Have you recently sent out 15 or more resumes, only to get a single interview.
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone.
Yet, with just a few tweaks, your resume can get you a leg up on other candidates.
I’ve compiled the best resume tips and strategies into this quick-fire guide. These resume techniques will help you stand out, get more interviews, and land the job you really want.
Note this post is part of our multi-part series on How to Create a Great Resume (Ultimate Guide). Here is our featured tutorial in this series, which is a great starting point:
Now let's jump into this collection of over 30 top resume tips and tricks to help polish your resume and improve your results.
Important Strategy Tips For Preparing to Make Your Resume
1. Read the Job You’re Applying for
Tailor your resume to every job application.
Read the job ad line by line. Highlight phrases used repeatedly, company culture hints, and anything that resonates strongly with your career experience.
“Include their ‘About Us’ page, company news, and annual revenue reports in your research. These sources are a treasure trove of clues about company culture, goals, and challenges,” says Sarah Dowzell, COO Natural HR.
2. Send the Right Document
Are you applying for a job in the U.S.? Is it an academic, scientific, or government job? Did they ask for a resume or curriculum vitae (CV)? Read the application instructions. If you’re not sure which one to send, check out this guide:
3. Don’t Have All the Skills Required? No
Do you pass on job opportunities where you don’t have all the skills they’re looking for? Big mistake. Companies know there's no candidate with ALL the skills and characteristics they want. Besides, they also get tons of applications from total beginners.
So what’s wrong with lacking one or two skills they’re asking for? Nothing, so don’t let it stop you. It all comes down to how valuable you can be to their team, based on your resume.
Emphasize your soft and transferable skills. If you have the experience they need, but not in a company setting, that’s okay. Side projects, volunteer experience, and academic work or projects still count.
4. Don’t Write Your Whole Life Story
Your resume isn’t a diary detailing all the job titles and duties you ever had. Think of it as a concise snapshot of your present career and future potential.
5. Put the Impressive Stuff ‘Above the Fold’
‘Above the fold’ refers to the area people see before having to scroll down. In print, it refers to the first half of the document, or the upper half of a folded newspaper. This is the first part recruiters see after reading your resume. Use it well.
Don’t waste space with a big header for your name and contact details. It’s common practice to put this information at the top anyway, so you don’t have to use a big font. This professional resume template has a personalized header, but keeps the space used to a minimum, so your summary statement and work experience stand out above the fold:
Write a good hook—an achievement, skill, or even a teaser question that will intrigue the recruiter to read further.
Tips for Better Resume Writing
6. Use Digits in Writing Numbers
Numbers stand out in a sea of text, it also makes your writing easier to read. Add numbers, statistics, percentages, metrics, or ranges, to any skill or achievement in your resume to make it more concrete.
Number Use Examples:
- Range: Supervised 5 to 9 IT associates while we developed a Fintech app for budgeting and investments.
- Savings: Streamlined debugging process of new software, saving over 25 hours of work per month.
- Frequency: Evaluated 7 website themes submitted by freelancers and in-house designers per week.
- Results: 20% increase in ROI, while growing inbound traffic by 60,000 pageviews in the last year.
7. When Possible, Put Numbers at the Start
“People read left to right so put numbers at the front of the bullets not buried in the paragraph or at the end,” says Mike Sudermann, President & Executive Recruiter at AscentSelect.
Example to Follow:
“15% reduction in turnover after the creation and implementation of a new retention strategy”
8. Use Power Words Correctly
Power words are… well, powerful but only if used in the right context and frequency.
Don’t forget these resume tips and tricks when using power words:
- Check the word’s definition in a dictionary. Don’t just use it because it sounds impressive. Don’t use words like ‘revolutionize,’ ‘pioneer’ or ‘dissuade’ if you can’t substantiate them, or if there are simpler words available.
Poor Example of Using Power Words:
“Improved team collaboration among developers and database administrators using a revolutionized documentation process”
Doesn’t ‘revolutionize’ sound too much for this context?
- Don’t use power words on every bullet in your
- Avoid power words that are hard to comprehend.
- Understand the nuances of your chosen power word. For example, ‘correspond’ means you communicated through email or letters. Communicate refers to both verbal and non-verbal communication.
Check out the downloadable power words I created for this guide:
- ResumesHow to Write a Functional or Skills-Based Resume (With Examples + Templates)Charley Mendoza
9. Show, Don't Explain, Soft Skills
Writing soft skills like ‘good communication,’ ‘problem-solving,’ and ‘leadership’ is a waste of time. Recruiters are immune to this.
