Writing a resume that accurately reflects your abilities and achievements can be a daunting task in the job search process.
As a full-time engineer, I recall feeling intimidated and overwhelmed by this process, particularly after graduation from college.
One of the most challenging tasks was writing my first real resume. And I use the word “real” because as a student, hiring managers seemed to overlook the mediocre quality of my college resume.
However, the minute I graduated, hiring managers started taking me more seriously. And I realized my college resume wouldn’t land me an interview in the real world, let alone a full-time entry-level corporate role. Thus to stand out, I needed to write a compelling CV.
So for the first couple weeks after graduation, I read countless articles online, asked for advice from friends and family members, and even used professional resume-writing software for help.
Yet, despite my efforts, my resume wasn’t entirely up to par.
That was until I discovered the secrets to writing a resume that doesn’t suck.
In this blog post, I’ll share some of these secrets I’ve learned over the years to help you write a resume that stands out from the rest. So whether you’re a recent graduate, transitioning to a new career, or simply looking to update your resume, this guide is for you.
Table of contents
- Why you need to write a standout resume
- Secrets to writing a resume that doesn’t suck
- 1. Set a Target Role
- 2. Spread your skills throughout your resume instead of piling it in one section.
- 3. Tell a Story
- 4. Focus on Metrics
- 5. Apply Keywords
- 6. Use a Minimal Format
- 7. Tailor Your Resume for Each Job
- 8. Include a Portfolio
- 9. Make it easy for future employers to contact you
- 10. Proofread to find any errors
- Frequently asked questions about writing a good resume.
- Final Thoughts on Resume Writing
Why you need to write a standout resume
A resume that truly stands out is vital in today’s job market, as it is often the first glimpse an employer has of you. A well-written and visually appealing CV showcases your communication skills, work experiences, and accomplishments in a manner that sets you apart from others seeking the same position. Conversely, failure to write one can have severe consequences in your job search, making it challenging to land your dream role.
Overall, a standout resume increases your chances of getting an interview and securing your desired job.
Secrets to writing a resume that doesn’t suck
1. Set a Target Role
One of the most common mistakes people make when writing their resume is not having a specific target role in mind. Lacking this can lead to a vague, unfocused resume that doesn’t effectively showcase your skills and experiences.
Before you start writing your resume, take some time to research the job or industry you’re interested in and determine what skills and experiences the ideal candidate should have. Then, tailor your resume to highlight those skills and experiences.
Make sure to mention relevant certifications, awards, or volunteer experiences that support your qualifications.
2. Spread your skills throughout your resume instead of piling it in one section.
Many people make the mistake of keeping their skills in a separate section on their resume. While this may seem like an excellent way to showcase your abilities, it actually makes it more difficult for the reader to see how those skills apply to your work experience.
Try to spread your skills throughout your resume, highlighting specific examples of how you’ve used those skills in past roles.
Doing so will give the hiring manager a better understanding of your capabilities and make it easier for them to see why you’re the right fit for the job.
3. Tell a Story
Your resume is not just a summary of your education and work experience; it’s a portfolio of your accomplishments. So, as you write your resume, think about the narrative you want to convey to a hiring manager. Then, make sure each section supports that narrative.
To tell a story on a resume, follow these steps:
1. Point out a relevant accomplishment:
Think about a time when you significantly impacted your previous job. It could be a project you led, a problem you solved, or a goal you achieved.
Make sure the achievement is relevant to the role you’re targeting. For example, if you are applying for an engineering role, focus on accomplishments demonstrating your teamwork, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.
By selecting a relevant and impactful achievement, you’ll be able to create a compelling story that showcases your skills and experiences in the most favorable light.
2. Begin with a headline:
Write a short, attention-grabbing headline that summarizes your achievement, making sure to start each sentence with an action verb.
For example, instead of saying, “I helped a team increase sales.”
Consider saying: “Led a team of 7 to increase sales by 40% in 3 months.”
By using action verbs in addition to quantifiable metrics, you show future employers that you are capable of driving results.
3. Add context for clarity:
Provide context for your achievement by explaining the situation, the challenge, and how it related to your role. Doing so provides the hiring manager with enough background information to understand the case and the impact of your achievement.
4. Use concise language:
Keep your story clear and to the point, using bullet points and short sentences to convey your narrative. Avoid industry jargon or overly complex language that is wordy and difficult to read.
5. Be honest:
Be truthful and mindful of modesty. Highlight your achievements, but don’t exaggerate them. Employers can often tell if you possess the skills you claim depending on your work history. Hence don’t tell lies.
