When you're looking for a job, one of the best things you can do is focus on differentiation. To achieve this, put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager who will review your application.
What does their day look like?
How many resumes have they gone through?
How much pressure are they under to recruit someone for that role?
Imagine how HR specialists see things like "one-sentence resumes" and resumes that use a different font for every line. Sounds outlandish, doesn't it? Still, candidates make these mistakes frequently, as this CareerBuilder survey reveals. (Keep that link handy—we'll reference it a few times in this post.)
When you look at your application from a hiring manager's perspective, you learn how to:
- build a resume that stands out from the rest.
- highlight your experience in a way that applies to the role you're pursuing.
- find the right match between their needs and yours, so you get to the next recruitment stage.
It helps to see good resume examples you can use for inspiration or as a template for your own creation. They help you build a more effective resume—and do it faster, so you don't miss any important job opportunities.
Here are the most effective writing tips you can use to make your application compelling and effective. This rundown also packs in some great resume examples you can use right away.
Resume writing guide: 12 tips that make you a top candidate
The best resume examples reveal a difference in mindset. As you'll see, many of them include a combination of the elements outlined below, ready for you to use.
Before you dig in, remember this: Your resume is not a formality, nor is it a power play. It's the first step towards building a trusting relationship with your potential employer.
Your resume is not a formality, nor is it a power play. The best resume examples reveal a difference in mindset. [Click to tweet ]
Now, let's see what you should focus on in your resume.
1. Keep it short and relevant
Everyone's busy, so follow this simple rule: Avoid fluff and filler details in your resume. Apply these simple writing tips to make your writing clear and to the point:
Never use a section when a paragraph will do.
Never use a paragraph when a sentence will do.
Never use a sentence when a phrase will do.
Never use a phrase when a word will do.
This way, a long resume won't feel overwhelming to read, and a short one will better emphasize what qualifies you for the open position.
Include these main sections in your resume to make an impression.
- Use a headline as your pitch to differentiate yourself from other applicants.
- List up-to-date, professional contact info (not your teenaged @yahoo.com email) and make it easy for the recruiter to get in touch.
- Feature your education to provide context and show what type of background you have.
- Emphasize your experience to give your employer a relevant overview of how compatible you are with the role they're hiring for.
- Mention activities where you used or developed your leadership skills to point out your potential in this area.
- Include skills (hard & soft) and certifications that prove your commitment to constant professional and personal development.
What you do matters—but how you do it separates professionals from amateurs. Keep that in mind as you build your new resume template.
2. Make it about your future employer
Instead of just writing about what you want to highlight about yourself, try addressing your employer's needs.
Look at the job description and match your experience to what they're looking for.
Honesty is the best policy, as 75% of hiring managers have caught a lie on a resume, according to CareerBuilder.
3. Update your contact details to 2019
Your email service provider reveals how adept you are with technology. Even if you're applying for a non-technical role, ditching your old Yahoo email address benefits you. HR managers say it too: 35% of them find an unprofessional email address off-putting.
Including your phone number and current address are standard, so go the extra step: Link to your LinkedIn profile, personal blog or website.
Remember to be mindful of what you share on social media and everywhere online. If you're going to the next recruitment stage, your employer will most likely google you. When's the last time you did that yourself? (Yes, we are giving you permission.)
4. Be specific about your experience
Results speak for themselves, so you definitely want to highlight them in your resume. Think like a data analyst and describe your accomplishments in numbers.
A resume expert reveals what a perfect resume looks like
Avoid vague phrasing such as "handled project management." Instead, phrase it closer to this: "owned the project management process that delivered [results] to X customers on time and on budget." More than a third of hiring managers consider a resume without quantifiable results bad form.
5. Give your skills a visual dimension
CareerBuilder's report discovered that "39% of hiring managers said they spend less than a minute looking at a resume, and 23% spend less than 30 seconds."
You only have a few seconds to make an impression, so maximize that with a professional touch.
The most eye-catching resume templates include a visual scale for displaying your proficiency in various areas. Here are two examples that do it well:
6. Prove your commitment to continuous growth
Two of the essential skills worth mastering in 2019 and beyond are:
- the ability to learn constantly.
- the flexibility to adapt to new challenges.
These traits are part of the growth mindset. Employers value this mindset because many of them believe in hiring for attitude and training for skills. Even if you're under-qualified, proving you're eager to learn can compensate for your lack of experience.
List professional certifications relevant for the position you're applying for and show you have a growth mindset.
7. Highlight personal projects that helped you evolve
What we do outside work shapes us as professionals just as much as our job influences our personal development. It's 2019, so upholding an artificial separation between the two doesn't make sense (it never did).
Use your volunteering experience and your hobbies to show how you cross-pollinate your know-how and skills to evolve as a professional.
