14 Rules For Writing An Awesome Resume

Maddie Lloyd
By Maddie Lloyd
- Mar. 21, 2021

Find a Job You Really Want In

If you’ve recently graduated or you’re thinking of taking a new step in your career, you’ve probably been spending a lot of time working on your resume, or just starting over completely from scratch. Writing a resume isn’t easy. In fact, it can be frustrating.

Here’s the good news:

Writing a resume doesn’t have to be a complete and utter nightmare. Knowing how to format your resume and what information to include is a great way to make yourself stand out from other candidates – and lucky for you, we have everything you need to write the best resume ever.

Here’s everything you need to know to write an awesome resume and get the job:

1Keep It to One Page

This one is super important. Remember, hiring managers only spend approximately six seconds looking at a resume before they decide to throw it in the trash or hang onto it — so if your resume is two pages or more, they probably won’t get past the first page.

If you’re an entry-level candidate, you have less than ten years of experience, or you’re a recent graduate — keep your resume to one page. Your resume can be two pages or more if you’re applying to be an executive or you’ve been in the industry for more than ten years, but one page is almost always optimal.

In addition to keeping a page-count in mind, you should strive to make your resume as concise as possible. Eliminate unnecessary words and attempt to get each of your bullet points down to a single line, tops.

A resume is all about making an impactful statement with an efficiency of words — it should prove both your written communication skills and on-the-job chops simultaneously.

2Proofread

Unless you want to look like you don’t care about the job, you should definitely check your resume a few times for spelling or grammatical errors. Some employers will immediately throw out your resume if they spot any typos — you don’t want to be remembered as that dude who spelled their own name wrong.

Use editing software like Grammarly or Hemingway to catch any obvious grammatical or spelling mistakes. For more nuanced tips, have a friend or trusted coworker look over your resume. They may catch things that you’ve become blind to after reading the document over twenty times.

If you’re unable to enlist the help of a confidante, try reading your resume backward. Sometimes, simply reviewing the information in a different order can help us catch mistakes we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

3Stick to Using Past Tense Verbs

Using present tense when describing former jobs is a rookie move — one that could cost you an interview or a job opportunity.

If a job or volunteer experience on your resume happened in the past, make sure to always use past tense verbs. (e.g., “organized,” “developed,” “supervised.”)

If you’re still active in a position listed on your resume, use the present tense (e.g., “organize,” “develop,” “supervise.”)

4Avoid First-Person Pronouns

This is yet another rookie move. Don’t use words like “I,” “me,” or “my” on your resume. Instead of saying “I met and exceeded company goals 100 percent of the time,” say “Met and exceeded company goals 100 percent of the time.” Now, doesn’t that sound more professional?

Using first-person pronouns sounds childish and takes up valuable space on your resume. The reader will assume that all of the information within your document applies to you, so there’s really no need to repeat that fact (or even mention it once).

5Send Your Resume as a PDF and Label the File Professionally

If you send your resume as a document file, you risk the chance of your margins, structure, and format being altered on the employer’s computer. To ensure that your resume is seen as intended, save it as a PDF file. Otherwise, what was all that work altering your margins even for?

When you save your resume as a PDF, make sure to label it in a professional way. Employers can see the name of the file you send them, so it would be pretty embarrassing if they saw that they labeled your resume “pleasegivemethisjob.pdf.”

Make it clear whose resume they’re reading by labeling yours with your first name, your last name, and the word “resume.”

The only time not to use a PDF file is when the employer specifically requests a different type of file (usually .doc or .docx). Always follow instructions listed in a job posting or on the company’s website — they take precedence over any general advice we’re giving here.

6Make Your Resume Organized and Easy to Read

You’re not going to find much success on your job hunt if employers feel like they’re facing a maze every time they see your resume. Make the best use of the six seconds they’ll spend looking at yours by making it clean and easy to read.

Make the titles of each section bolded, and make sure that the size of your text is readable. You might be tempted to shrink down to eight-point font to fit in as much content as possible, but you should never go smaller than ten-point font.

If you’re concerned about making everything fit onto your resume, try adjusting the margins, or leaving out irrelevant job experience.

When you list your work history, how you organize it depends on your career path and what position you’re applying for. While chronological is the default, it might benefit you to list your most relevant jobs first.

Here are all the sections your resume should include:

Optional sections include:

7Cover the Basics

Don’t forget that the ultimate goal of your resume to show employers why you’re the best person for the job through your work experience and skill set. To successfully do this, you’ll need to include:

  • Relevant degrees or certifications

  • Relevant work and volunteer experience

  • Achievements and responsibilities from past positions

  • Skills essential for the position and your level of mastery with them

You’ll also want to include basic information about yourself that can be compiled into your resume header:

  • Your full name

  • The city and state you live in

  • Your email address

  • Your phone number

  • Links to any online portfolios

8Quantify Whenever Possible

It’s easy for anyone to say that they were “good” at their last job, but you’ll get an edge over the competition if you can show employers that you can.

