In the competitive and ever-changing job market, your resume plays a key role in determining whether you stand out to recruiters among a sea of qualified candidates. It’s often the first example of your work that a recruiter will see, and it’s a direct reflection of the time and effort that you put into applying for a job.
To help you set your resume apart, we met with our recruiting team and compiled a list of best practices and resume tips that every job seeker should know.
1. Be Concise
It’s best to limit your resume to one page. While two-page resumes are acceptable, they’re generally reserved for seasoned professionals with extensive work experience.
2. Keep It Professional
There are numerous ways to spruce up your resume, but aim to keep the overall look clean and professional. Use easy-to-read fonts that are at least 10 point and pay attention to white space. While smaller margins can help you fit more information, minimizing them too much can make your resume appear cluttered. Limit the margin size to 0.5 to 1 inch. If you choose to integrate some color for added flair, opt for tones that aren’t too bright or distracting.
3. Consistency Is Key
Stick to one font, and make sure that any formatting choices are consistent throughout your resume. For instance, if you choose to bold the heading of your experience section, then all the other section headings should be in bold as well. Limit your bold and italicized text to areas that you want to catch the recruiter’s eye, such as a position title.
4. Spell It Out
While the meaning of some acronyms and abbreviations may be obvious to you, it’s important to recognize that the person reviewing your resume may not have the same knowledge. Make it a point to spell out all acronyms and commonly abbreviated words to ensure that there is no confusion for the recruiter.
5. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Spelling and grammar mistakes are an immediate red flag for recruiters. Make sure that you proofread your resume several times. To take it a step further, ask a friend or family member to review your resume to catch any mistakes that you may have missed.
6. Avoid Repetition
Keeping the recruiter engaged is a key goal for your resume, and one of the best ways to achieve that aim is to vary the wording that you use throughout the document. Use a dictionary or thesaurus to change up your phrasing and show that you put in the effort to make your resume as interesting as possible.
7. Steer Clear of Formatting Tools
There are several job search sites that allow you to plug in your information and generate a resume that can be easily used to apply to companies with one click. It’s best to avoid using these tools as they often result in a document that’s inefficiently formatted and difficult to decipher. Take the time to build your own resume so that you have complete control over its layout and content.
When the time comes to upload and submit your resume to a potential employer, make sure that it’s in PDF format. While tools like Word are useful for creating your resume, the recruiter reading the document may have a different version of the program, which could lead to formatting issues when your file is opened. Avoid this potential pitfall by exporting a PDF version of your resume to submit with job applications.
8. Make It Easy to Reach You
Ensure that the recruiter knows who you are and how to reach you by listing your contact information at the top of your resume. In addition to your name, include your city and state, email address and phone number.
Adding the URL for your LinkedIn page can add another element to your resume that lets the recruiter know more about you as a candidate. Before taking this step, make sure that your profile is completely built out and adequately reflects your skills and experience.
9. Sell Yourself With Specific Examples
List the roles that you’ve held at each of your former companies, and use bullet points to note key accomplishments and milestones. It’s important to avoid vague language — recruiters want to see concrete examples of how your work made an impact. Rather than simply describing your responsibilities, use numbers-driven examples to highlight your successes, such as mentioning that you helped your former employer drive client growth by 10 percent last year. To keep the reader engaged, use action verbs to detail your former positions. Strong examples include develop, create, design, implement, conduct, manage, supervise, deliver, enhance and demonstrate.
In addition, pay close attention to tense. If you’re writing about your current job, speak in the present. Any previous experience should be described in the past tense.
10. Show What You’ve Learned
Most employers note a minimum education requirement in their job postings, so be sure to list the name of your school, your degree and your major. Recent graduates without extensive professional work experience may consider listing their education information above their previous employers to give it greater emphasis. Providing your GPA isn’t required, but it may help bolster your resume if you graduated with high marks.
11. Specify Your Skills
Show why you’re a strong candidate by listing your skills that directly correlate to the job. Avoid listing generalized terms that are already implied by your past work experience. For example, if you were previously a cashier, a recruiter can safely assume that you’re competent in customer service. Focus on highlighting your abilities in areas like project management and problem-solving (soft skills) as well as your proficiencies in programs and applications that are sought after in your industry (hard skills).
12. Note Extra Information That Rounds You Out
Include a short section at the end of your resume for any experience outside of the workplace that makes you a more attractive job candidate. This can include volunteer work, organizations that you belong to and awards that you’ve received. If you were the recipient of an award, be sure to note the name of the company or organization that presented it to you.