There’s no shortcut to creating a great resume. But—even if you don’t know where to start—you can take the following steps to make sure your resume stands out from the competition and overcome any stress you feel during the writing process. Whether you’re hunting for your first full-time job, going after a promotion, or looking to make a career change, these tips will help you show employers your best side.
1. Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes
Imagine you’re the one inspecting dozens of job applications. Before you even get started writing, think about the person who will be reading your resume. Keep their perspective in mind as you follow the rest of the tips below.
2. Keep it compact
Less isn’t always more, but too much is always too much. Creating a single page of information divided into clear sections makes your resume easy to read and respects the reviewer’s time. It also shows that you have organization skills and value clear communication—important assets for any potential hire!
3. Make it clear
To ensure you have a succinct, reviewer-friendly resume, give employers exactly what they want. Carefully select the positions and skills you’ll list. Include experience that best fits the specific job you’re applying to. If you have years of work history across multiple positions and fields, leave out the jobs and skills least relevant to the demands of the position.
4. Use engaging words
Active verbs—“coordinated,” “represented,” “led,” “achieved”—convey confidence. Concise, assertive language provides hiring managers with useful information while using half the space of more elaborate descriptions. It also gives your resume a tone of competence and drive.
“Represented the firm’s R&D department at international conferences.”
“While working at Mickens and Mishima, I sometimes liaised with potential industry clients at international conferences as a junior member of the firm’s R&D department.”
This “don’t” example is wishy-washy and passive. The “do” example is active and direct.
5. Put achievements before skills
Be sure to start each work history section with targeted highlights. Prioritize specific, quantifiable achievements. Describing the things you’ve accomplished in the past will give an employer a good idea of what you can accomplish in the future. Follow that up with a quick, general summary of your skills.
6. Include soft skills
Soft skills like creativity, adaptability, time management, and teamwork are what will turn you from a potentially valuable employee into an invaluable hire. Letting reviewers know you’ve successfully led a seminar or effectively collaborated on a major group project shows them they’re selecting a candidate who will improve not just the company’s work but also the workplace culture.
7. Insert keywords
Unique phrases in job postings are often used as triggers for automated filters that sort resumes before they even make it to a real person. Looking out for keywords and phrases in the job posting and descriptions of similar positions and incorporating them into your work history can get your resume past the filter. It also conveys to reviewers that you have one of the most important soft skills: an eye for detail.
No matter what position you’re applying to, even the most minor typo can give employers second thoughts about calling you in for an interview. Don’t let a small mistake be the reason you don’t get the interview you deserve. Proofread your resume before sending it out.
9. Get a referral
Even if you don’t know someone at the company where you’re applying, you can use LinkedIn to find second and third-degree connections. In a direct message, introduce yourself, explain your interest in the job you’re applying for, and ask if they’d be willing to provide a referral. Many companies pay employees referral fees—so it could be a win-win situation for both you and the referrer. At worst, you’ve made a new professional connection! And with a referral, your newly polished resume is much more likely to be seen by a hiring manager.