8. Make your resume clickable
Unless you're sending a printed resume, there's no reason to dismiss the advantages of PDF and other electronic formats.
An interactive application puts you ahead of the pack and guides recruiting managers to all your online assets.
Link to your articles, blog, website, portfolio, or even your social media channels if they speak to the role you're trying to fill.
9. Build in social proof
To get the hiring manager's or HR assistant's trust, use testimonials that support your expertise and work ethic.
Pull the most relevant LinkedIn recommendations you have and integrate them directly into your resume. Do you have none? Ask past managers and colleagues to leave one. Better yet, pay it forward and send them recommendations, creating the context for reciprocity.
If you have side-projects you're proud of, list the brand names you worked with. Include screenshots, comments, and any other nice things people said about you and your abilities.
10. Tailor your resume to the industry and role you're applying for
The level of creativity you can apply to your resume depends on your field of expertise.
For example, resume samples from finance or law reveal more conservative approaches. You can still use all the tips listed above, but keep your resume design simple and unpretentious.
Focus on different aspects of your expertise and abilities if you're applying for a management role versus an individual contributor. This will significantly improve your chances.
When everyone submits the same resume for every opening, yours will surely attract more attention.
11. Ditch your dusty template
With so many professional resume examples to choose from, empower yourself to build an application that helps you shine. This is your chance to build your own micro-brand.
Here's how you do it:
- Choose an eye-catching template that's easy to scan.
- Use color to make it yours—stick to 2-3 colors and keep it simple.
- Lay out the details in a way that's both professional and thoughtful.
- Choose fonts that are simple and easy on the eyes.
- Make sure it looks good both on desktop and mobile.
- Use language that feels natural and authentic without going to extremes (too formal or too informal).
When you pay attention to the details, you show your employer that you're a professional in every way.
You can also experiment with a non-traditional resume and use an infographic, video, or even a social media format.
For example, one candidate set up a website, inviting their future employer to a webinar with the following call to action: "Register for the Free Webinar on Why You Should Hire Me."
He also used free credits from various ad platforms to target employees at the company he wanted to work for.
And the results? Here's how he tells the story:
Being someone with almost no actual experience in inbound marketing and no college degree applying to a startup that invented inbound marketing in a city where they could recruit at will from Harvard, MIT, and other top schools — I never actually thought that I'd get hired here.
This was actually quite liberating for me! It meant that I could do whatever weird things I wanted to do. Since I wasn't going to get hired anyways, it didn't really matter if people thought I was bizarre or were irritated by me not going through the normal channels.
So I built a basic (and terribly optimized, now that I know what I'm doing) landing page at HireMeHubSpot.com and used free credits for AdWords, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn Ads to target HubSpot employees to "Register for the Free Webinar on Why You Should Hire Me."
3 hours and 26 minutes after I pushed the ads live I got a call from their recruiter.
As Sam proves, a little creativity goes a long way.
12. Get feedback and improve it
After spending so much time working on your resume, you might be too close to the fire and miss crucial details.
Ask friends, mentors or other peers to look at your resume and give you feedback. They'll help you see blind spots, add missing information, and even tell you if you're overdoing it or under-representing yourself.
Also, if you have a friend who works in HR or management, their input could reveal useful angles to include in your resume.
Tap into your circle of friends and acquaintances and harness the power of constructive feedback.
Resume examples that show you how to organize information
Start with a headline and use this phrase to point out your value as a candidate.
Include a profile statement. This is a summary that talks about your abilities, experience, and goals relevant for the role you're applying for.
For your professional background, reverse-chronological order works best. What you did up to the present moment matters more to an employer than your first job, so keep this in mind.
Choose a functional approach to highlight your skills and accomplishments. Candidates sometimes choose this instead of outlining work history in reverse chronological order.
Naturally, you can also combine the two techniques.
When you write about your experience, touch on these key aspects:
- What you did (task, project, etc.)
- How you did it (strategy, tactics, tools, skills, motivations)
- Who you did it with (peers, superiors, external service providers, etc.)
- Results that came out of it (numbers, impact, your contribution)
Think like a marketer: Look at similar openings on job boards or LinkedIn and make a list of keywords relevant to the position you're looking to fill. Incorporate those keywords into your resume in a way that shows you speak their language and understand your employer's needs.
Use bullet points and short paragraphs to organize the details on your resume and make it easy to scan. Short phrases help keep your writing clear and to the point. A quarter of HR specialists consider long paragraphs to be instant deal-breakers.
Remember to do a thorough grammar check, as 77% of hiring managers list typos and bad grammar as deal-breakers.
Focus on action verbs and avoid passive voice as much as possible. You want your resume to inspire energy and drive, not to feel dull and cold.