Yes, these skills are still important. But it’s better to prove you have these skills by subtly incorporating them into your resume.
“Led a 4-person team in creating a sales proposal for a new client.”
“Collaborated with the HR and marketing team to create an employment roadshow that attracted top candidates from different universities.”
10. Keep it Recent and Relevant
Only show the most recent and relevant job titles you’ve held. Don’t waste valuable space for jobs you held in an industry you’ve already left.
Remove job titles irrelevant to your current professional goals. This frees up space to boost your qualifications with more skills, achievements, or certifications.
11. Write a Summary
I often refer friends to companies where I have an inside source, so I read lots of resumes. Until now, lots of them still use a career objective that sounds like a wish list of what they want.
Skip the objective. Write a summary or career highlights instead. Limit it to 7 one-sentence bullets so recruiters don’t gloss over this part. If you don’t want to write a customized resume for every job application, re-write this part at least. For more information on this topic:
- ResumesHow to Write a Professional Resume Summary StatementCharley Mendoza
- CareersThe Secret to Crafting an Attention Grabbing ResumeDavid Masters
12. Maximize the First 3 Words of Your Bullets
In writing, I often read that the first three words and last three words are what people remember most in headlines. I think the same logic applies when it comes to writing bullets in your resume, because recruiters don’t read the whole document word for word.
Use numbers, results, or power words to make your first three words count. Don’t waste it on a preposition or article like ‘the.’
13. Avoid Clichés
Don’t use clichés like “creative,” “motivated,” and “passionate.” They’re so overused that they’ve lost their meaning. Here are the top 10 buzzwords to replace in your resume, courtesy of LinkedIn’s 2016 Global Buzzwords list:
S.A.R. Format in Writing Achievements
“Use the formula ‘In
Sitaution (S), I performed
Action (A), which led to
Results (R).’ Adding achievements to your experience section is one of the best things you can do for our resume. It gives recruiters a tangible sense of how you use your skills to get results,” says Natalie Severt, Career Expert at UptoWork.
Here’s an Example From Severt
“To increase shopping cart value, I implemented an upselling strategy, resulting in a 5% increase in sales.”
You can also invert the formula to lead with the results: R.A.S.
R.A.S. Example - Leading With Results
“5% increase in sales after implementing an upselling strategy for an e-commerce shopping cart.”
15. Create Curiosity
A little mystery is a good thing.
“You want the reader to say to themselves, ‘Hmm… I am impressed this candidate had a 15% reduction in turnover, but how did he do that?’” says Sudermann.
Don’t give away you best trade secrets. That curiosity is your bait in luring employers to call you.
If they know what to do, what’s the sense in hiring you? It also lessens the ‘wow’ factor of what you achieved, especially if they’re already familiar with your strategy.
16. Include Continuing Education
Add online courses and short seminars on the education section of your resume. Don’t worry if it’s not taught in person, or conducted by a well-known institution. Online education is widely recognized nowadays so free and paid courses even from online providers carry weight.
17. Make Your Personality Shine
Your resume should reflect interesting tidbits about your personality. Why?
Because high-achievers are interesting people with diverse hobbies and interests. Employers often interview candidates because something in their resume caught their eyes. Sometimes, these can come in the form of a sport, book, movie, side project, or volunteer activity.
Some hobbies demonstrate skills related to your job, such as how archery teaches focus and painting enhances creativity. These activities do double duty to make you look both interesting and qualified for the job.
Allow your personality to shine through in your resume. This stylish resume template has features to showcase your professional experience and skills, but also includes a "What I Like" hobbies section:
Sprinkle references to books you’ve read, sports you play, volunteer activities, and even places you’ve traveled in your resume and cover letter.
18. Beware of Controversial Interests
Did you help a candidate during a political campaign? Or maybe you raised money to support a church’s restoration. Both demonstrate your work ethic and willingness to help. But those efforts could be used to discriminate against you by someone who doesn’t agree with the cause.
Tips for Better Resume Formatting
Good formatting increases your resume’s readability and helps focus attention on the most important parts of it.
19. Organized Spacing
Should you use single space or double space between job entries? Pick one and stick to it. If you want to combine different spacing, make sure it’s consistent between different elements. For instance, no spacing between bulleted points but double spacing between two sections (i.e. education and work history).
20. Font Size
“My rule of thumb is if the reader needs reading glasses to read the resume, you have already aggravated them. Font size will depend on the specific font but it MUST be legible. Also, avoid cursive and other quirky fonts, the recruiter might think you’re not serious about the job”, says Michelle Riklan, Certified Professional Resume Writer at Riklan Resources LLC.
