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7 Tips for the Perfect Resume

It’s pretty exciting to find an ad for a job that feels perfect for you, right?

It’s tempting to fire off that application immediately (after all, you don’t want to miss the boat) while you’re already dreaming of your first day and spending that nice bump in your monthly salary.

But hold on a second. 

Your resume is your only chance of securing an interview, so it takes as much care, time, and thought as you’d put into any other stage of the hiring process.

You will be up against various candidates, and competition is stiff for the best jobs. Does this mean you should pack your resume with as much information as possible? Quite the opposite.

You need to stand out from the crowd, but your resume will be read by a person who has to read a LOT of resumes, and they don’t have the time to dedicate 30 minutes to reading through five pages of your most significant achievements.

With this in mind, we’ve compiled this comprehensive list of resume writing tips for ensuring it gets read, so you can give yourself the best chance of securing an interview.

How to write for ”skimmability”

Did you know recruiters spend approximately 6-10 seconds scanning your resume for the first time?

When writing your resume, you must include all the skills and experience that make you ideal for the role while quickly capturing the employer’s attention. It’s a tricky balance to strike.

Check out the following tips for how to make a resume skimmable.

Reduce and prioritize

Remember, a resume is not a CV. It should not be an exhaustive list of your every academic and professional achievement. Knowing what to prioritize on a resume is vital, and only some of your experience and qualifications are likely relevant to any job. Ensure you clearly understand what the role needs and tailor your resume accordingly — you don’t want vital info lost in reams of irrelevant content. 

A good rule of thumb is to keep your resume to no more than two pages. Some job vacancies will receive applications from hundreds of people, so recruiters don’t want to read through pages and pages of information. If you think you’ve removed everything you can and still can’t keep to two pages, try reducing page margins, making headings smaller, or reworking sentences to be written with more brevity. During proofing, you might also realize you’ve repeated points in different sections. If you can keep your resume to a single page, even better, but don’t start cutting out important information just to achieve this. 

If you previously worked in roles that aren’t as relevant to what you want to move into but don’t want to appear to have large gaps in your employment history, you can condense your resume by cutting these down to single-line summaries.

Depending on how your skills and experience match the job role, you might need to consider using a specific resume format. 

  • Reverse-chronological is the most common, putting your most recent work experience back and center. This would be most suitable if your recent roles are highly relevant to the job you’re applying for.

  • Functional (skills-based) resumes are helpful if you’re looking at a career change where your recent roles aren’t necessarily relevant. They emphasized your skills.

  • Hybrid resumes combine the best of both worlds and are ideal for applicants with lots of work experience who also want to highlight that they have the best skills in the industry.

Check out our in-depth article on the different resume formats.

Optimize “above the fold”

By above the fold, we mean the top quarter of your resume — the content they’ll see immediately without needing to scroll. 

This should be where your most important and relevant information is. Don’t let your info, like your name, email address, street address, etc., take up too much of this valuable real estate. Note that you don’t need to include personal information like gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or race either — they’re not relevant to your application.

Include relevant keywords

When a recruiter skims through your application, they look for stand-out phrases that quickly highlight your suitability for the role. 

Again, this starts by clearly understanding the job ad and what the company seeks. Reword elements of your resume to reflect the language the ad uses, but make sure you’re only doing it where relevant and not crowbarring them in. 

As well as choosing keywords based on the job description, ensure you include industry keywords in your resume. Not only do relevant keywords make it easier for recruiters to identify whether you’re right for the role quickly, but they also help you get noticed in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), but more on those later.

It’s even worth bolding phrases or words you think the employer will be looking for to make it easier for them to pick these out in those first 10 seconds.

Use bullet points

Avoid writing out your experience in long-form prose. Big paragraphs are hard to skim and likely elicit a big sigh from whoever has to read them. Instead, use bullet points in your skills and achievements sections underneath each part of your job history. You can summarize your role in a couple of sentences, but after that, you need to be listing things out.

Try to keep to no more than six bullet points for each job.

