Today’s job market is fiercely competitive.
With hiring managers often having to sift through numerous résumés for a single position, only the best of the best make it to the next stage of the hiring process. Indeed, if you want to land a good job, you need to be able to compete against a fleet of other equally qualified candidates.
An impressive résumé, then, is what you need to stand out from the crowd.
With only a few seconds to grab an employer’s attention, there’s a lot to consider when crafting your résumé. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled the best résumé writing tips that will help you get an interview for your dream job!
You can also feast your eyes on the most essential résumé tips in our video version:
1. Choose the Right Format
A chronological résumé helps employers assess your most recent work first, bringing immediate attention to your current experience. While this is a popular format, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right one for you. In fact, there’s an array of résumé formats to choose from, each one with its own merits.
For example, if you have some employment gaps, then a skills-based résumé could be a better option, as it brings attention to your abilities rather than your experience. Likewise, a combination résumé is a great way to emphasise both your experience and your relevant skills.
2. Model Your Résumé to the Job You Want
Hiring managers aren’t looking for generic content but rather specialised skills and industry-related expertise.
To give recruiters what they’re looking for, your CV or résumé should be tailor-made for the position you’re applying for. That means that you’ll need to do extensive research on the role and the company itself. From there on, incorporate your most relevant experience and knowledge within your résumé.
On another note, be sure to include targeted keywords that will help your résumé stand out. This is particularly important if you’re applying to a bigger company, as it will help your résumé pass through the applicant tracking system (or ATS, for short). Resume.io, meanwhile, warns against adding too many keywords when writing your résumé, as it makes it unreadable to people.
3. Add a Punchy Career Summary
To grab the hiring manager’s attention, your career summary needs to be short and snappy. It should be no longer than two or three sentences, and you should use the space to highlight your professional experience, job-specific skills, relevant achievements and career objectives. Avoid redundancies and select points that can demonstrate you’re the ideal candidate for the job.
Start by listing your strongest character traits in a few words, then mention your current title, responsibilities and years of experience, and then move on to noteworthy career achievements. Then, briefly state your objectives for working at the company you’re applying for.
4. Detail Your Previous Roles
Employers are looking for candidates with illustrated professional experience. By doing so, you can further demonstrate your skills and experience to hiring managers and how they match their needs.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should list every single responsibility and job you’ve held during your career. Simply list the skills that are essential for the role you’re applying for and tailor the content so that you can demonstrate your experience. Remember to accompany these with some metrics and statistics to make your points more impactful (more on that later).
5. Highlight Your Achievements
Identifying your achievements is an excellent way to boost your résumé and differentiate yourself from other candidates with similar skillsets. So, while you should detail your most important duties and responsibilities in previous positions, you need to combine these with your professional accomplishments.
Don’t forget to accompany these with some impressive facts and figures, too. This will surely show the value you can bring to the company and give you a competitive advantage over other candidates.
6. Quantify Your Experience
Numbers, metrics and figures are an excellent way to demonstrate your skills to employers. By quantifying information, you can highlight your professional achievements and show how your contributions have helped your current company achieve its goals.
When listing your duties and achievements, make sure to use any quantifiable evidence that can justify the work you’ve done. For example, you could include points like ‘Managed a team of 20 people’, ‘Increased sales by 80%’ or ‘Oversaw a budget of $12 million’.
7. Use Action Words
The best way to distinguish your accomplishments when detailing your work experience is to use compelling action verbs.
Words like ‘manage’, ‘led’ and ‘responsible for’ have been used rather excessively over the years, so try to avoid them as much as possible. Instead, opt for alternative action verbs that will make your achievements more personable, like ‘coordinated’, ‘launched’, ‘improved’, ‘supervised’ and ‘identified’.
8. Skip Cliché Terms
The content of your résumé should be unique in every possible way. To achieve this, you need to keep the content clear of overly generic terms such as ‘hard worker’ or ‘team player’.
The objective here is to make yourself as memorable as possible to the recruiter, but with every applicant vouching to their ‘attention to detail’ and ‘great communication skills’, this often becomes repetitive and devoid of meaning.
The best way for you to show off professional attributes is to provide solid examples and hard facts. Break away from cliché content and back up any claims you make with evidence.
9. Pay Attention to Formatting
Making your CV or résumé easy to navigate through helps recruiters absorb important information easily.
Large paragraphs and blocks of text are the first things you should avoid. Instead, break up information in easily digestible and concise parts.
Place the most important information within the first two-thirds of the first page and make good use of any available white space. That said, while your résumé shouldn’t be crammed with text, it should also not contain too many blank spots.
Also, strive for neat page transitions where your paragraphs aren’t halved across two pages.
10. Consider Using a Template
Your résumé’s presentation could have a major impact on your job search success. Indeed, the best way to grab a hiring manager’s attention is with a visually pleasing template that will draw them in and encourage them to read its content.
