Your resume is your first line of defense on the quest for a new job. Before hitting send, you should do everything you can to make your resume stand out.
Even if your work experience is perfect, a subpar resume could sink your chances of getting a job interview. But if you combine relevant experience with an effective resume, you’ll sail right into the interview stage.
How to build a resume hiring managers will notice
If you want to impress recruiters on your quest for a job, follow these 14 essential tips on how to make a good resume.
1. Think of your resume as a marketing tool
It’s easy to think of your resume as a summary of your work experience. But a resume isn’t just about listing your professional history. Rather, it’s a strategic tool for marketing your individual brand.
Consider the perspective of a recruiter. The recruiter is seeking a candidate who fits a job description and can bring value to an organization. They don’t have time to delve into your resume and figure out who you are, so you need to connect the dots for them.
As you build a resume, think strategically. Consider what you’ve accomplished in the past and what you can offer in the future. Make sure your resume tells a clear story about who you are as a professional.
When it comes to the job hunt, you need to sell yourself as the best candidate for the role.
2. Tailor your resume to each new job
Along similar lines, you won’t have much luck sending off dozens of the same resume to lots of different employers. Instead of treating your resume like a form letter, tailor it to each new role.
“One of the most common resume mistakes … is creating one single resume and sending it out to every hiring company they can find,” said career expert Jason Hill, founder of Sound Advice. “I call this the ‘shotgun approach.’ Do not do this.”
Instead, research the company and read the job description closely. Figure out exactly what the organization is looking for, then reflect those qualifications in your resume.
While changing up your resume for every application is time-consuming, it’s well worth the effort. It might help to keep a master list of all your experiences to refer back to. That way, you can keep track of which experiences you’re including and which ones you’re leaving off depending on the job.
“Make a master resume (a huge list of every single accomplishment, skill, talent, etc. that you have) and select whatever is relevant to the one specific job you’re applying for,” said Hill.
3. Curate a sleek, uncluttered design
Another way to impress a recruiter right off the bat is with a sleek, easily digestible resume design. Don’t be afraid to cut out irrelevant experience for the sake of improving readability. White space can go a long way toward making a resume more appealing.
Use a simple font such as Times New Roman or Arial in 10-, 11-, or 12-point size. If you’re seeking a creative position, you could benefit from incorporating a unique design element into your resume. Otherwise, stick to a simple, elegant design.
“You have one minute or less to make a stellar first impression,” said Hill. “Utilize bullet points, short paragraphs, measurable achievements, and industry-specific keywords to stand out above the rest. If it’s important, it’s your responsibility to make sure the recruiter sees it.”
4. Offer a skills summary right off the bat
As you start to build a resume, consider adding a skills summary to the top. Make sure to reflect the job description when you describe your own areas of proficiency.
For instance, a company hiring a digital product designer might look for someone skilled in a program like Sketch or InVision. A recruiter looking for a marketer might seek someone familiar with Google Analytics and Google AdWords.
Review the job description as you build your skills summary. That way, this section can be both accurate and tailored to the job at hand.
5. Incorporate major keywords
Every recruiter is looking for specific keywords when they first look at a resume. In fact, this initial review might not even be done by a recruiter, but rather by a computer program.
“Resumes are rarely viewed by human eyes in the first round of the hiring process,” explained Niquenya Collins, president and CEO of Building Bridges Consulting. “Instead, a computerized Applicant Tracking System (ATS) takes the first crack at narrowing the hundreds of applications received by every job announcement.”
The ATS picks out keywords and phrases that match the job description. Without them, your application could get eliminated before it even reaches human resources.
6. Ditch the personal objective statement
Career counselors used to encourage applicants to include a personal objective statement at the top of their resume. It would say something about what kind of job and organization you’re seeking.
But the objective statement has largely fallen out of favor. For one thing, recruiters tend to care more about what they’re looking for than what you’re looking for.
Another important reason is that objective statements are often too generic to add much. Unless you’re able to make an impactful statement, it won’t improve your application. It’s better to leave it off.
7. Put your work experience before your education
Unless you just graduated from college, put your work experience before your education. If you’ve been in the workforce for a few years, recruiters don’t care so much about your educational accomplishments. They want to see your professional experience and skills.
If you’re worried about age discrimination, you can leave off your year of graduation. Most organizations want to see you have a relevant degree, but don’t care as much when you got it.
8. Highlight your accomplishments rather than your responsibilities
When you build a resume, you’ll provide a few bullet points under each job title. But don’t use this space to simply describe your responsibilities. Instead, focus on your achievements.