4. Focus on Metrics
When writing a resume that stands out, it’s all about results. Employers want to see what you’ve accomplished, not just what you’ve done. So, instead of simply listing your duties and responsibilities from previous jobs, focus on the results you achieved in each role.
For example, if you managed a team, highlight how you improved team morale or increased productivity. If you started a new project, mention its impact on the company’s bottom line. The more specific and quantifiable your achievements, the more impressed a potential employer will be.
5. Apply Keywords
Use relevant keywords to ensure your resume is ATS (applicant tracking systems) friendly. Many companies use ATS to screen resumes, and if your resume does not include the right keywords, it may never make it to a human reader.
To find the right keywords, consider these tips:
1. Scan the job description:
Start by carefully reading the job description for your interested position. Then, look for specific skills, qualifications, and requirements listed.
2. Use industry-specific keywords:
Identify keywords specific to your industry or field, and include them in your resume. For example, if you are in the tech industry, using keywords like UX (user experience), SQL, or data analysis, on your resume shows the ATS system that you have skills that are relevant to the technology field.
3. Review the company’s website:
Look at the company’s website and see if they mention specific keywords or skills they’re looking for in a candidate.
Take specific keywords repeated on the company’s website as a sign to include them in your resume.
4. Use online tools and resources:
Try searching online, checking job search websites, or using tools like Jobscan to give you relevant keywords for your industry.
6. Use a Minimal Format
The format of your resume is just as important as the content. It should be clean and professional with enough white space, making it easy for the reader to find the information they need quickly.
Use a font that is easy on the eyes, and avoid excessive design elements. Stick to a simple format, and make sure your resume is no longer than two pages, with clear headings that make it easy to navigate.
7. Tailor Your Resume for Each Job
While it may seem time-consuming, it’s essential to customize your resume for each job. Doing so will show the employer that you’ve taken the time to understand their specific needs and that you’re a good fit for the role. For example, you may need to add or remove certain sections or experiences or adjust your summary statement to better reflect your qualifications for the position. But never apply to multiple positions with the same resume.
8. Include a Portfolio
In today’s digital age, a portfolio can be a powerful tool for job seekers to stand out. A portfolio allows you to showcase your work and skills in a way that gives more depth to your CV. Whether you’re a graphic designer, web developer, or writer, a portfolio can help demonstrate your abilities and show potential employers a complete picture of who you are and what you can do.
So if you haven’t already, consider adding a portfolio to your resume. You can host it on a personal website or a platform like Behance and include a link to your portfolio in your resume. Doing so will allow potential employers to see your work and understand your skills more meaningfully.
9. Make it easy for future employers to contact you
It may seem small, but you must include a professional email address and phone number on your resume.
Avoid using funny or unprofessional email addresses, and make sure your phone number is also listed.
Depending on the role, you may or may not need to include your full home address; However, by simply adding your current state or country, you can help future employers decide if to call you in person for an interview.
10. Proofread to find any errors
Finally, it’s crucial to proofread your resume carefully before submitting it. Typos, grammatical errors, and other mistakes can give the impression that you are not detail-oriented or need to take your job search more seriously.
Have a friend or family member review your resume to catch any mistakes you may have missed. And always be sure to double-check your contact information before submitting your resume to avoid any embarrassing mistakes.
Frequently asked questions about writing a good resume.
While handwritten resumes are less common than typed ones, they may be acceptable in certain circumstances, such as for an arts or creative position. However, in most cases, it’s recommended to use a computer to type out a resume as it conveys professionalism and makes it easier for employers to read and understand the information.
Having someone write your resume is a personal decision that depends on your current circumstances. A professional resume writer can help you present your skills and experiences in the best way that highlights your strengths. However, hiring one can be expensive.
Yes, you should put your resume on LinkedIn if you have a specific position you are targeting. However, suppose you are targeting multiple roles. In that case, you should reconsider, as you will need separate resumes targeted at each position.
Yes, writing your resume in the past tense is recommended because you are describing past experiences, responsibilities, and achievements.
For example, instead of saying, “Responsible for managing the team,” you could write, “Managed a team of 10 employees and achieved a 25% increase in productivity.”
It is essential to be consistent in the tense you use throughout your resume. If you write some parts in the past tense and others in the present tense, it can be confusing and detract from the impact of your achievements.
Final Thoughts on Resume Writing
In conclusion, writing a resume that doesn’t suck requires careful planning, attention to detail, and a focus on results. By following these tips and tricks, you can create a resume that showcases your skills, experiences, and achievements that lands you the job of your dreams.