I’ve updated these resume writing tips every spring for over a decade
How do I recommend you use this list of resume writing tips? Spend 60 minutes with your resume and this list. 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 that your resume only has a few seconds (I don’t like that concept any more than you do) to help a reader decide if your resume goes to the KEEP or TOSS piles.
50 Resume Writing Tips
1. Skip the prepackaged templates. Start your own resume writing project from scratch. Copy a free resume layout you like.
2. Proofread resumes for grammar, spelling and factual errors by reading from the end of the document backwards 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 text. Stick to ASCII fonts.
4. Limit or avoid graphics completely. No personal photo is necessary. Recruiters can see your profile photo from LinkedIn or other social media because if they are interested, they will find you. Also, graphics don’t always work in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).
5. Use upper case letters sparingly and only when appropriate. Upper case is ACTUALLY VERY HARD TO READ and don’t make what you are saying more important.
6. Include short term projects that were great learning experiences. Remember to write personal or team outcomes.
7. Bullets will make resumes easier to read and large blocks of text don’t really fit with the scanning approach recruiters take.
8. Resume writing tips vary on this, but I say avoid useless words like “responsibilities”, “responsibilities include” or “duties include.” For example also, you don’t have to label your email address with the word “email” anymore.
9. Volunteer work 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 for page two either.
11. No personal pronouns like “I”, “my” and “me” except maybe in the objective statement. Some don’t like resume objective statements. I still do for new graduates. They can’t be shallow however.
12. Do not list complete addresses of past employers, don’t even include your own address if possible. 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 eyeballs; 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. Try hard to keep it simple though. Sometimes more is just more.
17. Add name, phone number and email contact to each 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 and in many states your offer can’t be based on prior history anyway.
20. Use a professional email address or social media links on your resume. Make sure that if/when recruiters click over to your social media pages 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 resume 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. These resume writing tips applies to which ever resume format you use.
34. Be consistent with dates and numbers eg 09/20, Sep 20, Sep 2020.
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. Do not overlook this resume writing tip.
37. Relevance is key. Don’t include every job you have ever had. I know resume writing tips say to speak well of your past, but don’t go back to kindergarten.
38. If you are using a resume writing services make sure the writer keeps your “voice.” Don’t let them write words you don’t use or can’t pronounce. Trust me, many professional resume writers won’t list this one in their resume writing tips.
39. Always keep a resume accessible via email or in services like Dropbox.com, Google docs or in an email somewhere.
40. Resume writing tips can cover your cover letters, thank-you letters and reference lists as well. All these documents 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. You can find Action Verbs on websites offering resume writing tips.
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. If you are asking a professional resume writer, HR person, mentor etc. for a free resume critique share the job posting you are looking at as well. It gives context.
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 like LinkedIn to round out the information about you and your experiences.
No matter how many resume writing tips you read, 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. Use this list and see how these resume writing tips can improve your resume.