How to Make Your Resume Look Good (With Strategies and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated January 22, 2023

Published November 5, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Optimizing your resume can help you present yourself professionally and make an excellent first impression. This document lists your work experience, academic history, and introduces both you and your qualifications to prospective employers. Learning how to make your resume look good can help attract a hiring manager's attention and improve your chances of securing an interview. In this article, we discuss the importance of making your resume look good, explore the three standard resume structures, explain how to make your resume look good, discuss essential themes of effective resumes, and explain the action, context, outcome model for writing engaging resumes.

Related: How to Write a Resume

How to make your resume look good

Follow these steps and learn how to make your resume look good and more noticeable for the hiring manager:

1. Plan your writing

Gather all the information you want to include on your resume and think about the most notable skills and experience you want to highlight. Take some time to learn about the company by visiting their website and rereading the job posting. Learn about the company's values and activities that support the local community and use this information to write your resume using similar keywords.

2. Format your resume

Make sure that your resume is easy to read so that the hiring manager or recruiter can focus on content. Pay attention to formatting details such as selecting an easy-to-read font and font size and using standard one-inch margins and consistent bullet list styles. You can consider using a template to ensure you have a professionally formatted document. There are typically formatting templates on word processing or graphic design software that you can use as a guide to help you as you write. Using other resumes as a reference can provide some inspiration when making your resume unique.

Relate: How to Write a Simple Resume (With Template and Example)

3. Write clearly

Write in complete sentences unless you're using bullet points. Pay attention to writing details such as spelling, grammar, and use terminology the reader understands. Try to keep your resume to a maximum of two pages by staying on topic and only including relevant information. Short sentences are effective and make the document easy for hiring managers to read.

You can make your resume more dynamic and upbeat by using descriptive action verbs at the beginning of sentences and bullet points. Making the verb more prominent in the sentence by placing it at the beginning helps to increase reader interest.

4. Include a cover letter

Including a cover letter with your resume is an opportunity to highlight why you're the best possible candidate for the job. If the posting requests a cover letter along with your resume, limit it to one page, and aim to elaborate on your resume with more unique information. You can also use the cover letter to share some of your personality while keeping your message professional.

Ensure that you keep a copy of both your cover letter and resume so that you can refer to them later if necessary. If applying to a different job in the future, you can always use your saved resume as a starting template for the new job.

5. Proofread and edit

Before sending your resume, make sure you proofread it and correct any errors. Consider using the spell and grammar check tools in your word processing document and asking someone you know to proofread it and offer feedback. A well-written and error-free resume creates a great first impression and can increase your chances of receiving an invitation to interview.

Related: How to Write a Targeted Resume in Five Steps (With Examples)

Importance of making your resume look good

Learning how to make your resume look excellent helps you to achieve the two primary goals of any job search. First, the hiring manager or recruiter reads and shortlists your resume. Second, that you receive an invitation for an interview.

Sending a professional and well-prepared resume with your contact information at the top makes it easier for the hiring manager to locate. When your resume looks good and is easy to read, it helps prospective employers understand your professional history, likely encouraging them to shortlist you for an interview. Ensure that you have done everything possible to be considered for the position by presenting a professional resume. Formatting and layout, including accuracy of all spelling and grammar, are essential parts of the process.

Related: How to Introduce Yourself in a Professional Setting

Standard resume structures

Resumes typically follow one of three basic structures:

Chronological resume

A chronological resume lists your career history, education, and training in order of date, starting with the most current date in each section. By presenting this information prominently, you focus the reader's attention on your related work experience, training, and skills.

Chronological resumes feature your most recent experience first. They also demonstrate career growth well, such as working successfully in progressively towards more senior positions or in more complex problem-solving situations. The use of bullet points makes detailed information easier to find when a hiring manager or reviews your resume. As it's one of the most common resume structures, it's easy to read and understand.

Functional resume

A functional resume focuses on experiences, skills, achievements, and other attributes rather than on work history. This is useful when you lack work experience, such as when you're starting or changing careers, or when you have a gap in your work history.

A functional resume focuses on talents, skills, and accomplishments you want to highlight, along with examples of work you did that demonstrate those skills. If you have various but unrelated work experiences, functional resumes allow you to focus on transferable skills and on the personal qualities required for the job. They tend to suit creative jobs better, and people just starting their careers, as they are more focused on skills rather than work history.

Combination resume

A combination resume weaves together some of the formatting and benefits of both chronological and functional resumes. This resume structure is particularly effective for emphasizing your professional history and demonstrating a particular skill set. If you're seeking a more senior position requiring specialized skills, combination resumes allow you to highlight both your skills and related work experience.

Related: How to Make Your Resume Stand Out to Employers (With Tips)

Essential themes of effective resumes

There are four overarching themes for you to consider as effective ways to make your resume look good and stand out. These are:

  • Establish a value proposition. You can develop a resume with a value proposition that tells a hiring manager why you're the best candidate for the job. Throughout your resume, focus on your authentic professional identity, relate your skills and experience to the job, and demonstrate your ability to achieve results or be successful.

  • Share something unique. Distinguishing your resume from other candidates requires finding creative ways to share your story. If you can effectively include something unique about yourself, it may give you an advantage over others and start a conversation during an interview.

  • Tailor your message. Use your resume to explain your career progression and feature all your proudest moments. Highlight your strengths and qualifications by relating them to the job.

  • Focus on results. Throughout your resume, focus on results and successes, particularly for skills that the job requires. Write strong sentences and bullet lists by using the action, context, and outcome model.

  • Use keywords effectively. Scan the job posting, company website, and professional association websites for keywords unique to the job and industry. Using those keywords appropriately in your resume demonstrates your understanding of the role and helps to meet the requirements of application tracking system (ATS) software.

  • Be available. When the hiring manager or recruiter contact you after reviewing your resume, make sure that your return calls or respond to emails quickly. Being responsive is another critical characteristic of professionalism.

  • Ad**apt to the future of work.** The skills required to be successful in any field are constantly changing. Keep yourself informed about any changes in the industry and make it a specific point to highlight future skills on your resume.

Related: Tips From a Recruiter: How to Stand Out When Changing Careers

Action, context, outcome model

The action, context, outcome model is a format you can use on your resume that helps your resume to stand out by highlighting your skills.

  • Action: Begin with a descriptive verb.

  • Context: Describe your usual role regarding the action.

  • Outcome: Conclude by highlighting your skills, accomplishments, and ability to be successful.

For example, if you wanted to highlight your data entry experience, customer service skills, and ability to develop marketing strategies, you might use this model to make these experiences and abilities more engaging for the reader:

  • Maintained data entry accuracy at 98% for the past two years.

  • Honed client service delivery skills achieving a 95% satisfaction score.

  • Led the implementation of a new marketing strategy across four social media channels.

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