12 Résumé Writing Tips That Will Land You That Job
Updated : June 29th, 2018
Your résumé is what gives a prospective employer the first impression. It can be your ticket into the company. If your résumé looks just like any other one that the recruiter comes across on a daily basis, it is likely that it will be ignored. Give your résumé a few customizations and avoid some mistakes. This will help your résumé not only stand out but also give a lasting impression.
Do’s and Don’ts of Résumé Writing
If you are looking to start a career or someone who plans to switch jobs, these 12 steps will make your résumé catch the recruiter’s attention:
1. Spelling and Grammatical Mistakes
Spelling, grammatical or punctuation errors on a résumé are the worst. Not paying attention to your commas, periods, and spellings could send out a message that you lack attention to detail.
Some of the most common mistakes that people make in their résumés are the usage of inconsistent tenses, subject-verb agreement, poor use of apostrophes, and misspelled homophones.
Also, when it comes to numbers, use digits and not words. Words not only take longer to read but also occupy more space. Digits are easy to spot and also tend to catch the recruiter’s attention while they’re skimming through your résumé.
Ps – Run a Grammarly check on your resume to ensure that there aren’t any grammatical errors.
Do not exaggerate. Ever. If you have contributed a major part in a particular project, don’t say that you lead the project. There have been instances where the candidate has been almost selected and then rejected due to exaggerating.
Once such instance is, the candidate that the HR wanted to hire has listed a Bachelor’s degree on her résumé. When they ran a background check, it was discovered that she had never actually received her degree certificate. Even though she had completed all of the credits she was denied the degree due to outstanding library fines. Instead, if the candidate had written something like, “completed all 130 credits towards a Bachelor’s degree in <course name>”, that would have matched the check done by the employer, and she would have got the job.
Always customize your résumé for each company that you are applying for. It might be tempting to just make one generic résumé and send it out to all the companies that you’re applying to, but that’s not going to help. What you need is a customized résumé to fit different roles that you’re applying to. Make sure that your résumé has the keywords and key qualities that are required for the particular position.
These days most résumés are reviewed electronically before a human sees them. So if your résumé doesn’t have the keywords that match the job, it may not pass the electronic screening. If you’re really interested in getting the job, you would definitely be willing to put in the effort to customize your résumé and change the highlights for each role.
You could also go a step further and give it an outstanding creative bend. If there’s too much information that is important and can’t be eliminated, make it an infographic so it’s easy on the eyes.
4. Stuffing Keywords and Cramming Information
While it is important for your résumé to have the keywords for the job so it passes the electronic screening, remember that the one who’s actually going to call you and hire you is a real human being. Don’t stuff your résumé with keywords, let it be easy to read and understand. Speaking about it being easy to read, use a font that’s easy on the eye and a size that won’t make the HR strain their eyes. A résumé in small font could irritate the HR and make them view your profile from a more critical angle.
5. Discard the Objective, Replace it with a Professional Summary
If your résumé still has an objective like “find an entry-level position in sales” at the top, scrap it right away. Some recruiters say that the biggest mistake that a candidate can make while applying for a job is to write an objective. Instead of telling the recruiter that you want a job, show them why you’d be apt for the role. Write a professional summary that resonates who you are as a professional and the skill sets that you have to offer. Think of the professional summary as an introduction to yourself that gives a brief insight into your professional life. It should catch the recruiter’s interest and entice him/her to read your whole résumé.
However, some recruiters say that an objective is required when you are making a huge career change. Say you’re making a shift from marketing to PR, then you could give a clear explanation that you’re transitioning roles and have the necessary transferable skills.
6. Beware of Giving Yourself a Title
Sometimes you tend to perform the responsibilities of another designation even though you don’t have the title. In such situations, you need to be careful and not go ahead and claim for yourself a designation that hasn’t been formally given to you. There was an incident where the HR came across the profile of a candidate who did not list a title but whose responsibilities corresponded to those of a director of development. During the background check, it was discovered that the director had left and she had taken over the role but without the title. She took the right move by leaving out the title. Had she mentioned the title, when the background check was run, there would’ve been a mismatch with the title.
While you’re being wary of not giving yourself a title, be careful not to undermine yourself due to the lack of a title. Use smart ways to grab the recruiter’s attention with your responsibilities and accomplishments that you earned, but make sure that you’re speaking the truth and not going overboard. The candidate could have used a powerful line like, “development team of one, in charge of $250k fundraising target”.
