Updating your resume doesn’t have to be an hours-long ordeal. There are lots of small but meaningful changes you can make in a matter of minutes that will have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your resume. A good resume should be clear, concise and highlight your skills. If you achieve those 3 objectives, you’re well on your way to creating an excellent resume that will help you score a great job. Below are 25 bite-size resume writing tips that take a few minutes to implement and are well worth the time.
1. put the best stuff at the top
Your resume is a marketing document. Its purpose is to ‘sell’ your skills to potential employers. So front-load your most impressive achievements in the top half of the first page and hook their interest right away! If you start with the boring stuff, hiring managers might not get to the good parts.
2. get rid of the objective statement
Objective statements are so last century. Everyone knows your objective is to land a job. So cut this old relic from your resume. It’s taking up valuable space you could use to talk about your skills and experience.
3. limit yourself to 2 pages
A big mistake job seekers make is trying to cram too much on their resume. Hiring managers want to be able to scan your resume quickly and find key information that will tell them whether you’re right for the job. They don’t need your life story. If you’re going over the crucial 2 page limit… see the next point.
4. get familiar with the delete button
Think of your resume as your greatest hits. It should include the highlights in your work history… the things that make you a great hire, not the nitty-gritty details of everything you’ve ever worked on. Don’t be afraid to cut out things that are no longer relevant to make room for cool new things you’ve worked on.
5. keep the design simple
Unless you’re in a creative field, stick with a simple, straight-forward design. Choose one or two fonts max, and keep layout and formatting simple. Use clear headlines and bullets to make info easy to read. Readability is the name of the game for your resume. If you need help, there are tons of attractive resume templates available online.
6. but don’t be afraid of colour
Hiring managers see dozens of resumes every day. Most of them are black and white. A tasteful accent colour can actually help your resume stand out and be memorable. Just remember to keep it classic – this is not the time to experiment with hot pink, lime green or highlighter yellow.
7. double check your contact info
Make sure your contact info is up-to-date – this is how hiring managers will reach you, so it’s critical it’s correct. Include your email and phone number. You can also include your social media (especially LinkedIn) or a link to your website if they’re work-related.
8. use a professional email address
Use a professional email that’s a variation of your name. You’d be surprised how many people still have emails like email@example.com on their resume. Not only does this look juvenile, it makes it look like you’re stuck in the early 2000s technology-wise. Gmail or Outlook addresses are preferable to Hotmail, and they’re free to create, so there’s no excuse.
9. don’t include your home address
Back in the days before email was common, people used to include their home address on their resume. In the digital era, you don’t need to do this – there’s really no benefit. It can open you up to privacy issues and employers judging your commute or neighbourhood, which is really none of their business.
10. make it easy to skim
Did you know the average hiring manager spends only 6 seconds reading your resume on the first pass? They’re looking for critical information that’ll determine if it goes in the ‘yes’ pile where it’ll be read more thoroughly. So make sure that you get past that first stage by making your resume easy to scan.
11. focus on recent successes
Put the focus on things you’ve achieved recently. Avoid talking about things you worked on years ago. If you’re more than a few years out of school, your college, university or high school achievements should not be prominent (if they’re included at all). Focusing too much on old achievements makes it seem like you have nothing more recent to share!
12. use bullet points to your advantage
Bullet points are significantly easier to read than paragraphs. This makes it easier for recruiters and hiring managers to quickly skim your resume and access important information about your skills, achievements and work history.
13. use subheads to designate sections
Break your resume into sections so information is easy to find. Clearly designate sections such as ‘work experience,’ ‘education,’ ‘skills,’ ‘awards’ and anything else you want to draw hiring managers’ attention to.
14. use simple language
Writing a resume isn’t about using the biggest, fanciest words. You want to clearly and effectively communicate why you’re a great employee. Whipping out a thesaurus to sound smarter can backfire and sound inauthentic. Also keep the industry jargon to a minimum, unless you’re talking about specific skills you possess.
15. focus on achievements
Focus on achievements over day-to-day routine tasks. It’s much more impressive to hear about your big successes. So avoid listing everything you’re responsible for doing daily and talk about the big projects and noteworthy achievements – these are what will make you stand out.
16. include relevant keywords
Keywords are words or phrases related to your work and skills. Repeating them ensures your resume passes through automated resume scanners. Your job title, industry, and hard skills – such as software you’re well-versed in using – make great keywords.
17. use reverse chronological order
In North America, reverse chronological order (or putting the most recent things at the top and older things at the bottom) is the standard formatting for resumes, and it’s what recruiters will expect to see. It makes sense, because your most recent experience is usually more important and relevant than older experience.
18. show off your personality
Let’s face it: resumes can be quite dry. It’s standard to write them in a passive tone, which while professional, can be boring. Some areas of your resume, such as your professional summary, are prime opportunities to allow your personality to shine through and make a connection with your potential employer.
19. ditch part-time or casual jobs
Did you work in fast food when you were a teenager? Maybe you took a retail job while doing an unpaid internship? If you have jobs that aren’t related to your field, put them lower on your resume, if at all. As a general rule, you can remove or minimize coverage of any experience that’s older than 5 years.
20. delete ‘references available on request’
Much like an objective statement, this is a relic of a time long since passed. Recruiters and hiring managers expect you to have references available as needed. You don’t need to waste valuable space on your resume with this.
21. put extras on linkedin
If there’s additional information you really want to share, but there’s just not enough space for it, put it on LinkedIn. Unlike your resume, which should be brief, your LinkedIn profile can include a lot more detailed information. Usually, if you’re flagged as a front runner based on your resume, recruiters will check out your LinkedIn.
22. save your resume as a PDF or word doc
Some people say you should save your resume as a word doc, some say a PDF. Either is fine. A word doc is easier for automated resume scanners to read. A PDF ensures the formatting stays consistent no matter what device it’s opened on. Even better… have both options available.
23. give the file an appropriate name
Include your name and the word ‘resume’ and you’re off to a good start. Don’t name it a string of numbers, or something else unintelligible. If your resume ends up in a hiring manager’s downloads folder with a ton of other resumes, you want it be easily found with a quick search.
24. proofread it one more time
A stray typo or two can kill an otherwise great resume. Ideally, do your final proofreading session well after making your last edits, so you come to it with fresh eyes, and don’t miss an obvious mistake. If you have a friend or family member who’s willing to give it a quick pass, even better.
25. update it often
Your resume is a living document. It’s never ‘finished’ – you should update it monthly, or at least quarterly, adding recent achievements while they’re fresh in your mind. It’s also a good idea to customize it for each job, to increase your chance of scoring an interview.