How to Write a Resume That Will Get You Hired
Hiring experts share their tips for making sure you stand out and land your dream job.
Remember that one size does not fit all
“Make sure that your resume is tailored to the specific industry and job description for which you’re applying and interviewing. Though this may take a bit more time—especially if you’re applying for several roles—it’s an important step. It’s completely fine, and in fact, normal, to have multiple versions of your resume. Simply put, you cannot use your resume as a catch-all for every position you’re applying for and expect the best results.” — Len Friedrichs, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Administrative at Addison Group. These resume mistakes could cost you the job.
Keywords are key
“Over 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking systems to phase out weak applications as part of the preliminary screening process. These applicant trackers scan applications for matching keywords and give high scores for the resumes that contain them. Often times these keywords are the same words and phrases used in the job description, so by including many of these words on your resume, your application can be scored very highly even if you may have limited work experience.”—Steve Wang, human resources expert and blogger
Be consistent with your online presence
“When posting your resume on various platforms, including social media, remember that it should have a similar look throughout. If your social media aligns with your background and requested roles, it makes you seem more established and accomplished. If your social profiles are a disconnect from your resume, it might make employers question the accuracy of your resume.” — Chris Rodgers, CEO and founder of Colorado SEO Pros. Find out tips on how to look for a job when you still have one.
Don’t objectify yourself
“Listing your objectives are outdated. Consider instead professional summaries and skills section that closely matches the job description.” — Tara D. Carter, corporate recruiter and career consultant, Williams, Adley & Company-DC, LLP. Don’t miss the signs that you’re in the wrong career—and how to find work you love.
“Don’t forget to show personality. The more creative and colorful, you can be while still being professional and to the point, the more likely that your resume will stand out from the stack.” — Nick Murphy, host of The Job Lab Podcast
Ditch insider jargon
“Reference industry words and eliminate your current employer’s jargon. Eliminate any words or acronyms relating to processes or systems that are specific to your current or former employers.” —Vicki Salemi, Monster career expert. Find out the 10 best careers to pursue right now.
Include numbers and stats
“To stand out from other resumes, employers want to know what your work resulted in. Literally, write the words ‘resulted in’ and give some type of statistic or number associated with what you did to provide value to that previous company. Example for a sales position: ‘I cold called 200 people a day and on average it resulted in X meetings and Y% close rate, which brought in Z revenue.’ This style can apply to any job position.” — Samantha Urban, Chief Executive Officer at Urban Translations
Don’t get too creative
“One important resume guideline is that it should be in a format that makes it readable by parsing software. Sometimes people like to get creative and organize or design their resume in a format that is not readable by software and those may fall through the cracks.” — Marielle Smith, VP of People at GoodHire. Check out these weird jobs that you didn’t know you could apply for.
Mind the gaps
“It is better to be completely transparent about gaps in your resume. If you spent two years traveling, there is no harm in including that information and it is certainly preferable to unexplained periods of unemployment.” — Becky Bar, Head of Jobs Data Insights at Adzuna
Shoot down the bullet points
“Try to write using full sentences. Don’t use sentence fragments that begin with a verb. It is very difficult for a reader to get through a resume that is written in that format. Full sentences flow better and it’s how we naturally read, write, and speak every day.” — Jeff Magnuson, marketing and career consultant. Here are some questions you should ask at a job interview.
