By DeVry University
February 17, 2023
10 min read
Whether you’re making a fresh start in 2023 or preparing to launch your first job search, implementing a few resume tips can help you make a positive first impression, tell your story and help improve your chances of attracting the attention of recruiters and hiring managers.
In this article, we will detail 17 resume writing tips to help you and your qualifications stand out.
1. Keep It Relevant and To-the-Point
First on our list of resume tips is keeping things relevant. It’s long been debated whether or not resumes should be limited to a single page or not. Some applicants with a wealth of experience may struggle to fit everything on a single page— and that’s fine. It’s also fine if you’re still building your work history. The thing to keep in mind is to include what is related to the job your applying for as well as important details or metrics that highlight your strengths as an applicant.
That said, what you do include should be written in a way that gets right to the point and is easy to read for recruiters or hiring managers who may not have a lot of time on their hands. You may find several things that can be removed or worded in a way that takes up less space. Career counselor Lily Zhang offers helpful tips for condensing your content, such as combining sections and using smaller margins.
You may want to use the CAR (Challenge, Action and Result) method to help keep your descriptions concise while retaining important outcomes and information.
2. Leave Out the Objective Statement
This tip applies to something that was once a resume staple. That’s the one where you say you’re “seeking a challenging position with a growing and dynamic organization” or other quippy one liner.
According to The Muse, the objective statement has had its day, and tops their list of 7 things that should be removed from your resume. In its place, it may be more effective to write a summary of qualifications that describes who you are, what is unique about you and sets you apart as a candidate, speaks directly to the things the employer cares about, and is optimized with important keywords, as described next on our list of resume writing tips.
3. Keep Work Experience Recent
In the Experience section of your resume, show your employment history in the traditional reverse-chronological order. In other words, your current or most recent position should be listed first. If you have a long work history, conserve precious space and keep things up-to-date for recruiters by listing only the first 10 to 15 years of that history.
Another approach, if you have significant work history, is skipping the bullet points and listing out your work history using only your previous employers name, your title and the dates of your employment, which can help save space while highlighting your extensive experience.
4. Include Education Strategically
Unless you’re a recent graduate, list your education after your work experience. Index the education you’ve earned in reverse chronological order. The exception here is that if your coursework is particularly relevant to the job you’re going for, then you may want to highlight it or list it first as an attention-grabber.
After a few years of career experience, there’s no need to include graduation dates. As for academic performance, employers may care more about skills than GPA unless you’re applying for an internship where that information may be beneficial. If you graduated with high honors, attended your university’s honors college or won an academic award or two, you certainly should include those accomplishments on your resume.
5. Keep Your Content Relevant to The Job Description
Remember that recruiters and hiring managers may be evaluating applicants for multiple positions and handling an influx of resumes. For this reason, make brevity your new best friend. Instead of listing every job you’ve had, prioritize your relevant experience and skills for the job you’re applying for. If your work history doesn’t closely align with the employer’s job description – which may happen if you’re switching careers – you should emphasize the transferable and soft skills you’ve cultivated, as well as tasks or abilities that both positions might have in common, like project management or analytical skills.
If you are making a career change, the employment website Indeed recommends using a strong cover letter to provide details that emphasize your transferable skills and the unique perspective they’ve given you.
6. Include Non-Traditional Work When Applicable
The Experience section of your resume doesn’t have to be limited to full-time or paid work only. You may have earned unique experience and gained knowledge that could make you a more competitive job candidate through unpaid or volunteer work. Include any non-traditional roles, such as part-time or freelance work, internships, blogging, volunteering or podcasting alongside with your traditional work experience. This may be one of the more important resume tips for college students who may have little or no professional work experience.
7. Consider Utilizing Links
Consider using hyperlinks that can take the recruiter or hiring manager directly to your personal website, online portfolio or LinkedIn profile. This accomplishes two things: It shows recruiters that more information about you is available and helps them have more engagement with your personal brand. It also allows them to access that information readily, without having to search for it.
8. Grab Inspiration from Those in Your Industry
An online search for resume examples from people in your target industry may reveal some insight that you can put to good use. These might include resume tips like what kind of information is highlighted versus not, how to phrase things and more. Your search may also uncover a variety of resume templates that could be useful.
9. Use Keywords to Optimize for ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems)
Some resume writing tips are the direct result of employers’ use of new technologies, and this one is chief among them. The first person to read through your resume may not be a person at all, but an Applicant Tracking System. According to research by Jobscan, ATS software is used by 494 of the Fortune 500 companies to streamline and automate the hiring process. For the jobseeker, this means if a company uses an ATS to collect and scan resumes, there’s a good chance a human being will never see any application that doesn’t fit the company’s hiring criteria.
