30 Fail Proof Ways to Write a Resume that Wows

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 21, 2016

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1. Keep it to One Page

Ah, the old one-page resume controversy. Some don’t have a problem with two — but only ever use more than one page if you really need it. If you’re just getting out of school, chances are, you won’t.

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2. Keep it Simple

This goes for everything — design, layout, color (which might apply for certain creative jobs), font, and yes, even language.

3. Keep it Reverse Chronological

Always list your most recent experience first.

4. No Need for a Summary

Except in a few circumstances (see No. 22), you really don’t need a summary at the top of your resume.

5. Don’t Include EVERYTHING

If you’ve had a lot of jobs, this shouldn’t necessarily be a list of all of them. This is a document designed to market you to a potential employer. So…

6. Keep it Relevant…

Make sure that the jobs, experience, and accolades that you do include are relevant to the position you’re applying for.

7. …and Recent

You’ll also want to make sure you’re not digging 10 years back to that one job you had that seemed relevant… Keep things recent.

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8. Unless You Don’t Have any Relevant Work Experience…

Don’t fret! If you’re new to the workforce and don’t have much, or any, work experience, you can still include experience. Think about what you did in school that was relevant to the position. Be specific on your achievements (we’ll get to specific specifics in a moment!), and explain why you’re the right person for the job in your cover letter.

9. Minimize the Bullets

You should have no more than 5 bullet points under any position. Nuff said.

10. But Make it Specific

An example of making it specific would be including actual, measurable data. “Implemented new website design, increasing company’s revenue by 40 percent over 6 months” is a lot more specific (and impressive!) than “re-designed website.”

11. Use Keywords

If you haven’t heard yet, we hate to be the ones to tell you… but recruiters use keywords! In fact, some resumes never even make it before employer’s eyes, because they lack keywords. THIS IS IMPORTANT! Look at the job description. Which words do they use most often? Be sure to include them.

12. Don’t LIE!

This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people stretch the truth on their resumes, only to find that if they do get the job—they’re in trouble. So do yourself a favor and don’t lie, or else you might end up getting a job that’s over your head!

13. Don’t Forget “Non-Work” Work

Again, this is great for those who don’t have much work experience, but also good information to include (if it’s relevant) for those who do. Volunteer jobs, projects, even hobbies if they’re relevant to the position.

14. Experience, then Education

If you have work experience, be sure to put it first. Then list your educational experience and achievements (focus more on your achievements than on your GPA!), also in reverse chronological order.

15. Include any Awards from School

Again, achievements and awards relevant to the position speak louder than a high GPA.

16. List yo Skills!

This is a great time to run wild with those keywords found in the job description. If they’re looking for someone with Photoshop experience, be sure to list it as a skill (if it is a skill—remember, DON’T LIE!)

17. Let Your Personality Shine Through

To be clear, this doesn’t mean be cute or cheesy. But, if you’re applying for a creative job, go ALL out. You’ll need to stand out. And feel free to include your interests in the resume, if they are relevant to the position.

18. Okay, at least Don’t be Boring

These guys are looking at hundreds of resumes. Let yours stand out.

19. Font Matters

One way to let your resume stand out is with design — and particularly, with font. Don’t fall into the Times New Roman black hole! Use something simple, clean, and modern.

20. Exclude those “Shorter than Impressive” Jobs

If you worked someplace for only a few months or less, do yourself a favor and leave it off your resume. It might make you seem unreliable to future employers.

21. If You Have Work Gaps… be Sneaky About it

If you have long gaps, a few months or so, between jobs, you can employ this little trick: Just list the years you worked there (2012-2013), rather than listing the exact start and end dates.

22. BUT do Explain Really Long Gaps in Your Work

This is the perfect example of when it IS okay to include a summary at the top of your resume. Here you can not only explain your best skills and accomplishments, but briefly, why you’re deciding to re-enter the workforce.

23. Take it Easy on the Jargon

The theme for your resume should be clarity and simplicity. Keep the “impressive” jargon to an absolute minimum.

24. And on those “Filler” Words

Examples: Team player, hard worker, creative genius—whatever! If you’re a team player, tell them how. Don’t fall into clichés and vagueness to describe yourself.

25. Mix Up Your Word Choice

If you start each of your bullet points below your experience with “In charge of ______” this is going to get old pretty fast. Mix it up. But —

26. Stick with the Same Parts of Speech

Meaning, start each bullet point with the same part of speech, like a noun or verb. Recommended: Start with a verb, as it suggests action throughout your resume.

27. Proofread 28. Be Intentional with Your File Name

This is such a simple mistake, but it is a big one — especially if you’re applying to multiple jobs! You’ll either need to change your resume’s file name to fit the job you’re applying for (example: GOOGLE2016RESUMECK.DOC) or just keep it vague (CKRESUME2016.DOC). You just don’t want to make the mistake of sending your GOOGLE resume to, say, YAHOO.

29. Proofread – AGAIN 30. Update amp; Tailor Your Resume Often

Unless the jobs you’re applying for are remarkably similar, you’ll need to tailor your resume each time you send it out, to include the important keywords in the job description and any other information that should be more emphasized. You’ll also want to keep your resume updated as you gain experience, so you don’t forget to add it in later.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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