It’s crucial that you pick the right layout and design for the position you’re applying for. What is an acceptable template will depend on the particular industry, but the good news is that there are countless options to choose from.
Pro tip: make sure that your chosen template is optimised for ATS software!
11. Economise Your Space
There’s a lot that needs to be covered within just two A4 pages, and if you’re a seasoned professional, then the chances are that you’ll have a lot of worthwhile experiences to go through.
To avoid overcrowding your résumé with information, you can start by omitting the ‘résumé’, 'CV' or ‘Curriculum Vitae’ heading. Instead, put more emphasis on your name and professional title, which should be both placed at the top of the first page.
If you have an extensive list of experience, you should also avoid going into too much detail about older roles you’ve held. Instead, focus on your most recent experience and achievements (typically up to 15 years).
To top that off, be sure to use bullet points and to avoid long descriptive sentences.
12. Be Consistent
If you choose to bold or italicise your title or include months or just years in your dates of employment, make sure you do so throughout the entire résumé. Also, it’s a good idea to only pick a single font style that is both readable and professional-looking, such as Arial, Helvetica or Verdana.
Other things to look out for include the size (between and 10 and 12 points) and colour of your text, as well as the tone and tense. Writing in the third person and the past tense is recommended.
13. Mind the Employment Gaps
Employment gaps often raise red flags for recruiters, which is why you need to be transparent about them. As a principle, you should provide the reasons behind extended unemployment periods.
Word to the wise: don’t lie about the duration you worked at your last job, as the hiring manager can quickly corroborate your employment dates with a simple call to your previous employer.
Even if your résumé contains employment gaps, you can use it to your advantage and highlight any volunteer work you did or any other skills you gained during your time off.
14. Use a Professional Email Address
Your contact details should be appropriate and up to date. More specifically, your email address should comprise of your name and surname or at least your initials and be devoid of arbitrary words.
A strange email address like ‘[email protected]’ is unlikely to make a good impression on the hiring manager, and it will most probably reflect badly on your sense of professionalism. Instead, create a new email address designated for your applications and business-related emails, and include that within your résumé.
15. Include Useful Links
Nowadays, most résumés are submitted electronically. One of the biggest advantages of this is that you can make your document all the more informative by including links to your professional social media profiles, online portfolio or professional blog. This is a great opportunity to wow recruiters and give them a real taste of your expertise in your field.
So, before you submit your résumé, be sure to add links to any relevant platforms that can show off your work. These should be placed in the header of the first page along with your contact information.
16. Don’t Get Too Personal
You need to be mindful about the personal details that you include on your résumé. Information like your age, gender, home address and nationality should generally be avoided, as this not only can affect an employer’s decision but also take up unnecessary space.
On another note, while in some countries you are required to include a photo of yourself in your résumé, it’s generally discouraged.
You should also cut out any personal pronouns like ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’ to avoid being repetitive and wasting valuable space on your résumé.
17. Include Personal Interests
Including some of your hobbies and interests adds a dash of your personality to your résumé.
That said, do avoid generalities like travelling, reading and playing sports. Think of this as another opportunity to be personable and show off any skills that might be relevant to the job.
For example, list a specific sport that requires team effort or some other activity that highlights your interest in your industry. If you have volunteer experience, meanwhile, you should also include this either within your interests list or as a separate section altogether.
18. Give it the Right File Name
Before sending off your résumé electronically, make sure that you’ve given the document a professional file name.
With hundreds of résumés competing for hiring managers’ attention, sending yours off under a generic name like ‘Résumé.doc’ or ‘MyRésuméFirstdraft.doc’ just won’t make the cut.
Instead, give it a personalised touch and go for a simple format like ‘John-Smith-Résumé.doc’. This will give your résumé a professional look, differentiate it from the rest and help recruiters remember your application a little bit better.
19. Proofread It (and Proofread it Again)
It’s quite easy to miss small errors when you’ve been looking at it for hours on end, so the best thing you can do is get a fresh pair of eyes and make the most out of online tools like Grammarly or Hemingway App.
Remember: it takes just one small grammar mistake to make a recruiter doubt your ‘atension to detail’, and this can be detrimental to your application’s success.
20. Get a Professional’s Help
If you’re too stressed about writing your very first résumé or updating your existing one, you simply don’t have the time, or you just don’t know where to start, then turning to a professional résumé writer (like CareerAddict's very own résumé service) for some much-needed help might be a good idea!
There’s a lot you need to consider when putting together your CV or résumé. From formats to templates and what sections to include, there’s plenty of ground that needs to be covered in such a short space.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach you can take, by following these tips, you’ll be able to craft a job-winning résumé in next to no time.
Do you have anything you’d like to add? Join the conversation down below and let us know!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 22 August 2017.