21. Divvy Up Long Lists
Every profession has multiple skill sets related to it. For instance, a UX designer has coding, design, illustration, and administrative skills, just to name a few.
Dividing these skills into different lists then itemizing what’s included in each clarifies your qualifications and squeezes more keywords into your resume. It’s also easier to read this way.
22. Reverse Chronological Order
Start your professional history with your current or previous job. Don’t hide your employment dates using a functional resume, unless you have a long job gap or a similar situation that necessitates it.
Limit your resume to two pages. Any more than that and you run the risk of some pages not getting the attention it deserves.
24. No Center or Justified Text
People read from left to right, so it’s easier if most of your text, except the dates, are aligned left. Using center and justified alignment also makes your resume hard to read because the eyes need to scan for where the text starts again, instead of just starting immediately at the left most part of the page.
25. Job Title or Company Name: Pick Which One
Format your job title in bold to emphasize career progression between the job titles you’ve held. If your career progression isn’t evident after a quick scan of your professional history, just emphasize your employer’s name. You can also do this to highlight employment from big companies.
Tips for Improving Your Resume Design
26. Prioritize Skimmability
White space is breathing room for the eyes. It makes your resume skimmable and less overwhelming to read, which is always a plus for recruiters who spend all day reading applications.
27. Insert Keywords on the Sly
“Use a small font and white-colored text to insert extra keywords in your resume”, suggests Darin Herle, Co-Founder of TrackMeet.
It’s a sneaky way to insert keywords into your resume, so I suggest putting these invisible keywords on the document’s footer to avoid detection.
28. Match the Company’s Colors
“Instead of a plain white-background document, one applicant submitted a resume that matched our company’s colors. It was the most outstanding resume I’ve seen”, says Alison Bradley, Marketing Specialist and HR Assistant at Shiny Window Cleaning.
Using the company logo’s color theme shows you did your research, and that you’re also passionate about the job.
29. Send a Traditional PDF, Even if You Have an Infographic or Creative Resume
Creative resumes can help you stand out and get noticed. We have many resume templates with high quality, beautiful styles on Envato Market, such as those curated in these articles:
Staffing firm The Creative Group polled more than 400 U.S. marketing and advertising executives, and found that 78% of them still prefer traditional resumes in PDF and word format.
Creative resumes can help you stand out but unless you have an insider, there’s no way to know for sure if an employer prefers them over traditional resumes. Just to be safe, send a PDF or word file resume even if your main resume is an infographic or video.
There are also a number of professional resume templates on Envato Market with traditional and more modern styles. And many easy to customize designs that can be exported to both PDF and Word formats. Here is a simple resume template, with minimal infographic elements:
More Useful Resume Tips
30. Add a Resume Supplement
It’s impossible to show all your qualifications in two pages, so take advantage of LinkedIn, portfolio sites, and personal websites. Just cover all the important details and accomplishments on your resume, and then let your online assets do the rest.
A printed portfolio of your works and a recommendation letter from an influencer are also good resume supplements.
31. Don’t Give them Reason to Toss Your Resume
"When I'm looking through resumes, I'm not looking for reasons to interview someone. I'm looking for reasons to toss the resume in the shredder", says Joshua I. Wilson, CMT, Chief Investment Officer at WorthPointe.
Busy C-executives aren't the only ones guilty of this. Many recruiters read resumes with the intention of weeding out applicants instead of qualifying them. After receiving hundreds of resumes with similar qualifications, it’s hard to blame them.
A recruiter’s job is to look for the best candidate, not the average. Scrub your resume clean of typos and dull job responsibilities. Emphasize what makes you unique.
32. Google Me
“If your online presence is extensive and impressive enough, tell the recruiter to Google you to get a sense of your accomplishments,” says Herle.
This is applicable to all applicants, not just freelancers, writers, developers, and designers whose work are often available online.
33. Name Your File
Use your name, job title, and the word ‘resume’ as the document’s file name. That will make it easier for the recruiter to find your job application, after you follow-up or send them a thank you note.
Improve Your Resume One Step at a Time
I know reading everything suggested on this list is overwhelming. Doing it all is even more tiring, so take it one step at a time. Some of these resume tips take a few seconds to finish, while others might take half an hour—or more.
You don’t have to do it all at once. Make a few tweaks, then leave it at that and just pick up where you left off the next day. Improve your resume one step at a time.
Learn more about how to make a great resume in our ultimate guide.