? If not, simplify. If the jargon is necessary due to industry norms, provide brief context.
Example: Instead of:
“Leveraged RTMP for multicasting live feeds.”
“Used RTMP technology to broadcast live feeds to multiple audiences simultaneously.”
- White space is not wasted space. It’s a strategic tool to guide the reader’s eyes and emphasize critical points.
- With jargon, balance is key. While some industry terms can be vital, always ask: “Does this word clarify or confuse?” Cater to the broadest relevant audience—this often includes HR professionals, not just the direct hiring manager.
13. Include Soft Skills Strategically
Why is this important? Simply listing soft skills, like “team player” or “good communicator,” can come off as generic. It’s akin to a restaurant claiming its food is “tasty” without offering any supporting details. Demonstrating how you’ve applied these skills in real situations gives them substance.
Identify the soft skills you want to highlight. Then, scan your achievements and experiences to pinpoint instances where these skills were vital. Illustrate the soft skill within the context of that achievement.
Example: Instead of merely listing:
“Effective problem-solving skills”
Showcase it as:
“Resolved customer complaints 50% faster than the departmental average, demonstrating acute problem-solving abilities.”
14. The “So What?” Test
Why is this test vital? Any statement on your resume that doesn’t convey value is just occupying precious space. The “So What?” test acts as a filter, ensuring every line communicates something beneficial about you as a potential candidate.
For every statement or achievement listed, ask yourself, “So what?” Does this show your impact, skills, or the difference you made? If the answer isn’t evident, it’s time to either revise the statement to make it more valuable or consider removing it.
Example: Initial Point: “Attended weekly departmental meetings.”
Ask, “So what?”
Revised, Value-added Point: “Actively participated in weekly departmental meetings, consistently bringing forward innovative ideas, three of which were implemented in the last quarter.”
- Soft skills, though intangible, can significantly impact a workplace. But their real power shines when they’re tied to tangible outcomes. Think of them as the background score in a movie—subtle, but deeply influential.
- The “So What?” test is like refining raw gold. You keep chipping away the unessential parts until you’re left with something truly valuable and shiny. It ensures every word on your resume works towards impressing the recruiter.
15. Modernize Format and Font
Why is this essential? Your resume’s design is like the attire you’d wear to an interview. An outdated, shabby outfit can detract from your qualifications, just as an old-fashioned resume format can overshadow your achievements. However, the outfit (or resume) also needs to be functional, especially when software like ATS is in play.
Research modern resume templates that fit your industry. These are often clean and make strategic use of bolding, italics, and whitespace. While it’s tempting to use fancy designs, remember that many ATS systems can’t read intricate layouts or uncommon fonts.
Example: Instead of using the dated “Times New Roman,” you might opt for a cleaner, modern font like “Arial” or “Calibri.” If you’re in a creative industry, fonts like “Lato” or “Open Sans” can offer a contemporary feel, but always pair them with a straightforward layout.
16. Ditch Outdated Sections
Why make this change? Including obsolete sections can signal to employers that you’re not up-to-date with modern professional norms. It’s similar to giving someone a VHS tape in the age of streaming—it’s not wrong, but it might raise eyebrows.
Review each section of your resume and ask: “Is this information essential for the role I’m applying for?” and “Is this still a common practice?” Stick to showcasing qualifications and experiences that align with the job at hand.
Example: Decades ago, it was not uncommon to see resumes listing marital status or hobbies unrelated to the job. Today, not only are these sections unnecessary, but they can also raise concerns about potential biases or irrelevant content.
Instead, if you’re keen to share personal passions that relate to the role, integrate them strategically. For instance, if you’re applying for a marketing job and you run a personal blog, it could be highlighted as evidence of your content creation skills, rather than being relegated to a generic “hobbies” section.
- Keeping your resume’s format and font modern shows employers that you’re adaptable and aware of current best practices. But always remember: function should not be sacrificed for form, especially with ATS systems in the mix.
- While personal details can offer a fuller picture of who you are, the resume’s primary focus should be on your professional value. Anything that doesn’t contribute to this narrative or feels antiquated should be reconsidered.
