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
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
Read the job ad line by line. Highlight
phrases used repeatedly, company culture hints, and anything that resonates
strongly with your career experience.
‘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’
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:
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
Number Use Examples:
Supervised 5 to 9 IT associates while we developed a Fintech app for budgeting
Streamlined debugging process of new software, saving over 25 hours of work per
Evaluated 7 website themes submitted by freelancers and in-house designers per
- 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
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
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.
out the downloadable power words I created for this guide:
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
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
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 Statement
CareersThe Secret to Crafting an Attention Grabbing Resume
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.
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, 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
“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.
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
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
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
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
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
Limit your resume to two pages. Any more
than that and you run the risk of some pages not getting the attention it
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
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
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,”
This is applicable to all applicants, not
just freelancers, writers, developers, and designers whose work are often available
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
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.