I’ve been updating this list every spring for almost a decade.
Our goal is that if you use this list and spend 60 minutes with your resume you can improve your resume in the process. With social media increasingly becoming a part of the job search, many are debating the value of resumes. IMO, (a first for me to use text language in an article) resumes are still important and these 50 resume writing tips still work. Remember though that your resume has 20-30 seconds to make an impression on a reader who will have to decide if they will put your resume in the KEEP or TOSS piles.
50 Resume Writing Tips
1. Skip the prepackaged templates. Start your own resume writing project from scratch. Copy a layout you like.
2. Proofread resume for grammar, spelling and factual errors by reading from the end in reverse order.
3. Use consistent font size including bullet sizes on your resume. New trend is to skip the old Times fonts and get something more contemporary. Don’t force the recruiter to squint to read the text. Stick to an ASCII font.
4. Limit or avoid graphics completely. Don’t add your photo or picture of your dog or any fancy images. Recruiters will see your profile photo from LinkedIn or other social media.
5. Use upper case letters sparingly and only when appropriate. Upper case is actually very hard to read and it doesn’t make what you are saying anymore important.
6. Include short term projects that were great learning experiences. Remember to write team outcomes.
7. Bullets will make resumes easier to read. Definitely large blocks of text don’t really fit with the scanning approach that the reader will take.
8. Avoid useless words like “responsibilities”, “responsibilities include” or “duties include.” Also you don’t have to label your email address with the word “email” anymore.
9. Volunteerism and community service really enhance a resume. Sometimes, especially, for new grads or even career changers moving from one industry to the next. this is all you have.
10. Adjust margins if the resume is slightly too long. Don’t go less than .5 inch, but don’t leave a few lines hanging on another page either.
11. No personal pronouns like “I”, “my” and “me” except maybe in the objective statement. Some don’t like objective statements. I still do. They can’t be shallow however.
12. Do not list complete addresses of past employers, don’t even include your own address if you don’t want to. This is a new trend especially in a job market where people are relocating often. Your address doesn’t add anything new.
13. Don’t include names of references on the resume. Also don’t use the line, “References Available on Request”. We know that you have references who will brag about you.
14. Top 30-40% of the resume gets the most attention; Make it grab the reader’s attention.
15. Use little notes to steer the reader’s attention or spark interest. For example, if you list a job that appears out of synch with the rest of your background, write a note “Ask me about my career change.” Get help from a professional with this “personalization” of the resume.
16. Use page numbers if the resume is more than one page.
17. Add name, phone number and email contact to all resume pages.
18. Use tables to align columns. Right click on tables to remove lines and leave a clean look.
19. Do not include any salary information or salary history on your resume. The resume is not the place.
20. Use a professional email address or social media links on your resume. Make sure when a recruiter does click over to your social media that they won’t be unimpressed at what they see.
21. Use no jargon or slang on your resume. In my intro paragraph, I used “IMO” which means “In my opinion”. Did you notice? Please don’t use this on a resume.
22. Do not write any information above your name.
23. Follow sample layouts if you are stuck. There is absolutely no reason to use a resume which doesn’t flow. I still get them. Often. There are tons of samples to pick from and just follow.
24. Education information goes to the top of the resume for new grads. It is the MOST important thing about you right after graduation. With years of experience, move education to the bottom of the resume.
25. Create a new document called a “Resume Inventory” and this is where you will dump any information you eliminate from this resume. You may want to come back to it at some time, if it’s more relevant.
26. Change the resume objective statement as needed according to the job. Know how to write a great resume objective statement.
27. Write a strong “Summary of Qualifications” or “Career Profile” instead of an objective. Get professional help with this so you are as succinct as you can be and still be effective.
28. Use industry “buzz words” or “keywords” on a resume. Not enough to go overboard with “keyword stuffing”, but enough so people know you know what you are talking about.
29. Resumes must identify specific successful outcomes – not just what you did! If you can’t share the outcome, don’t tell the story.
30. Quantify outcomes by using $, % and # to demonstrate achievements. Use the appropriate action verbs to emphasize accomplishments. Your college GPA if you are a student or new grad is an example of outcome.
31. One specific phrase to try and avoid – Entry Level.
32. Do not use one-word resume objectives or one-word descriptions of what you did. eg. Sales
33. Which layout best represents you: Chronological vs Functional vs. Skills resume? Know the difference and when you would use one over the other. Consider the Combination Resume which is built on skills and in reverse time order
34. Be consistent with dates and numbers eg 09/02, Sep 02, Sep 2012
35. Don’t fall in love with any resume content. You may have to eliminate it or delete it. I know it’s your background and you are proud of it, but eliminate it, if it doesn’t speak to your current mission.
36. Get others (career staff, colleagues, HR professionals) to proof read your resume – be open to criticism. If you aren’t asking these types of professionals, then ask some who you know has looked for a job recently.
37. Relevance is key. Don’t include every job you have ever had.
38. If you are using a resume writing services make sure to keep your “voice.” Don’t write words you don’t use or can’t pronounce.
39. Always keep a resume accessible via email or in services like Dropbox.com, Google docs or in an email somewhere.
40. Resumes, Cover Letters, Thank-you letters can have the same letter heading layout
41. No need to state why you left any organization – unless you are clever about how to share with what I call “love notes” to the recruiter eg. A small insert that says “Ask me about my career change”
42. Add your LinkedIn profile information on your resume. If you don’t have one. Please create one.
43. No social security numbers should be included on your resume. Federal job applications may ask for it.
44. Use Action Verbs such as “managed”, “improved” and “delivered” etc. on your resume to describe accomplishments.
45. Using short paragraphs, 3-5 sentences maximum, is possible. Make sure these blocks of content are well written and says a lot about you.
46. White space on a resume is not a bad thing. Don’t cover every inch of it with words.
47. Make sure your resume contact information is current and that recruiters can find you if they want to reach out to you.
48. Ask a professional resume writer, HR person, mentor etc. for a free resume critique. If you have the posting for the job you are seeking, share that with the person who is going to be doing your critiquing.
49. Remove “References Available on Request” as it is a waste of valuable space
50. If you just graduated and your resume is beyond 2 pages, you haven’t edited enough. Eliminate some more. Keep in mind you still have cover letter and social media to round out the information about you and your experiences.
Professional resume writers still agree there are many right ways to write a resume. Get 10 professional resume writers working for the same resume client, and they could probably create 10 different resumes based on style and look. However, all of the resumes could still be very good.