So you’re ready to look for a new job, but you're not sure how to write a resume that stands out or what you need to include in one.
Or you've decided to search for a new job, but you haven’t updated your resume in a while.
Whether you’re looking for entry-level roles and want to create a resume from scratch or simply looking for resume writing tips, you’ve landed in the right place.
In this article, we’re going to list useful tips to help you craft a brilliant resume.
But first, we’ll take a look at what makes a good resume and what it should include.
A resume is a snapshot of your professional skills and experience, so it’s the most important document in your job search.
It can be hard to figure out what you need to include in your resume without going overboard and listing every detail about your educational background and work history.
A perfect resume will typically:
Highlight the key skills and accomplishments in your professional life
Be short, crisp, and relevant to the job you’re applying for
Be easy to skim with bulleted lists, short sentences, and neat formatting
Include action verbs to draw attention to your achievements
Be free from errors or typos
As a job seeker, you’ll want to include some basic information about yourself as well as your most relevant work experience.
Here’s what to include:
If you have a website or a portfolio, you’ll also want to display the web address to that.
A resume summary or resume objective can be a great way to highlight your experience, relevant skills, and career goals. It gives your potential employer an overview of your background and suitability for the role at a glance.
You can also amend this section to cater directly to the job description of the role you’re applying for.
In the education section, you’ll want to include details of any degrees, diplomas, or courses you’ve completed in reverse-chronological order, listing the most recent one first. Also, list the names of the institution and the date (or expected date) of graduation.
The work experience section includes the highlights of your previous jobs, internships, and volunteer work. You'll also include the names of the organizations you worked at, your job title, and the period of employment.
Including a list of your core competencies or key skills is a good way to get a hiring manager's attention.
In a skills section, you could include hard skills such as knowledge of software, computer programming, or proficiency in languages, or soft skills such as leadership skills, public speaking, or work ethic.
If relevant to your position, you can include details of your hobbies. For example, you could mention a love for animals if you’re applying to work in a pet store.
It’s generally acceptable to include work history for up to 10–15 years for most industries. Unless, of course, there’s a significant and relevant achievement from earlier years that you’d like to highlight.
It can also vary according to which industry you work in.
For instance, for sectors such as IT or digital, where skills change quickly, it makes sense to only include recent work history. In contrast, it may make sense to include a complete work history for other fields such as research or teaching.
A clean and professional resume is your first contact with an employer or hiring manager, so you’ll want to showcase the best version of yourself.
Resume writing doesn’t need to be a major hassle as long as you follow some guidelines. Here are 15 resume tips worth keeping in mind while you create yours:
When it comes to resume writing, remember that less is more.
While it can be tempting to list all your jobs and work experience, remember that the recruiter or hiring manager is only looking for relevant experience in line with the role you’re applying for.
So, you should think about each of your previous roles and only include details of the most relevant work achievements that the person who is reading the resume will want to hear about - and most of all match the job description.
To capture the attention of the hiring manager or employer, you’ll have to illustrate what you bring to the table.
One of the ways you can do this is to include a list or a box of key skills in the top half of the resume, so they can get this information at a glance without having to read through the rest of the pages.
Avoid lackluster descriptions or generic buzzwords to describe the details of your work experience. Using the right language can make your resume stand out to a potential employer.
“Action verbs,” as they are called, are specific words that help to strengthen and clarify your capabilities, make you sound confident, and give your resume a lift.
Some examples of powerful “action verbs” include:
This one’s a no-brainer. Many recruiters may do a little search for you online after they receive your resume, or they may want to see examples of your work on your blog or portfolio.
This is why it becomes essential to include the URLs of your relevant social handles, such as LinkedIn or Twitter. If you work in creative industries, you could even link to relevant profiles on Instagram, YouTube, or Pinterest.
A resume does not need to include superfluous details, such as the job description or the day-to-day responsibilities of your previous roles.
