Your resume is your tool for getting a job interview. Approach writing a resume with the goal of getting employers excited about your qualifications for a particular job. Here are some general resume writing tips from local employers to help your resume stand out from the crowd.
Pro-tip: don’t forget to also read Localwise’s pointers on how to format your resume.
1. Keep it short
Employers tend to read a resume for a few seconds (not minutes). Make sure your resume is easy to read and conveys the important points quickly. Keep the whole document to one page, two pages tops. Any longer and the employer will have trouble finding the important points.
2. Stay focused
Your resume is an opportunity to sell yourself, not tell your life story! Highlight the experiences that you are the proudest of. More importantly, illustrate you have the right skills for the job.
3. Order is everything
Put the most important information first since most employers make a judgment about your resume in the first few seconds. Start with most recent job titles and most important skills to increase your chances of landing an interview.
4. Custom resume templates
Most people agree that templates are an easy way to have a polished resume, but they lack the individuality you need to stand out to your potential employer. Customize a pre-made resume template to create a unique look for your resume. Don’t go overboard if you’re applying for a conservative job!
5. Balance your resume
This is an important design concept to keep in mind while creating your resume. Be sure that your content is well balanced across the page to optimize readability.
6. Keep it black and white
Adding color to your resume may liven it up, but should be avoided in a professional resume. While the blue you chose may look great on your screen, it may be unreadable on another screen or look lighter when printed out. Sticking to black and white maximizes readability across any medium.
7. Don’t state the obvious
Don't clutter your resume with an objective that explains why you are applying for the job or statements that can easily be inferred. Save yourself and the employer time and jump right in!
8. Show, don’t tell
Stress results. Use numbers to provide details about your accomplishments. For example, if you managed a team, state how many people you managed. If you increased sales, state the increase. If you are team-oriented, prove it using an example.
9. Use bullet points
Keep your resume precise and to the point by using a few bullet points per job instead of full sentences. Not only are these more pleasing visually, but they help eliminate unnecessary words that make your resume too cluttered and distract from the important points.
10. Pack a punch
Start bullet points with action verbs to show that you are action-oriented! A few examples include: led, raised, coordinated, sold, made, achieved. View a complete list here [PDF].
11. Back to basics
Don’t use unusual or hard to read fonts in your resume to avoid annoying potential employers. Garamond, Helvetica, Georgia, Cambria, or Calibri are the best resume fonts to use across the board.
12. Limit your font choices
Ideally, stick to one font and highlight different parts of your resume by increasing text size, bolding, or italicizing text. Using too many fonts can make your resume hard to read.
13. Monitor your font size
Generally, keep your font between sizes between 10-13 to ensure readability and clarity. However, be sure to take into account different font sizes. A size 10 in one font may equal a size 12 in a different font.
14. Highlight the keywords
Be sure to use the important words mentioned in the job description or related job descriptions. Pro-tip: some companies are already searching through large quantities of resumes using digital databases and you’ll be out of luck if you miss this tip.
15. Spell out acronyms
Don’t leave your employer guessing or Googling acronyms from your resume. Leave it question-free and spell out acronyms so the hiring manager can focus on you.
16. Choose standard section headers
Section headers are not the best places to be creative. Stick to the commonly used headers so that it is clear what you are talking about.
17. Use the right materials
If you are submitting a printed copy of your resume, presentation is everything. Use nice paper and a high-quality printer to show that you are serious about the job. Carry it in a folder so that it is clean and wrinkle-free when you hand it off to your potential employers.
18. Be specific
Tailor your resume to the job that you are applying for. Use words found in the job description and look for words that are common in the industry. Take it a step further by including specific achievements and skills that are related to these keywords.
19. Include jobs you want to talk about
Many employers will base interview questions off of your resume information, so if you can’t talk about it, don’t include it! Put another way, highlight the jobs and skills that put your best self forward.
20. Take out boring verbs
Communicate your strengths over your weaknesses by avoiding words like me, need, develop, hard, first, learning, and chance. Words such as these are more focused on the applicant instead of the employer that you are trying to impress.
21. Don’t be modest
Now is the time to shine! It’s crucial that you take credit for what you did in the past so that your resume is lively and full of contributions. There’s no need to lie or embellish here, just state your accomplishments and how they benefited your past employers.
22. Be positive
Don’t put information on your resume that may come off as negative. For example, exclude things about your last job that you did not like. An upbeat tone in your resume makes you sound like a go-getter, someone who will strive to see the best in every situation. Your tone can make you more hireable!
23. Be relevant
It’s not necessary to list every single job you’ve ever had on your resume. This is particularly true if a past job is not related or beneficial to the job that you are applying for.
24. Save the humor for your interview
While bold personalities are a great benefit to the workforce, communicating that on paper is difficult. Avoid misinterpretations by saving the jokes for in-person interviews.