7. Show, Don’t Tell
If you claim that you know something in your résumé, follow it up with an example of when you used it. For example, you say that you have stated management as one of your skills/responsibilities, go on to specify the size of the team, scope of the project, and the size of the budget (if it had a budget). Or if you have listed HTML programming, list the job at which you used it substantively. You don’t need to give a paragraph long description. Save the long description for the interview. A one-line description that conveys the specifics of the project should do. And if you can’t think of an example to substantiate your skill, it might be best to leave it out. The hiring manager would prefer skills that have evidence.
8. Include Personal Accomplishments & Volunteer Work
If you have done something cool in your personal life that could imply that you have a certain technical or soft skill, put it on your résumé. Winning a chess championship could imply that you are good at strategizing. If you like adventure sports and participate in them from time-to-time or participate in debates, you can add that as well. Certain personal accomplishments indicate rare qualities and skills that are sought after by hiring managers.
When it comes to non-work experience like volunteering, you can include it in your résumé if it has taken up a significant amount of your time or has nurtured certain skills that are suitable for the job role. You can also include side projects, temp gigs, or pro bono work so that your résumé adds can have personality.
9. Add Social Media Links
Most people send out their résumé as a standalone document. Add your professional social media links to it. You could add your LinkedIn profile, blog, or personal website’s URL. The best part about adding the link to your LinkedIn profile is that the recruiter can check the skills that you have listed and also see who has endorsed which ones. Plus, there’s no upper limit on stating your professional experience on LinkedIn, unlike your résumé. Personal websites and blogs also give the hiring manager deeper insights into you. Adding social media links could also give an impression of being transparent.
10. Use Powerful Verbs & Avoid Negative Words
Words like ‘handled’, ‘led’, ‘managed’ have been used way too often in résumés that they seem to have lost their power. When describing your work, switch to powerful verbs like ‘administered’, ‘charted’, ‘initiated’, ‘maximized’ and ‘consolidated’. They make you look competent and confident as well.
Also, be careful not to use words that have negative tones even if you’re using them to describe a positive situation. Using phrases like “solved a floor-wide communication problem” or “met aggressive targets” could make the recruiter view you with a dim perspective. You could rephrase the previous lines into something like “proposed solution to make communication on the floor easier and quicker” or “delivered ambitious sales volume”.
11. Highlight & Personality
While you’re busy enhancing your résumé and making it look good and enticing for the recruiter to read, don’t lose focus on the content. Unless you’re a designer, then you really need to focus on the design as your résumé itself would portray your design skills.
Ensure that you highlight the right information. Highlighting for the sake of highlighting won’t make your most important/relevant achievements stand out. Also don’t highlight too much, make sure that the design is easy on the reader’s eyes and can be read easily.
Though it is quite inviting to add multiple roles at one company, you mustn’t do it. Highlighting the different roles at one company tells a lot about whether you were promoted at that company or if you were comfortable with transitioning your role. You need to make your qualities and skills stand out without compromising on the appeal of your résumé.
12. Delete the Extras
Omit anything unnecessary. Extra words, school achievements (not if you’re a fresher), irrelevant non-work experiences, and anything that doesn’t really need to be put there. Excess of random information or redundant information dilutes the impact of the important points in the recruiter’s mind.
Also, be careful to not mention volunteering work with controversial groups or organizations. For example, you volunteered to fundraise for a politician, it might be best to leave it out. If you volunteered for a Democrat but the interviewer is Republican, it might create unnecessary dislike or an opinion that isn’t very favorable. Another point to keep in mind is that although it is illegal to discriminate against a candidate because of their age, gender, marital status, religion, race, color, or national origin, it doesn’t mean that such things don’t happen subconsciously. Avoid leaving traces of such details on your résumé.
When updating your résumé or writing a new one, make sure to keep these points in mind. Once you’re done editing it and adding the final touches, read through it with a fresh mind. Check whether you’ve missed out on any of the above points. You can also go through our article on helpful interview tips to help you prepare for that interview call.
If you’d like additional tips, you can interact with people in similar situations or experts in this field on our Community Forums. You can also clarify queries regarding unemployment insurance.