As a professional resume writer, I work with each client individually to come up with the best presentation of their unique blend of skills, experiences and personality traits – but I also have a bag of tricks that help me present them effectively. If you’re not getting the reaction you want to your resume, here are some suggestions.
13 Resume Writing Tips
1. Start with a clear description of the type of role you are seeking. Keep it short and clear (e.g marketing Manager, Senior Engineer, Administrative Assistant etc.) Recruiters are busy people and they probably have multiple vacancies to fill. Make it easy for them to know where you fit.
2. Customize that description when applying for a specific position. If your resume is headed ‘Administrative Assistant’ but you’re applying for a position billed as an Executive Assistant, then change the header to reflect that title.
3. Before you get into your career history, give a brief but concise description of how you add value. Don’t use a jumble of over-used words or professional jargon. Just describe what makes you a valuable employee in your own words. For example, one resume I saw recently started with “fiercely competitive sales manager who never gives up, is passionate about his product and knows how to use that passion to convert leads into loyal customers.” That might not be the best sentence construction in the world, but it’s so much more compelling than the standard “Accomplished sales manager with 15 years of experience and a proven record of results.”
4. Inject personality all the way through your resume. Don’t feel hemmed in by resume conventions about word choice. Write as you would speak in an interview.
5. Replace passive words with active verbs. Eliminate things like ‘responsible for managing team of 13.’ Instead say ‘manage team of 14’ or even better ‘lead and motivate team of 14.’
6. Spend no more than 3 or 4 sentences per position describing your job responsibilities. Unless you have a really unusual job, employers know the general outlines of your job responsibilities. And they don’t care what you were supposed to do every day – they want to know what you did do.
7. Focus 90% of your content on the impact you have made. Describe the changes you made, the actions you took, the problems you solved, the results you delivered. And wherever possible, quantify.
8. Always provide context. If you tell me that you increased sales by 15%, I have no idea whether that is good, bad or average for your company and/or your industry. But if you say ‘increased sales 15% during market downturn when most competitors were losing ground,’ now I understand the accomplishment.
9. Tell me what other people say about you. Use LinkedIn testimonials, quotes from performance reviews, product reviews or client ‘thank you’ notes to give a perspective other than your own. Just as with a product, third-party testimonials can add great credibility to your claims. (Just make sure you can back up the quotes if asked for evidence that they are real!)
10. Format your resume nicely with plenty of white space. There are lots of resume samples online – choose a simple, clean style that highlights your key skills and selling points.
11. Include a link to a well-written LinkedIn profile, Visual CV or online portfolio that is stacked with great endorsements. Many people will click through and all those glowing endorsements will help make your case.
12. Make sure that your resume contains all the keywords employers in your field generally look for. To find out what these are, look at job postings and note all the words that appear frequently. Doing so will help you get past automated applicant systems and inexperienced HR screeners.
13. Choose a common system font for your resume. A fancy font may look nice but will actually hurt your chances because if the recipient doesn’t have that same font installed, your resume will lose all its formatting and appear highly unprofessional.