25. Be careful with hobbies
While it’s great that you love to cook or go fishing on the weekends, your employer does not need to know all your hobbies. Insert hobbies sparingly.
26. Be super careful with political views
Politics is tricky. Avoid announcing your political beliefs to increase your chances of not offending potential employers.
27. List your achievements
Instead of including long lists of responsibilities in your resume that will likely be overlooked, include achievements to show tangible positive results that you have had in the workplace.
28. Personalize your resume
Avoid the common mistake of creating one standard resume to hand out for multiple job openings. Take the extra time to create multiple variations based on the specific job you are applying for. This will make you stand out more and significantly increase your chances of landing an interview.
29. Highlight transferable skills
Don’t have the perfect experience for the job? Don't sweat it! Focus on transferable skills that you obtained from other jobs or past experiences.
30. Any experience is valuable
Don’t have much work experience yet? No problem! Include summer jobs, volunteer work, or any experience that conveys that you have the skills for the job.
Working on your degree? Include that information with your expected graduation date as well. All of these things can show your relevance to the job in question.
31. Show some personality
Most employers out there are looking for job candidates who will not only get the job done but get it done well. Go the extra mile and add in extra information that is relevant and will show elements of your distinct personality. Highlighting relevant extracurricular activities is a great way to do this.
32. Stay focused
Your resume should seamlessly highlight your career progression. Tailor your resume to tell a cohesive story. For example, there’s no need to mention that you worked as a lifeguard for the summer if you are applying for a career in marketing and have lots of marketing experience to share.
33. Show your mobility within a company
If you worked several years at the same company, be sure to include all of the different positions and roles that you may have had. This will highlight your flexibility and professional development.
34. Eliminate pronouns
Your resume should never include “I” or “me” in the descriptions. Since this is a document about yourself, it makes your resume redundant.
35. Create a master list of all of your jobs
Since the goal is to have a distinct resume for each job you apply for, create a master list of all your past jobs. This will make it quick and easy to swap out information and keep your resume fresh.
36. Highlight your contact information
Make it easy for an employer to contact you by including your phone number and professional email. Put this information near the top of your resume so it stands out.
37. Include non-traditional work
Any work that has added value to your professional development should be included in your resume. Significant volunteer roles, part-time work, contracted work, freelance work, or blogging gigs can all demonstrate your value!
38. Vary your verbiage
Avoid repeating the same word too many times and spice it up with different action words to explain your work experience. This will keep the reader of your resume engaged and interested in what you have to say.
39. Take out the empty words
Detail-oriented, team player, hard worker – your potential future employer has probably read these hundreds of times. Instead, explain how you have been a team player or use specific examples to show your ability to work hard.
40. Include continuing work or education
Don’t be shy if you are working hard on the side to earn more work experience or education. Include these items on your resume to show how you continue to strive to obtain the skills you need for your career.
41. Address the gaps and job hunting
Whether you took off several months in your career or have had five jobs in two months, be sure to address these unusual circumstances directly on your resume.
A simple explanation like “company closed,” “traveled through Europe,” or “relocated to a new city” can clear up any confusion or hesitations an employer may have.
42. Give references when they are requested
Avoid including references directly on your resume or adding in the phrase “references available upon request”. If an employer wants this information, they will ask for it!
43. Know your medium
Be aware of how you will be sending your resume and adjust the formatting to avoid potential problems. Scanned, email, online, or printed are the main options that employers will choose, so be sure that your resume can transfer well throughout all of these.
44. Send it as a PDF
If you are sending your resume via email or uploading your resume online, opt to send it as a PDF. This way you’ll avoid formatting issues that may arise when a prospective employer opens it.
45. Title your files appropriately
Believe it or not, you will not be the only one to title your file “resume.doc”. Don’t be forgotten by your employer with a generic file name. Include your name, an underscore, and the position you are applying for so that your file can be easily found by a potential employer.
46. Professionalize your social media profiles
Recent studies show that 40-60% of employers will check out social media profiles when reviewing a job application. Pro-tip: keep your images and content professional and make sure to adjust your privacy settings, if appropriate.
47. Remove polarizing information
Take out any information related to political stances or anything generally considered controversial. While you want to stand out from the crowd, adding in these details increases your chance of a judgmental or biased reading of your resume.
48. No photos on the resume
With the rising trend of digital screening processes filtering out faulty resume files, stay safe by removing any pictures or strange symbols from your resume. Keep the photos to job marketplace profiles, but attach a resume that excludes photos.
49. Proofread multiple times
Make sure your resume is punctuated perfectly and all formatting is open and inviting (white space, offset bullet points, wide margins). Spelling or grammatical errors make for a poor first impression!
50. Get someone else to review your resume
A fresh pair of eyes can be invaluable. Mimic the hiring process, by asking a few trusted friends to read through your resume quickly and provide feedback. Then update your resume to make a better first impression, eliminate confusing parts, and highlight your best qualities or experiences.