Look at industry examples

If you’re looking to secure your first job in a particular field or want to ensure you follow best practices, it’s worth looking at the best resume examples for your industry.

Industry-specific resume examples can help you find the best keywords to include, the ideal format to use, and what you can afford to omit. 

However, you shouldn’t necessarily tear your resume up and start again if you don’t think it’s similar to the different examples you find. The job description is essential, so only use resume examples as a guide, not a rigorous structure you must follow at all costs.

If you’ve built up a network of contacts from the sector, or if you know one other person working in an industry you want to work in, ask them for help crafting your CV. It’s always worth getting a second pair of eyes on your resume, especially if those people have succeeded with their resumes.

Choose a professional font

Choosing the best font for a resume is more important than you might think. Again, this comes down to employers wanting to read and understand your resume as quickly as possible. Your font should be basic and clean, but what is the most professional font?

Most employers will read your resume on a screen, which means using a web-safe font also helps.

Keep your font size between 10 and 12 points. If it’s too large, it’ll stretch your resume to more pages than it needs to be and require more scrolling; if it’s too small, it’ll be hard to read. 

You should also avoid adding too much unnecessary white space. It can make your resume look sparse, meaning the employer must scroll more through the different sections.

The professional fonts most commonly used for resumes include:

  • Raleway

  • Roboto

  • Montserrat

  • Latin

Showcase achievements  

When writing out the job history section of a resume, many people make the mistake of focusing entirely on critical responsibilities and day-to-day duties. Although these are important, they miss out on a really important element of your time at a company: your achievements.

Pick out three or four of your most important (and ideally relevant) achievements for each role you’re including. Where possible, include facts and figures to support these achievements, too. By what percentage did you exceed your targets? How much revenue did a project you worked on bring in for the company? Quantifying your successes defines that success.

You’ll probably have achieved more tangible results for some employers than others, so you might be worried that highlighting quantifiable achievements in one role makes you look like a failure in another. If your achievements aren’t evenly spread between your job history, you can add a separate section for them — but don’t bury them at the bottom of your resume!

Writing for ATS systems

So far, we’ve focused on tips for writing a resume with a human reader in mind. However, an increasing number of organizations are using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to screen candidates before they even get to a human recruiter, and a massive 75% of job applications are disqualified at this stage.

Although modern systems are getting better at understanding synonyms and the context of a resume, older ATS that rely on picking up on exact-match keywords are still in use. This is why it’s essential to read the job description closely and ensure you use the same phraseology in your resume.

Unfortunately, all the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) do not follow a uniform standard when parsing a resume and extracting the relevant text from it. A resume might be parsed perfectly by one software, and the same document might not work with another. Differences exist between different versions of the same software.

Ideally, one should apply for a job through a referral so that the resume reaches the hiring manager directly. That gives the candidate the best chance, and a standout resume & cover letter created using Resumonk helps make a great first impression.

Where to get started

That’s a lot of information to take in, isn’t it? If you thought creating an effective resume that will secure you an interview was easy, we hope you now realize it takes quite a bit more work and consideration. Fortunately, expert resume advice and support are on hand.

Create a beautifully written resume with Resumonk

Resumonk empowers job seekers to create a resume online that is beautiful and professional within minutes, while our resume templates are designed to help you stand out from the crowd and make a great first impression.

Enter your information or import your LinkedIn profile into our online resume builder, select any of our 20 resume templates, and download it as a PDF or DOCX file. You can even create a cover letter that’s designed in the same style as your resume, and there are lots of other great benefits, including:

  • The ability to host your resume on a shareable, public URL and track its visits.

  • The option to create and manage multiple resumes allows you to customize applications for different job roles.

  • Clean and transparent pricing, including a completely free option where you can choose from five templates.

  • Easy-to-use software for even the most technophobic of job seekers.

Are you ready to create a resume with Resumonk? Learn more about our AI resume builder with new features - AI Rewrites, AI Suggestions, and seamless import options from LinkedIn or PDF/DOCX files. Start your free trial today!