Get spaced out
“From a style perspective, the resume needs to have a nice balance of copy and white space. Everyone has an initial reaction when they open a book or look at any other type of document for the first time. If it is loaded with copy from end to end and top to bottom, and it looks like it’s going to be a slog to get through. If that’s your resume, you’re already at a disadvantage. Alternatively, too much white space and the resume could come off as weak.” — Jeff Magnuson, marketing and career consultant
“When people scan resumes, their eyes scan down the left-hand side of the page. So put the impact of your work up front of your sentences or bullets. For example, instead of writing ‘Ran reports for management that facilitated…’ phrase it like this: ‘Facilitated management decision-making by designing and running quarterly reports on progress toward department goals.'” — Nicole Littmann, Aurelian Coaching
Get more eyeballs on it
“My number one tip for creating a standout resume is to have your resume proofread and critiqued up the wazoo. Have your family and friends look it over, have your colleagues read it, have it critiqued by Reddit’s resume community, and proofread it yourself over and over again. By taking everyone’s comments and critiques into consideration, you often end up with a far better-written resume than you otherwise would have been able to produce by yourself.” — Jennifer Roquemore, Co-founder of Resume Writing Services. Use these power words that’ll help get your resume noticed.
Be unique about what makes you unique
“When I taught career management and professional development at Drexel University, I asked students, ‘What makes you unique?’ Without fail they would come up with the same things—creative, dedicated, hard worker, team player, etc. Then I asked them, ‘How many of you feel this is true of you?’ And, without fail, most of the room would raise their hand. What makes a person unique isn’t necessarily what they do, or what qualities they possess, but how they think and approach their work, and what unique experiences they had that shaped this.” — Karen Huller, CCTC, CPRW, CCHt, Epic Careering
Think about your resume’s real estate
“Remove dates from any position before 1995 or from any job you held before the previous four positions. Instead, list additional relevant roles at the end as ‘Previous Roles Include,’ and only list titles and companies. This is effective because you should not list all of your experience in detail if it goes back several years anyway. Save the real estate on the page for your recent, more relevant achievements.” — Debra Boggs co-founder of D&S Professional Coaching
Be kind to your robot readers
“Optimize your resume for ATS (applicant tracking system) scanners; if your resume does not pass ATS scanners when you apply online, a hiring manager will never see it. If you are applying online, make sure to use basic section headlines like ‘experience’ and ‘education’ rather than ‘career highlights’ and ‘professional development.’ The scanners parse out the information based on what it reads and they do not often pick up on more obscure headlines. Also be sure to not include any important text in graphics or tables, as they are not read clearly by most systems.” — Debra Boggs, co-founder of D&S Professional Coaching
Your cover letter needs to fit on a phone
“In 2011, I had a discussion with a colleague at the Career Thought Leaders Conference. I said I wrote short cover letters that were no longer than a scroll or two on a mobile phone since, as a former recruiter, I knew most recruiters did not read cover letters, and those that did, did not want a long, regurgitated resume manifesto cover letter to read. When writing emails to introduce yourself for job openings, the cover letter should be short, pointed, and scrollable. Shorter, keyword-laden notes are easier for humans to read and bots to scan, which gets candidates through the process faster.” — Lisa Rangel, CEO and founder of Chameleon Resumes. Be sure to avoid these 10 cover letter disasters while you’re at it.
Think beyond your resume
“With social media at our fingertips, it’s crucial to take a look at your personal details online and social media presence with a professional lens and adjust accordingly. Think about the image that you’re sending with your email address—do you need to update it to a more professional address versus a personal one? Also, avoid using your birth year in your email address.” — Jennifer Lasater, Vice President of Career Services at Purdue University Global
Focus on needs
“Kitchen sink resumes are gone. Hiring managers have short attention spans and do not want to be overwhelmed with everything a candidate can do. As a recruiter or hiring manager reads your resume, they want to know, ‘Can you do what I need done?’ and ‘Where is the proof of this on your resume/profile?’ That’s it.” — Lisa Rangel, CEO and founder of Chameleon Resumes. This is what employers are really looking for on your resume.
Close with a call to action
“In your cover letter, ask for an interview as the closing call to action to advance to the next phase of your candidacy. Stay positive and focused, and the right position will be yours with a well-planned and thoroughly executed job search.”— Jennifer Lasater, Vice President of Career Services at Purdue University Global. Next, find out the ways to know if you need a career change—or just a job change.