10 resume writing tips
Here are a few key resume-writing tips to help you organize and design your resume.
1. Look for keywords in the job posting
The best place to start when preparing to write a resume is to carefully read the job postings that interest you. As you apply for different jobs, study each job description for keywords that show what the employer is looking for in an ideal candidate. Include those keywords in your resume where relevant.
For example, if you’re applying for a job as a medical billing coder, an employer might list keywords like “coding,” “claims submission,” “compliance” or “accounts receivable management” in the job description. Pay particular attention to anything listed in the “Requirements” or “Qualifications” sections. If you have the skills employers are looking for, you can add these terms to your resume in the experience or skills sections.
2. Review resume examples for your industry
When crafting your resume, you might study examples of resumes from your industry for inspiration and best practices. Samples are useful examples of high-quality resumes used in your industry and for your job title. While there are many ways you can use resume samples, there are three main takeaways to look for:
Simplicity. Resume samples are straightforward because employers have minimal time to review your resume, so readability is key.
Brevity. You may notice that each section of the resume sample is short and to the point, including the summary and experience descriptions. Including only the most key and relevant information means employers can consume more information about you and quickly understand your fitness for the role.
Numbers. You might also notice that there are often metrics in the experience section of resume samples because employers are highly responsive to measurable proven value. For example, one bullet point under the experience description for an administrative assistant reads, Processed 100 vendor contracts and implemented a standardized process, reducing contract discrepancies by 90%.
3. Use a professional font
Use a basic, clean font like Arial or Times New Roman. Keep your font size between 10 and 12 points. Selecting a clear, readable font can help make your resume appear more professional.
Reduce or eliminate any extraneous white space. You make it easier for the resume reader to focus only on the content of your resume instead of the white spaces. You can reduce white space by increasing your font size to 12 points and possibly adding optional sections like “Career Highlights,” “Skills” or “Awards and Achievements.”
4. Include only relevant information
While you might have extensive work or educational experience, it’s important to keep your resume as brief as possible without leaving out key information. If your resume includes old or irrelevant information, such as jobs held more than 10 years ago or minor degrees and achievements, it may distract from key information. An example to leave off would be a GPA of 3.2 or a certification in an unrelated field.
Try to include only work experience, achievements, education and skills most relevant to the employer. You can find the most relevant attributes by closely reading the job posting. Prioritize important information on your resume to highlight key skills and achievements. This may mean creating a functional rather than a chronological resume, focusing on how prior roles have given you the skills and experience needed for this role.
5. Use active language
Write your resume using active language without extraneous words. This means using power words, such as “achieved,” “earned,” “completed” or “accomplished.” If your resume is too long or seems hard to read, you might consider making sentences shorter or ideas more concise.
For example, you may have a job description that reads: “During my time at Freedom Inc., I ran multiple team-based projects and helped each team member with various tasks associated with each project.” You can shorten and strengthen this example in the following way: “Led 10 team-based projects, including the implementation of a new point-of-service system, and helped five team members meet project requirements and deadlines with 95% accuracy.” The revised version communicates the same ideas about your accomplishments while including more active language and further quantifying your results.
6. Call attention to important achievements
Instead of listing your job duties under the experience section, select your top three or four most important achievements in each role you’ve held. Where possible, include numbers that measure your success for that particular goal or achievement.
You might also consider including a separate “Achievements” or “Skills” section to highlight relevant achievements in your education, career, volunteer work or other experiences.
7. Only include subheadings and sections you need
Whether you’re using a resume template or creating your own, you may find there are some recommended sections you don’t need. For example, if you’re graduating from college or high school and have not yet held a professional position, you might replace the experience section with relevant coursework, academic achievements and other experiences like internships or extracurricular projects. You may also find it useful to combine sections if you’re having trouble filling a section with more than two bullet points.
8. Choose appropriate margins
Typically, you can use a one-inch margin size on all sides of your resume with single spaces between the lines. If you have too much white space, consider spacing your lines by 1.15 or 1.5. You can also increase your margins if you find it difficult to fill your resume but make sure they stay below two inches.
Before sending your resume, undergo several rounds of proofreading to ensure there are no spelling or grammar errors. While you can use several proofreading programs and tools, it’s also helpful to ask trusted friends or colleagues to review your resume. It’s helpful for an objective third party to look at your resume as an employer might to find ways you can correct or improve it.
10. Make multiple versions of your resume
Before applying, you ask yourself, “Have I made it as easy as possible for this employer to see that I’m qualified?” If you’re applying for a job with unique requirements, you may need another version of your resume to demonstrate your qualifications fully. Decide on a case-by-case basis which resume to use. Once you finalize your resume, it can help you get more callbacks, interviews and job offers.