By presenting a resume that’s both modern in appearance and content-focused, you communicate that you’re not only aware of current trends but that you prioritize what’s most valuable and relevant in your professional narrative.
17. Add a “Technologies Used” Section
Why is this essential? For many modern roles, especially in tech, familiarity with specific tools and platforms can be as important as foundational knowledge. This section is akin to a chef detailing the specific ingredients they’re adept with, which gives more insight into their culinary range.
Beyond just listing technologies, segment them based on categories (e.g., programming languages, software, platforms) or proficiency levels (e.g., expert, intermediate, beginner). This provides a clearer snapshot of your tech toolkit.
Example: Instead of a generic list:
- Python, AWS, Docker, SQL, Git
Organize by categories:
- Programming Languages: Python, SQL
- Cloud Services: AWS
- Containerization Tools: Docker
- Version Control: Git
18. Foreign Languages
Why highlight this? Language skills not only show cultural versatility but also cognitive flexibility. It’s like being a musician who can play multiple instruments—each one showcases a different facet of their talent.
When listing languages, indicate your proficiency level (e.g., fluent, conversational, basic) to provide context. If you’ve used the language in a professional context, mention that too.
Example: Instead of just stating:
- Spanish, Mandarin
- Spanish: Fluent (Used in customer support role for Latin American clients)
- Mandarin: Conversational (Utilized in collaboration with Beijing branch)
- The “Technologies Used” section is particularly vital in tech roles because the landscape evolves rapidly. Staying updated and showcasing your familiarity with recent technologies can be a significant differentiator.
- While the primary language of the workplace might be set, the world is becoming more interconnected. The ability to communicate in another language can open up opportunities for collaboration, customer support, and more. Even if it’s not a job requirement, it’s a testament to your learning capabilities and cultural agility.
19. Proofread with Fresh Eyes
Why is this essential? When you’ve been deeply involved in crafting something, you become ‘blind’ to minor errors or inconsistencies. By returning to your resume after a short break, you’re more likely to view it with the same clarity as a first-time reader. Think of it like looking at a painting: when you’re too close, you may only see brush strokes; but from a distance, the entire image becomes clear.
Once you’ve written your resume, set it aside. Do something unrelated, preferably for a day or two. When you return to proofread, you’ll be more objective, and errors or potential improvements will be more noticeable.
Example: Imagine writing a sentence like: “Managed sales teams to increase profits.” Upon a fresh review, you might realize it’s more impactful as: “Led sales teams, resulting in a 30% profit boost.”
20. Feedback Loop
Why gather feedback? No matter how experienced or meticulous we are, there’s always room for improvement. Receiving input from trusted mentors or peers can unveil aspects of your resume you might not have considered. It’s like getting a second opinion on a medical issue — another perspective can lead to better outcomes.
Approach individuals whose judgment you trust — preferably those who’ve been in hiring positions or are familiar with the industry you’re targeting. Ask them to review your resume not just for errors, but also for content, relevance, and impact.
Example: Suppose you mentioned: “Implemented marketing strategies for product.” A mentor in the marketing field might suggest: “Implemented data-driven marketing campaigns, increasing product visibility by 60%.”
- Proofreading with a fresh mindset helps you detach from your initial biases or attachments to specific phrasings. This fresh perspective, much like a software’s ‘debugging mode’, helps detect overlooked errors or areas needing polish.
- Using a feedback loop is like beta-testing a new software. By letting trusted colleagues or mentors scrutinize your resume, you’re not just looking for bugs (mistakes) but also for user experience insights (how compelling and relevant it is to a hiring manager).
in the ever-evolving professional landscape, crafting a standout resume isn’t just about listing qualifications. It’s about presenting your story, achievements, and skills in a way that resonates with potential employers. From leveraging the power of keywords to highlighting unique abilities like multilingualism, each detail plays a part in making you memorable.
Remember, your resume is often the first impression you make; ensure it’s as impactful and authentic as the professional behind it. As you move forward in your career journey, may your resume not just open doors but also illuminate the path to your desired destination.