How to write a resume

The content of your resume should reflect not only your experience but who you are. It can be difficult to know what to include, whether or not you have enough experience.

Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding what to include on your resume.

1. Get rid of your objectives statement

Contrary to what you might believe, an objectives statement on your resume is just taking up space.

If recruiters are spending an average of six seconds reviewing your resume, they’re not going to read the paragraph telling why you’re looking for a job. That information should be in your cover letter.

2. Add a career highlights section

Instead of adding prose that will likely be passed over, add a summary of career milestones to start your resume strongly.

This section should consist of three bullet points that include the things you’re particularly proud of that are also relevant to the job you’re applying for. This way, you get to control the narrative on your resume and highlight points that may be lost in your work experience.

3. Show, don’t tell

You have limited space on your resume to make an impact, so every bullet point should pack a punch. A good rule to follow when structuring bullet points on your resume is to start with an action verb, describe a skill and show an impact metric.

Action verbs such as “improved” or “collaborated” are extremely important to grab a hiring manager’s attention.

Each point should highlight a skill that is required for the job and, if you can, back it up with a numerical metric. If you don’t have any metrics for your current job, ask your employer.

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4. Make it specific and relevant

Do you really need to include your high school job as a camp counselor on your resume?

Think about what the job requires and whether the experience you’ve listed is relevant. This might be difficult if you’re trying to enter a field you don’t have experience in.

Start with skills you’ve gained from any job and recontextualize them to make them more appealing to employers. Think about the skills you use every day and how they could apply to the job you’re applying for.

5. Soft skills vs. hard skills

If you don’t know the difference, hard skills are tested, technical skills, such as computer programming or a second language, whereas soft skills are interpersonal skills such as communication or flexibility.

You shouldn’t include soft skills in the skills section of your resume, as they’re harder to quantify. But you don’t want to omit them completely, as 77% of employers believe they’re important.

Use the bullet points to showcase your soft skills. Again, you want to show, not tell — especially when these skills are hard to measure.

6. Add keywords from job description

Most recruiters use an applicant tracking system (ATS) when hiring online. As a result, 75% of resumes from otherwise qualified candidates are rejected.

To avoid this, comb through the application to see what skills are listed and how they are worded. Then put the right things on your resume to make it personal to the specific job.

7. Proofread, and then proofread again

A surefire way to get your resume thrown out is a spelling or grammar error, as 59% of recruiters reject candidates because of them.

It can be tempting to send your resume as soon as possible, but perhaps nothing feels worse than rereading the resume you just sent only to find a mistake.

Try using a screen reader to go over it. You’ll get an objective reading of your resume back to you and you’ll hear if it makes sense.

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How do I format my resume?

The way your resume looks is just as valuable as its contents. You want to make sure it stands out, but not too much, as that would repel 40% of recruiters.

Keeping your resume simple and professional is the way to go, but also make sure you’re not standing out for the wrong reasons:

1. Don’t use a resume template

Resume templates can give you good ideas for structuring your own. But, if it’s available for free online, you can bet that someone else is using it as well.

One of the best tactics you can use to secure a job is having a custom resume, according to 61% of hiring managers.

You should also tailor your resume for the position you are seeking, as 63% of hiring managers prefer something custom rather than generic.

2. Make your contact information compelling

The top of your resume is the first thing a recruiter will see, so make sure it’s appealing.

Include hyperlinks to your LinkedIn profile or any professional portfolio to help make your resume more engaging.

Also include a title underneath your name that matches the job title in the posting. This helps hiring managers see that you identify with the posting, and it will help boost your keywords for the ATS.

3. Write a two-page resume

Recruiters often debate this, but some recommend reducing your resume to one page, as that’s all recruiters are looking at anyway.

But data shows that a two-page resume will make you 2.9 times more likely to be selected for a management position and 1.4 times more likely for entry-level positions.

A one-page resume can communicate a lack of experience. Make sure the most important information is on the front, and use the back to include any missing keywords.

4. Pay attention to the layout

How you lay out your resume can affect what a recruiter sees and in which order.

Columns are a big no-no, as they can confuse a reader and an ATS. The human eye naturally scans a page in an F- or E-shaped pattern, so make sure your information is laid out in that pattern.

If you’re an industry professional, make sure your work experience is first. If you’re a student or new grad without relevant work experience, list your education at the top.

5. Get your formatting right

Using wacky fonts or vibrant colors will make your resume stand out — so much so that a recruiter might throw it in the trash.

Make sure the formatting on your resume looks professional. Use a minimum-12-point font for your resume to make it accessible. Also, use a legible and professional font such as Times New Roman, Arial or Georgia.

Lastly, make sure the file type of your resume matches whatever is on the job posting. If they don’t list one, make it a .doc file to make sure an ATS can scan it.

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About the Author

Chris Middleton

Chris Middleton

Staff Writer

Chris Middleton is a freelance writer at MoneyWise. He’s written for CBC News, blogTO, Parton and Pearl and a number of other places. He has a Master’s in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Gloucestershire.

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