With this new methodology in mind, you should use job description-matching keywords in your resume and when completing employers’ online job applications. Edit your resume so that it is targeted to the job you’re applying for. Examine the job description carefully to see which words are used most often and be sure you’ve included those words in your resume bullet points. If you need help determining which words to include, online tools like TagCrowd can analyze the job description and produce the keywords used most.
10. Steer Clear of Too Much Jargon
If you think you have to use bunches of industry jargon to make a good impression, think again. While it may make perfect sense to you, but it might not make sense to a corporate recruiter who may be unfamiliar with the technical environment you work. Instead, use simple language to explain how you’ve excelled in your industry and the results you’ve achieved.
This also goes for including acronyms that the recruiter might not be familiar with. If you must include them, write them out at least once. This not only helps clarify what you’re saying but can help introduce keywords to your resume.
11. Quantify Your Accomplishments
If you’re including a list of accomplishments like increases in sales, production stats or cost reduction that you contributed to, give the hiring manager a clearer picture of your success by quantifying those results. What percentage did you surpass your goals or increase sales by? How many people were positively affected by new policies or programs that you helped develop? How much money was saved by your cost-cutting improvements? Even if you don’t normally work with numbers, using them here can send a message that you can deliver measurable results.
12. Keep it Up to Date
While this may seem like one of the most obvious resume tips, it could also be an often overlooked one. Keeping your resume up to date will enable you to be ready to “strike while the iron is hot.” That is, when a new opportunity comes along that you did not anticipate but definitely want to pursue. If you take a little time, say once a month or once every quarter, to make updates, your resume will stay fresh and be ready to get in the game. A stale resume will have to stay on the bench while you scramble to make last-minute updates, fuss with the formatting and do the necessary proofreading.
13. Show Your Soft Skills
Because they’ve been overused for so long, attributes like strong leader, team player, detail-oriented, outside-the-box thinker and the like have become meaningless clichés. Try demonstrating them instead. For example, instead of saying you’re a “team player” you could say that you collaborated with a high-performing team of 7 to develop new standards and procedures that increased productivity by 30%. Instead of saying you’re an “outside-the-box thinker,” tell them how your unconventional solution to a persistent customer service problem resulted in a 25% reduction in calls to your company’s help line.
14. List Your Technical Skills
Outline your proficiency with various software tools or sought-after certifications that you’ve earned in a separate section. Here’s where you’ll want to itemize things like Adobe Creative Suite, Google Analytics, HubSpot and other digital marketing skills, or technical certifications in areas like cloud computing, web development or cyber security. Keep in mind that, while certifications are great, a brief explanation about how you’ve applied your certifications and training – to solve problems, increase productivity or achieve other results – may be more effective. You can also use this space to list out soft skills that you feel you are especially strong in, as many employers look for these as well as technical abilities.
Unless the job description specifically asks for it or it’s an entry-level position, save valuable real estate on your resume by omitting things like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint from your list, as these are tools that most recruiters expect applicants already to know how to use.
15. Be Mindful of How You Address Career Gaps
Handling career gaps on your resume can be challenging. While you want to be sure you’re presenting an honest work history, you want to make sure you address any gaps in ways that won’t weaken your resume or your strength as a candidate.
Gaps of a few months here and there can be easily handled by not listing start and end dates for each of those positions. Instead, specify the years only. You can also address gaps or movements by providing brief explanations, such as relocated to new city, company closed, took time off for school etc.
In the past, sporadic or frequent movement between jobs used to be looked upon negatively, but times and perceptions are changing. Job hopping is less of a concern lately, being described as the new normal and something HR departments are beginning to embrace it as a competitive advantage for applicants.
16. Double Check That Grammar
Once you’re satisfied with all of your content and formatting (margins, bullets, type font and size and other elements) give your resume a careful proofreading to be sure it’s free of typos or grammatical errors. Spell check and grammar check are effective, but should not be relied upon as your only defense. It’s easier than you might think for mistakes to go unnoticed, so ask a friend, family member or trusted colleague to review it as well. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference, spotting a typo you’ve missed or suggesting a small revision.
17. Save and Title it Properly
When you’re all done with your final proofreading, save your resume file as a PDF rather than a Word document. Why? If you are submitting your resume via email or uploading it to an employer’s online application portal, this will reduce the possibility of your formatting becoming distorted when the hiring manager opens the file. Take the extra step of opening the PDF file and checking it again before sending it off.
How it’s named matters too and helps make recruiter’s lives that much easier. Instead of saving it as “resume” or “resume-date” use your full name in the file. This will help the hiring manager stay organized and save them from having to rename the file once they’ve downloaded it.
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