1. Work Experience
Your resume’s summary, skills, and work experience section should be customized to each job posting.
Your experience doesn’t change. However, the way you present your experience to a company looking for detail-oriented candidates versus a company that values communication skills will differ.
Targeting your resume to the job shows the hiring manager you’ve familiarized yourself with the job description, and know how to prioritize the most relevant information.
Customizing your resume doesn’t mean rewriting it every time you apply for a new job. List all of your experience, skills, and qualifications on a template, then remove irrelevant ones for each new job.
Especially if you’re applying for jobs in the same field, your relevant experience will be the same. Good resume templates save you time and energy on formatting so you can focus on customizing your resume to the position.
If the job posting doesn’t mention a certification, then they don’t need you to include it on your resume.
Listing irrelevant experiences or certifications on your resume makes you look like you didn’t read the job posting, are sending out bulk resumes, and don’t care about the job.
2. Resume Format
Unless you have gaps in your work history or are changing industries, a chronological resume is the standard resume format because it highlights work experience over everything else.
HR departments love chronological resumes because they,
- show career progression
- can be used by job seekers of all skill levels and industries
- are so commonly used that they’re easy to understand
A functional resume downplays your work experience. However in most cases, your work experience is often your greatest selling point.
Functional resumes emphasize a job seeker’s skill set over their work experience.
If you have gaps in your work history or you’re switching to a whole new field, you can consider using a functional resume. But for everyone else, a chronological resume presents work experience and other resume sections in the most compelling way.
Fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, or Helvetica are easy to read and professional.
Nobody takes a document written in Comic Sans or Papyrus seriously. The best font for your resume is one that reflects your seriousness about the role, and the font size should be big enough that hiring managers can read your resume without straining their eyes.
3. Resume Introduction
Resume summaries are short but full of information, and can be quickly read by hiring managers.
Starting a resume off right is an important first step toward getting an interview. Using a resume summary is an effective way to do it. Resume summaries highlight your biggest professional strengths, and allow employers to quickly see if you’re right for the job.
Resume objectives are outdated because they focus on the job seeker’s needs rather than what they can contribute to the company.
A resume objective focuses more on your career goals and educational background, which makes it suitable for first-time job seekers and industry switchers.
But if you have experience in your field, you’re better off using a resume summary instead because it lets you emphasize your achievements and what value you bring to the company.
4. Resume Keywords
The keywords you need can be found in the job posting. The more you use them in your resume, the easier it is for computers to tell that your application is one a hiring manager should check out.
Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are pieces of software that scan for keywords in resumes and only forward qualified applications to hiring managers. You can find keywords in the job description, and carefully including them makes for an ATS-friendly resume.
Hiring managers can always tell when you’re trying to force keywords in where they don’t fit.
You might be tempted to stuff keywords into your resume to improve its chances of getting past the ATS. However, don’t forget a hiring manager will eventually see your resume. A sentence like “used data entry methods for data entry to increase the speed of data entry” doesn’t look good to an actual human.
5. Personal Information
It doesn’t matter how qualified you are if the hiring manager doesn’t know how to reach you.
Always include your personal phone number or email address in the contact information section. Using your current office number or email is a bad idea, especially if your boss doesn’t know you’re looking for a new job.
Make sure your email address is professional. The best ones reflect your name (for example, firstname.lastname@example.org).
None of these are relevant to your ability to do the job. And while discrimination based on any of these factors is illegal, some hiring managers do it subconsciously.
Modern resumes also don’t need to include a mailing address. They’re unnecessary because the job application process is now done by phone and email. Use this valuable space for more relevant information, such as your resume skills.
However, if you’ve relocated, consider putting part of your new address on your resume (such as the city name), to show employers you’re a local candidate. This is particularly vital if your resume lists past jobs in a different city.
Unless you’re applying for an acting or modeling role, your appearance is irrelevant to the position. Plus, a headshot can limit your career prospects if the hiring manager is biased against certain groups of people (for example, women or religious minorities).
6. Education Section
Your highest degree shows your level of education, your ability to learn new things, and your determination to succeed. However, if you have an advanced degree, don’t include degrees below it.
Instead of overloading your resume education section with all of your past degrees, save the space for relevant experience.
Graduating with a strong GPA is an impressive accomplishment that you can list on your resume, but anything lower than a 3.5 won’t work in your favor because other candidates will have higher GPAs.
Unless an employer specifically requests your GPA on your resume, it’s never a required element. Instead, focus on your work experience or skills to get you the job.
Similar jobs have a similar set of duties, so telling a hiring manager what you did doesn’t help them evaluate you as a candidate. But explaining how you excelled at those duties does.
Waiting tables, for example, is basically the same everywhere. Instead of saying that you waited tables, create a list of accomplishments for your resume. Show the hiring manager your ability to exceed expectations, stating how you:
- increased sales
- upsold wine the most among your colleagues
- trained new hires
Action verbs and numbers make your accomplishments more visible and easy to understand.
Action verbs stand out by making you look like an active worker who finds solutions rather than one who simply does their duties. And numbers add context to your successes, showing what you’ll likely achieve at your new company.
Don’t be afraid to use digits: 30% is more visible than “thirty percent.”
Almost every job applicant says that they’re “hard-working,” “motivated,” and “detail-oriented.” Choose more specific resume adjectives to better illustrate what you bring to the team.
Using the same adjectives everyone else uses on their resumes looks lazy. “Cooperate,” “support,” and “assist” are much more engaging and powerful resume words than calling yourself a “team player.”
8. Resume Length
Always include relevant skills, experience, and certifications on your resume. But don’t clutter it with so much information that the hiring manager can’t find the details relevant to the role.
But hiring managers are more eager to know “how quickly can you tell me what makes you great?” Keep your resume short and to the point so the hiring manager can find what they need quickly.
Unless you have the relevant experience to back it up.
If you have 10+ years of relevant experience, are applying for a senior leadership position, or work in a highly technical field, you can have a two-page resume (or even longer).
Now that you’ve learned some of the most important resume do’s and don’ts, optimize your resume to boost your chances of landing a job you love.