Your resume is one of the most important documents you will ever create. How effective it is (or isn’t) can determine your whole career path.
It is essentially a snapshot of your experience, skills, and accomplishments that employers use to determine whether or not you are a good fit for the job. And when I say snapshot, I truly mean it. Most recruiters only look at your resume for about 6 seconds, which is approximately the same amount of time it’s taken you to read this far. It’s not really a lot of time, is it?
Given the importance of your resume, you want to make sure that it is as strong as possible.
Follow these quick resume tips if you want your resume to pass the 6-second glance test and get proper consideration!
If you want to make a good impression and stand out from the competition, here are a few things you want to include on your resume.
1. Sell Yourself
Don’t be modest during your job search – especially when it comes to your resume. Think of your resume as an advertisement for yourself. What are your top “features” that you want an employer to know about you? Use your resume to tell them what makes you the perfect candidate.
2. Highlight Your Qualifications and Accomplishments
You want your best attributes and in-demand skills to stand out, so emphasize these throughout your resume.
How do you do that? Put your most important and relevant information first (or as close to the top of your resume as you can). Use bold, italics, or underlines to draw the eye. If your resume is more than one page, make sure all your important details are on the first page.
3. Include Numbers, Percentages & Figures
Quantifying your responsibilities and accomplishments on your resume gives them more context. Using numbers is also a great way to highlight anything important.
For example, if you say you “trained new staff members” on your resume, did you train 2 people or 200? Because those are pretty different. Just as saying you “increased sales” is fine, but saying you “increased sales by 20% in one year” is much better.
4. Tailor Each Resume to the Job
No, you don’t have to create a brand new resume from scratch for each job you apply to, but you should be making minor changes to it so that it’s tailored to each job. You can rearrange your resume sections, re-word some of your bullet points, or replace any irrelevant information for this specific job.
Use the job ad and job description to determine what the job requires, and do your best to make your resume match this.
5. Keep Your Resume Up To Date
It’s much easier to keep your resume up-to-date than it is to update it when you suddenly need it. Because you want to include numbers and data, figuring out these details can be a real challenge if you’ve been let go, fired, or quit and no longer have access to this information. Do your best to keep your resume ready to go, just in case!
6. Use Powerful Action Words
Repeatedly using the same boring words will make your resume boring too. Instead of saying “managed” or “assisted” for every bullet point, change it up! Incorporate the main keywords from the job posting or job description where it makes sense. Find more exciting and powerful words to use that describe what you’ve done.
Need some ideas? How about 500 of them!
7. Avoid Typos and Grammatical Errors
Spellcheck is helpful, but it doesn’t catch everything. Grammarly is a great free tool that will also find grammatical errors and punctuation mistakes. (The premium version also offers things like formatting suggestions, sentence variety, and inclusive language for about $12/month.)
Reading your resume out loud is also helpful for catching errors.
8. Ask Someone to Proofread It
Always get a second pair of eyes to look over your resume to make sure you caught those typos and that it makes sense overall. After reading your resume, if they can’t tell you what kind of job you’re applying for, you need to fix this!
There are a few things you definitely do not want to do when it comes to your resume.
1. Don’t Lie or Exaggerate
Lying or exaggerating about your experience or education may come back to bite you. If you do not have a certain skill or experience, do not try to fake it.
Employers do background checks. They will call your references. If something doesn’t line up with your resume, you will lose credibility and won’t be offered the job.
2. Don’t Use “I” or Refer to Yourself By Name
Please don’t use first person (I, me, we) or third person (he, she, they; him, her, them) pronouns on your resume. And please don’t refer to yourself by your name on your resume, either.
This is an example of what NOT to do:
“With over twenty years of professional experience, Mr. Smith is our sales-team lead. A strong background in sales, customer service, and financial reporting gives Mr. Smith the ability to meet and exceed customer expectations.”
(Yes, I’ve actually seen several awkwardly worded resumes like this.)
Instead, cut out the points of view and extra filler-words, and follow this example:
- Sales-team lead with over twenty years of professional experience
- A strong background in sales, customer service, and financial reporting with the ability to meet and exceed customer’s expectations
3. Don’t Use Slang or Text-Speak
Your resume is a professional document. It’s not the right place to use slang or text-speak such as “lol” or “cuz.” While these terms might be okay in casual conversation, they can make you look unprofessional on a resume.
