Resume writing can be challenging, but creating an effective resume can drastically increase your chances when competing for a new position regardless of your field. What follows is the collated list of my top tips for effective resume writing and some related resources.
Nowadays, it is easier than ever for people across the country to compete for the same remote job. These increases in job market competition mean that anything you can do to help your applications stand out from your rivals is worth spending some time and effort on.
18 Resume writing tips
You may not have written a resume in years, or perhaps this is your first time. Whatever your situation, brushing up on the latest knowledge on what makes a great resume is a vital time investment for any job seeker.
1. Accessible and scannable
Hiring managers are busy people, so you cannot expect them to read every word on your resume. Therefore, it is best practice to use plenty of headings and new sections to break down your resume into a scannable, and more readable format.
2. Keep it short, simple, and to the point
To make your resume even more digestible, be careful about the info you include and the wording you use. Do not mention old achievements that do not relate sufficiently to the role. Keep the wording simple and brief, while still making your highlights clear.
3. Only two A4 pages
Summarize your professional and educational career in just two sides of A4, or Letter / ANSI A-page format. Like already mentioned earlier, nobody is going to read your whole resume, and keeping it to two sides only is the best tactic to make your document less off-putting for those busy hiring managers.
4. Personal resume summary
Including a well-written resume summary at the top of your resume is a great way to get off on the right foot and make a positive impact straight away. This is your chance to show who you are in a more personal and slightly less formal way. Try to avoid cliches or simply listing your qualities in a dispassionate way.
5. Use the first person singular
An obvious one perhaps, but still worth mentioning as this is a surprisingly common mistake. As you are writing about yourself, you need to use the first person singular tense. That means 'I', 'me', 'my', 'mine' and 'myself', although you can leave out pronouns in most cases.
6. Choose the correct layout for you
For most job seekers, this choice comes down to three options:
Chronological: The chronological resume format, or more correctly called reverse-chronological format, refers to listing your work experience starting with the most recent. This works well if you are after a job in the same field. However, if you are trying to break into a new field or have large gaps or breaks in your career you could consider trying either the functional or the combined resume formats.
Functional: This format is focused on your skills rather than experience. The functional format only mentions your work experience under different skill categories so you quickly backingup your skills with relevant experience. This way you can highlight your technical and soft skills.
Combined: A mix of both of the above, the combined format usually begins with your skills and then goes into the reverse-chronological list of work experience. This format is recommended for job seekers from diverse backgrounds that may not be as relatable to the job they are going for.
Despite making progress towards a paperless world, many businesses will still prefer to see printed versions of resumes. Therefore, you should always print it out first and make sure it is looking clear and legible before you start submitting it.
8. Tailor it
To give you the best chance of securing your dream job, you must ensure that you edit your resume to target different job roles and companies. For example, you could highlight the most relevant skills or experience for the role by moving them higher up on the document or describing them in more detail.
9. No unnecessary personal details
As saving space on your resume is important, and some personal information can put you at a disadvantage, please avoid including the following:
- Personal Info like relationships status, sexuality, birthplace, number of children.
- Religious or political beliefs, or any beliefs for that matter.
- Contact info other than your email, main phone number.
- Links to irrelevant social media profiles, although if you are active on LinkedIn this can be important, and in some cases your professional Instagram may be worth sharing.
- ID number, as this will not be required for most applications.
10. Make it interesting
There is a fine line between being professional in your language and being boring. Your resume is there to sell yourself, so you need to be enthusiastic. Do not try to include every technical industry buzzword, keep it simple and clear, focus on showing them how confident you are in your abilities and how proud you are of your achievements.
Only mention your most specific and relevant skills. Do not include general skills like ‘good listener’ and always try to back up the skills with examples from your career. For example, rather than simply writing ‘Persuasiveness’ elaborate with an example: ‘Persuasiveness - Winning 3 new clients in 1 month at *Company Name*’.
12. Leave out irrelevant experience
Nobody will want to hear about your Saturday job in a shop, holiday job, or teenage years working a paper-round if you are now an adult looking for an office job. So, please avoid wasting space on your resume by mentioning irrelevant work experience like the above.
13. Highlight work achievements
Although you may want to mention your top achievements elsewhere on your resume, in your profile, for example, you should still include these in your work experience section. Showing you excelled at each of the jobs listed on your resume with an impressive achievement is far more persuasive than simply listing your job title and duties.
It is always good to have some references prepared for when potential new employers come investigating. So, if you haven’t already, reach out to ex-employers and managers you know think highly of you.
15. Gaps or breaks
If you have taken a break from work it is very important to have an answer ready to explain this, both for interviews and on your resume. On your resume, keep your explanation brief and straightforward focusing on why now is the right time for you to get back into work and how your experience makes you the ideal candidate.
16. Triple check spelling and grammar
Many employers will be on the lookout for applicants who are not careful enough to ensure an error-free resume. If you are not confident with your spelling or grammar, or even if you are, it is always a good idea to use a free spelling and grammar checker like Grammarly to ensure your resume is flawless.
When you are happy with your resume, it is always a good idea to have someone else check it over for you. Ask a trusted friend, colleague, or recruiter to read it through and give you their notes. Keep in mind that the more you pore over a document the more you can become blind to obvious issues.
18. Sending your resume
When you are ready to send your resume there are two important things you need to remember:
- Send your resume from a professional email address. This means an email address with nothing silly like a nickname or anything other than your real name and, if required, a string of letters to differentiate it. You can set up a new email for free on Gmail if you need a more professional one for job applications.
- Always send your resume in a PDF file format. PDFs are the correct format for documents that you don’t want to be edited and will make you appear more professional and tech-savvy.
More tips for different types of job seekers
Although the resume tips above can be applied to most types of job seekers, some groups will face specific challenges when entering the job market. What follows are a few of our other resources, with info for specific groups of job seekers who need to be more careful in the applications and tweak their approach on their resumes:
- Career tips for seniors/ older workers
- Finding a job after a career break
- Job tips for stay at home parents
- Resume tips for starters and students
- Tips for finding a job with a disability
- Job hunting tips for veterans
More resources for the next stage of the job hunt
So you have the perfect resume, what’s next? Well, if you have secured an interview then you need to start preparing to give yourself the best chance of success. Below are our key resources to ensure you are ready to impress in your next interview:
Are you struggling with a particular question about your resume or job search, or do you have suggestions for other topics to cover? Drop me an email, and I'll try to add it to my to do-list.
As a professional recruiter, I have over 10 years of experience helping candidates find work with businesses that match their skills, personalities and goals. Here on Resume Supply, I share some of the key things I have learned over my career to help job seekers with resumes, applications and interviews.