To really pack a punch, demonstrate your work capabilities by only including details of the accomplishments in each position you’ve held.
Adding numbers to your resume backs up your achievements and demonstrates to the recruiter that you aren’t making up fluff to fill space. Quantifying achievements gives them a tangible sense of how you put your skills into action.
For example, if you work in human resources, you could put down something like:
Or a sales-oriented achievement could be written as:
Pay special attention to the resume format and how text is laid out on the page, as it needs to be easy to skim. Make sure there's a good balance between text and white space, as this makes your resume look tidy and clean.
Also, keep in mind that there’s no point using fancy fonts or attractive designs if your resume is going to go through an ATS and be stripped of all the fancy stuff.
Make sure your resume has a simple and professional layout, with clearly marked sections and title headings.
Promote readability by using a decent font size of 10–12 and selecting a professional font such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Verdana.
Align your text to the left to make it easier to absorb information at a glance.
Instead of elaborate descriptions and chunky paragraphs of text, break up your achievements into a list of bullet points.
Did you know a recruiter only spends an average of seven seconds on a resume?
A resume that spans three or four pages is not worth your time and effort, especially since you know that a cursory glance is all you're going to get.
So keep your resume brief and to the point by not going beyond a maximum of two pages.
As explained earlier, you’ll want to trim down your resume to keep it succinct. So make sure everything included in your resume delivers value. You can do this by:
Deleting unnecessary sections
Cutting down on overly flowery or unnecessary words
Keeping bullet points to a minimum
Making sure every word and sentence adds value
Thanks to the internet, job hunting has gotten more competitive than ever.
Since companies and recruiters receive several dozens of applications from various sources, many rely on applicant tracking system (ATS) software to organize and track applications.
The ATS uses a resume-scanning functionality that acts as a filter and selects the most relevant applications based on keywords.
The best way to get your resume through the ATS is to have a look at the job description and identify a few listed skills that you can address.
At the same time, you don’t want to resort to keyword-stuffing or blindly adding skills just to get past the ATS loop.
You can use tools such as SkillSyncer or Jobscan to help you make an ATS-friendly resume. You should also check out Jobcase’s post on how to write a resume that will make it past the ATS system.
What’s the harm in exaggerating a few achievements or adding a few skills that you don’t quite have?
Nobody’s going to find out anyway, right?
As tempting as it may seem to”garnish” your resume or inflate numbers, please refrain from doing so because it can have serious repercussions.
Apart from affecting your credibility and reputation as a candidate, you could even lose your job or face allegations of misconduct if it's discovered that you’ve lied about your work experience on your resume.
When you’re applying for a specific job, don’t just send in a generic resume as part of your job application.
To maximize your chance of being considered for a role, you’ll want to craft a targeted resume to match the job description requirements.
You can use a resume template with certain key sections that are constant, such as your education, previous jobs, and contact details.
You can then tweak or customize certain sections of your resume to describe why your experience and skills are relevant to the role you're applying for.
Often, you’ll need to include a cover letter with your resume, so you’ll need to make sure these are customized to the job you’re applying for as well.
A cover letter can be a great way to address something which can’t be covered in a resume. So, make sure your resume and cover letter go hand-in-hand and together give the recruiter a snapshot of your best professional self.
It’s hardly surprising to hear that poor grammar or typos are a dealbreaker for many recruiters, and it reflects poorly on the candidate.
You should make sure you proofread your resume several times or have a friend run through it to check that there are no errors.
You can run a spell check using popular software such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs. To catch other grammar errors or to improve your language, you could use tools such as Writer.com or Grammarly.
When you have an effective resume, you’re more likely to catch your prospective employer’s attention, getting you a step closer to landing an interview for your dream job.
Whether you’re refreshing your resume or making a new one from scratch, we hope the pointers above will help you make a resume that’s the best reflection of who you are.
Ready for the next step? Check out some strong resume examples and get inspired to create a winning resume.