Use numbers, percentages, and supporting facts to show hiring managers how successful you were in your previous positions.

For example, instead of saying “Exceeded fundraising goals,” you could say “Exceeded fundraising goals by 50%.” This is a good way to get an employer’s attention, and, ideally, get asked to come in for an interview.

There are several ways to quantify your work experiences:

  1. Scale. Think about the money or time you’ve saved employers in the past. Something like “reduced costs of X by 13%” or “managed account worth $212,000.”

  2. Frequency. Think about how often you performed certain tasks. Something like “answered 20+ customer queries daily” or “performed weekly check-ins with 3 department heads.”

  3. Range. A range of numbers can be useful if your duties changed over time. For example, you could say something like “managed a team of 8-14 salespeople” or “optimized 30-50 webpages on a weekly basis.”

  4. Increase. Whether by percentage or raw number, making measurable differences in a business’s productivty is alwyas impressive. Something like “boosted engagement by 34%” or “increased sales by an average of $13,500 each quarter.”

These sorts of facts provide obvious and tangible results by which the hiring manager can measure your potential impact on their company.

One extra tip: non-rounded numbers (numbers that don’t end in 0 or 5) are more believable for readers, so don’t be afraid of giving exact numbers. Strangely, rounding up from 17% to 20% may be less impressive for recruiters, because they may assume you’re rounding and not fully credit the figure.

9Don’t List Every Job You’ve Ever Had

If you’re submitting a resume for an accounting position, no one’s going to care about your part-time work as the mascot for your city’s minor league baseball team.

When listing your work and volunteer history, make sure that everything you put on your resume will help you get the job. If something seems irrelevant or unimportant, go ahead and leave it out.

If you have a long career of semi-relevant jobs, consider consolidating those experiences into an “additional experience” section.

In this section, simply give the name of the company, the dates you worked there, and your job title. You can leave out the bullet point responsibilities for these jobs to save space. If a hiring manager or recruiter is curious about these experiences, they can ask you to explain further at the interview.

10Use Keywords Specific to the Job You’re Applying For

This is a great way to get employers’ attention and stand out from other candidates. Read over the job description and use any keywords listed in your own resume.

This will show hiring managers that you’re a strong candidate for the role because you’re familiar with the industry and know their lingo. Plus, if you’re submitting your resume online, applicant tracking systems (ATS) will view you favorably.

One pro tip for choosing the right keywords involves a close reading of the job description. First, highlight all of the action verbs in one color. Then, highlight all of the adjectives in a different color. Finally, highlight skills listed in a third color.

Now, try to incorporate those words naturally into your resume. Look for places where your word choice can easily be changed to one of the keywords you noticed, and you’ll have an optimized resume with fairly low effort.

11Name and Title Drop

No, seriously. Your resume is your chance to brag about how awesome you are. If you’ve ever gotten a promotion or a raise, go ahead and list it. Even better — if you’ve ever worked with the CEO of a company or were the company contact for an important customer, mention their names.

This will show employers that you have a history of working with important people and that you’ve been successful in your former jobs. Of course, make sure that this is all true. It would be super embarrassing for a potential employer to call you out as a liar.

12Leave Out Your List of References

There’s really no reason to have your list of references or a statement like “references available upon request” on your resume. If an employer wants to contact these people, they’ll ask. Plus, including a list of references will just take up prime resume real estate.

13Ditch the Objective and Write a Resume Summary Statement

Resume objective statements are becoming less and less acceptable as time goes by. Basically, all a resume objective statement does is tell the reader that you want a job.

On the other hand, a resume summary statement functions like an elevator pitch that immediately showcases your most impressive and relevant accomplishments. It serves as a movie trailer for the rest of your resume, and a good summary statement can be a perfect hook to get a hiring manager or recruiter to spend a little more than six seconds reviewing your resume.

Plus, a resume summary statement presents you with an extra opportunity to include those precious keywords in a natural narrative.

Being limited to one page can be tricky for job seekers. If you have a lot more you’d like to share with recruiters and hiring managers, considering including links to additional information and documentation.

For example, it’s becoming common practice to include your LinkedIn profile on your resume. That way, the person reading your resume can dive deeper into your professional background and get a sense of your personality as well as your credentials.

Just be sure to create a winning LinkedIn profile and upload a great profile picture before you start including links to your LinkedIn page on your resume.

Additionally, if you have an online portfolio of your impressive work and relevant projects, it may be a good idea to provide a link to that page on your resume as well.

And if you have a personal website, then definitely include a link — not only will it sell your credentials, but it also shows you’re a serious professional who takes pride in your work and personal brand.

Final Thoughts

As if trying to find a job wasn’t hard enough on its own, you’ve also got to write a resume that’s so good it makes the employer see that you’re the best person for the job.

Writing a resume can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be scary — especially when you know exactly what to include to make employers notice you.

Now that you know everything you need to write an awesome resume, it’s time to go write yours, and land that interview.

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.
Maddie Lloyd

Author

Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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