Resumes & Cover Letters

14 Resume Writing Tips to Help You Land a Job

August 25, 2020

A well-written and appealing resume is important to gain the attention of hiring managers. In order to create the right resume for your qualifications, you should know what format to use and what to include. In this article, we review some basic resume writing tips and an example to help you start writing your own resume.

Resume writing tips

Follow these suggestions when writing your resume:

  • Choose the best resume format
  • Customize your resume
  • Avoid complex documents
  • Use a standard font
  • Use standard margins
  • Keep subheadings to a minimum
  • Research templates
  • Know what to include
  • Find examples
  • Keep it short
  • Use keywords
  • Use active language
  • Use numbers
  • Proofread and edit

Choose the best resume format

There are different types of resumes, and each has strengths for your needs. Depending on your professional circumstances, you can choose between chronological, functional, combination or targeted resumes. Decide on one that fits your work experience, educational background and skills.

  • Chronological resume: This type of resume lists your education and experience in reverse chronological order with your current job at the top. It's easy for hiring managers to read chronological resumes quickly. This resume is easy for automatic resume scanning software to scan. Chronological resumes are good for people who have experience in their industries.
  • Functional resume: Functional resumes are resumes focusing on skills and education. These resumes focus on what you have learned from your education as well as the skills you have developed. Functional resumes are good for people with employment gaps in their careers or people new to the job market.
  • Combination resume: A combination resume is a resume blending a functional resume and a chronological resume. Combination resumes are good for those who have strong job experience or those who are changing careers. A combination resume is best for those who are senior executives or for those who are changing careers.
  • Targeted resume: Targeted resumes are resumes that you would use to apply for a specific job. In a targeted resume, you use keywords found in the job advertisement. Specific keywords are useful for getting your resume past automatic resume scanning software. A targeted resume should be filled with keywords to focus on the automatic resume scanning software algorithms and appeal to a hiring manager that will see the resume after the automatic sorting.

Customize your resume

To get the attention of the hiring manager, you should use different resumes for each job application. Hiring managers want to see if you have read the job advertisement and understand the responsibilities of the position. Furthermore, automatic resume scanning software uses algorithms to sort through job applications. A generic resume might not hit all of the relevant keywords the scanning software is programmed to search for. Before writing your resume, search through the job posting for specific words and responsibilities.

Avoid complex documents

Use a plain black and white format for your resume. Application filtering software may have trouble scanning documents that have borders, shading, colours and backgrounds. You can use professional colours, like gray, navy, or dark green on your resume when you give to hiring managers in person during an interview.

Use a standard font

Be sure to use common fonts such as Arial or Courier. For the font size, 11- or 12-point font is the most standard and helps for easy reading. Simple fonts are also easier for automatic resume scanning software to read.

Use standard margins

Use 2.5-cm margins on all sides of the resume a single space for paragraph formatting. If you find that you have a lot of blank space, you can use 1.15- or 1.5-point spaces. However, don't leave blank spaces between paragraphs.

Keep subheadings to a minimum

Use just enough subheadings to describe your professional and academic experience and skills. If you are a senior executive, for example, list "Education and Professional Experience" in one section. If you are new to the job market, highlight relevant coursework, education achievements and other experiences such as internships or extracurricular projects that match the skills needed in the job advertisement.

Research templates

Use resume templates if you are unsure about which format would look best for your experience. Look for resume templates that follow the rules of using a plain black and white format with Arial or Courier 11- or 12-point font and single-space paragraph formatting.

Know what to include

There are a few essentials that you need to include in your resume:

  • Contact information: Add your name, phone number, email address and physical address at the top of your resume.
  • Experience: You'll likely need to list the name of the company, the dates you worked there, your job title and a brief description of your duties for each entry.
  • Education: List your most recent or relevant education first. Include the name of the university, your degree and if you want, the date you graduated.
  • Skills: Add any relevant hard and soft skills you have. Try to order them by proficiency, or you can order them based on the relevance in the job description.
  • Certifications and licenses: If your job requires a certification or license, you can either list it at the top of your resume with your contact information or in a new section.

You can order these sections based on the type of resume format you use or based on importance.

Find examples

Research examples of resumes in your industry. For example, if you are a writer, look at examples of writer resumes, but use your own words, skills and experiences to write your resume. These examples show the type of wording and flow that professionals in your field use.

Keep it short

Make your resume short. One page is best, but two-page resumes are acceptable. Many hiring managers want to be able to quickly scan your resume to find a few highlights, and a short resume makes it easier for them to do this.

Use keywords

Look for keywords relevant to the position when you read a job advertisement. For example, a business analyst position might have data analysis and business intelligence software listed in the description. Add these skills or software if you possess the experience.Use just a few keywords. Software detects if the keywords are placed logically in the document. It's best to include keywords in sections that discuss your skills and accomplishments.

Use active language

Use active language, and keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Power words such as “achieved,” “earned,” and “accomplished" are best. A good example of active language would be, “Led team of four people on database project, and accomplished the target date for project completion.”

Use numbers

Use numbers and data in your resume. Numbers in a resume are a quick and measurable attribute hiring managers use to look at candidates. For example, a salesperson may write, “Led team of three to increase sales by 80% in the company's last quarter.”

Proofread and edit

The last step you should take before you send a resume to a hiring manager is to proofread your resume for grammar and spelling to ensure there are no errors. There are several proofreading for grammar and spelling tools available to check your resume.

You can also ask someone, such as a friend or a coworker, to check your resume for grammatical and spelling errors. They can also offer input on how the resume looks and flows to make it more appealing.

Resume example

Review this example to see the basic layout of a common resume format:

Penny Winegarden

pwinegarden@email.com

604-234-1223

Vancouver, BC

Education

The University of Vancouver | Master of Arts in Business and Professional Communication

The University of Vancouver | B.A. in Technical Communications

University of Vancouver | Certificate in Technical Writing

Professional Experience

Oak House Publishing, Vancouver, BC | Senior Technical Writer, September 2018 – Present

  • Works as a senior technical writer supervising a team of five writers. Trains writers about company style and supervises final edits of computer manual writing.

ACME Publishing, Vancouver, BC | Technical Writer, September 2016 – September 2018

  • Worked as a technical writer for a software engineering manual using an in-house company style.

Quorum Holdings, Vancouver, BC | Technical Writer, June 2015 – September 2016

  • Worked as a technical writer with a team of four writers writing a software training manual.

Volunteer Experience

Writing Coach Vancouver Boys and Girls Club, September 2018 – Present

  • Coaches and mentors middle school students for the club's youth newsletter. Teaches basic journalism skills and newsletter format during afternoon club sessions.

Chapter President, Society for Technical Communication September 2018 – Present

  • Acting chapter president for Vancouver, BC chapter for the Society for Technical Communication. Leads meetings, participates in fundraising and oversees staff for the chapter. Liaison between chapter and technical businesses for fundraising.

meta: Follow these resume tips and example to create a well-written resume that employers will want to read.

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