“Don’t just rewrite the job description for your previous jobs, I promise you it won’t make an impression,” said Eleni Cotsis, a hiring manager for AllTheRooms and freelance recruiter for New York-based startups. “Explain what you accomplished and why you did the job better than someone else would have in that same position.”
For example, consider these two statements for someone in account management:
- Handled accounts for public relations firm.
- Managed 10 accounts in excess of $5 million annually and came in under budget by 10 percent.
The second statement is a lot better than the first because it focuses on an accomplishment. The first merely describes a duty — it doesn’t say whether the applicant was successful or not.
Plus, it quantifies the achievement, thereby making it more concrete. By providing data, you’ll leave a stronger impression than you would with a vague statement.
“Think of the mark you left on each company,” Cotsis advised. “What specific, measurable results were accomplished because you were in that position and not somebody else?”
Remember, past performance indicates future performance. By highlighting past areas of success, you’ll show the recruiter you’re similarly successful in the future.
9. Use proactive action verbs
Beyond quantifying your areas of success, also aim to use proactive action verbs. Some effective verbs for resumes include:
Power verbs like these put you in the driver’s seat. If you start a bullet point with “responsible for,” you’re not saying much about what you did in the role.
As you build your resume, remember to sell yourself. If the resume could be about anyone with a similar work history, you need to rework the language to sound more proactive and unique.
10. Organize your experiences in reverse chronological order
As you put together your work experiences, order them from most to least recent. Again, recruiters are likely reviewing a lot of resumes. They want to see your career progression easily.
If your work is in reverse chronological order, they’ll be able to see the timeline right away. But you don’t have to include every job you’ve ever had in your life. Once you’ve been out of college for a few years, you probably don’t need to include that summer you sold slushies at the beach.
If you have any major employment gaps, you may want to provide a brief explanation. For instance, you could indicate the company closed or laid off a hundred workers. Or you could write you traveled internationally or went on parental leave. That way, a recruiter will understand the gap instead of seeing it as a red flag.
11. Limit your resume to one page
You may have heard the warning not to exceed one page for your resume. For most people, this old rule of thumb holds true. You should be able to communicate everything you need to say on a single page.
Of course, there may be some situations where it makes sense to exceed a page. For instance, you may need additional bandwidth if you’re applying for upper management or a professorship at a college.
But otherwise, you’ll likely be better off sticking to one page. If you’re emailing your resume, try saving it as a PDF first. That way, the recruiter will see the right page length and formatting.
12. Proofread several times
When you build a resume, you must be very detail-oriented. First, you must ensure a consistent design. Be intentional about margins, font, font size, and spacing.
Second, double check your spelling, punctuation, and word choice. And make sure your dates of employment are correct.
“Clean formatting and no typos are huge for me,” said Stephanie Prause, a corporate communications professional who works with college students on their resumes. “I almost immediately write off candidates who fail on these two items.”
A resume contains a lot of specific information. Before sending it off to an organization, check everything for accuracy.
13. Ask for advice
It can also be helpful to seek out another pair of eyes. Ask a friend or coworker to look over your resume.
When you stare at a document for a long time, sometimes you can no longer see its strengths and weaknesses. Gaining a fresh and objective perspective can help you identify areas for improvement.
14. Ramp up your LinkedIn profile
Beyond your resume, many recruiters check out your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is also a useful tool for reaching out to your network and discovering job opportunities.
So don’t forget to build your LinkedIn profile with as much care as you do your resume. Use the same principles on LinkedIn as you do in your resume.
Use action verbs and highlight your accomplishments. You can also add testimonials from past employers or coworkers.
Make sure your LinkedIn profile and resume are consistent with each other. You wouldn’t want a recruiter to ask why your LinkedIn profile tells a different story than your resume.
Go beyond the resume and make networking a priority
You have a much better shot of getting an interview thanks to a personal or professional connection. Even with an outstanding resume, it’s tough to get noticed when you apply through a huge, anonymous job site like Monster.
Rely on your professional and college network to make industry contacts, and make sure you have an outstanding, up-to-date resume to share when you find jobs of interest.
By following these tips on how to make a good resume, you’ll be one step closer to scoring an interview for your dream job. For more on career development, learn how to find the right job in 10 steps.
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
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2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
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6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
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|2.47% – 5.87%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
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|2.72% – 8.32%6||Undergrad & Graduate|