If you want to be taken seriously, make sure that your resume is free of any slang or text-speak and that you write out abbreviations or acronyms in full.
4. Don’t Include Unnecessary Personal Information
Things like your birthday, social security number (or social insurance number), marital status, and race do not belong on your resume. Including details like these can easily lead to discrimination or identity theft.
Don’t include your photo on your resume either – unless you are a model, actor, or realtor.
5. Don’t Use a Complex Format or Hard to Read Fonts
It’s okay to put a little design or personality into your resume, but keep it simple. A hiring manager isn’t going to bother with an overly designed resume or one that uses fonts that are too hard to read.
6. Don’t Copy the Exact Wording
You should use the keywords and language from the job description or ad but don’t copy it word for word. It will make you look lazy and suggests that you might steal or plagiarize other people’s work in the future.
7. Don’t Use an Unprofessional Email Address
Although a potential employer should be focusing on your qualifications, an unprofessional email address can make a bad first impression. It’s hard to take “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org” seriously.
8. Don’t Go Overboard
Keep your resume focused on the job you’re applying for and to the point. It’s not a list of every single job you’ve ever had or every course you’ve ever taken.
Aim to make a 1-page resume that is as concise and focused as possible. If you have a lot of relevant experience, it’s okay if it ends up being two pages, but make sure the important information is on page one.
9. Don’t Forget to Include Your Other Experiences
Volunteer work, co-op placements, internships (paid or unpaid), extra-curriculars, and even your side hustle can be included on your resume – if they are relevant.
For example, say you’re applying to be a teacher. Including your volunteer work with a children’s charity will clearly help you stand out and demonstrate your interest and skills in this area. But saying you were on the swim team 15 years ago or mowed lawns last summer doesn’t. It’s just taking up space and taking the focus away from your strongest qualifications.
10. Don’t Forget to Provide Examples
If you want to convince employers that you possess the skills you claim you have, make sure to back up your claims with concrete examples.
For instance, simply stating that you have good communication skills without providing examples of how this is true will likely not be very convincing. Take the time to provide specific examples of how you have used your communication skills to solve problems or connect with others effectively. This will be much more convincing.
11. Don’t Keyword Stuff
Keyword stuffing your resume is a surefire way to make it look like you’re trying to game the system. It will also make your resume look unprofessional and could cost you the job. So, don’t do it!
Instead, include keywords naturally throughout your resume.
And no, you shouldn’t try to discreetly sneak keywords to your resume either by making the font color white. This tactic might help you pass resume screeners, but it won’t help you pass the interview.
12. Don’t Add Testimonials To Your Resume
Testimonials are great to have available but save them for your portfolio or LinkedIn profile.
Testimonials take up valuable space on your resume. Instead of using that space to highlight your own professional achievements, you’re using it to promote someone else’s opinion of you. This doesn’t give employers a good impression of your self-promotion skills. They may also wonder if the person giving the testimonial is actually qualified to speak about your professional skills and abilities. The last thing you want to do is make an employer skeptical.
There is also the chance that including them on your resume will make you seem arrogant and turn potential employers off.
If they like you and are interested in hiring you, they will conduct their own reference checks.
Quick Resume Tips
In summary, here are the things you want to do on your resume:
- Sell yourself
- Highlight your qualifications and accomplishments
- Include numbers, percentages and figures
- Tailor each resume to the job
- Keep your resume up-to-date
- Use powerful action words
- Avoid typos and grammatical errors
- Ask someone to proofread it
And here are the things you don’t want to do:
- Don’t lie or exaggerate
- Don’t use “I”
- Don’t use slang or text-speak
- Don’t include unnecessary personal information
- Don’t use a complex format or hard to read fonts
- Don’t copy the exact wording
- Don’t use an unprofessional email address
- Don’t go overboard
- Don’t forget to include your other experiences
- Don’t forget to include examples
- Don’t keyword stuff
- Don’t add testimonials to your resume
By following these simple resume tips, you can be sure that your resume will make a great impression on employers and give you a better chance of landing the job you want.
Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.