Writing a resume can be tedious and confusing, so let’s make the process a little less painful and lot clearer! After all, resumes are a key factor in searching for a job and having one that is well-written and formatted will go a long way. Informed by experts in the field, here’s a checklist for writing a resume with lots of tips and tricks that will put you on track to being a pro:
Resume Writing Checklist
- Show results
- Highlight applicable skills and education
- Put your most recent job first
- Indicate if a job was contract
- Check formatting for readability
- Double-check spelling and grammar
- Make sure it’s not too long
1. Show Results
Resumes are a summary of what you’ve done throughout your career, but it doesn’t stop there.
While describing your duties in a role is a great place to start, what employers and recruiters really want to see are results: quantifiable statements that show what you accomplished in a role that was beneficial to the organization. In other words, you said you did something… so what did you do? Employers really appreciate and value this.
Take the following example:
Wrote copy for the company website, including case studies, blogs and news releases.
Yes, this sentence describes duties the author had in their role, but it falls flat of showing results. So, what were the results? What did their writing do to benefit the organization? An easy way to fix this is to add the phrase “resulting in” to the end of a sentence, then complete the idea. Think: “Wrote copy for the company website, resulting in…?” and then finish the sentence like below:
Wrote copy for the company website, including case studies, blogs and news releases, resulting in a 50% increase in website traffic over 3 months.
It’s important to note that this technique does not only apply to more senior or executive-level roles, but can also benefit resumes in any context. Even if you don’t have a specific number or percentage to show, you can still use this language to have a similar effect. For example:
Aided in maintaining the appearance of the sales floor and provided great customer service to clients, boosting sales and increasing customer satisfaction.
2. Highlight Applicable Skills or Education at The Top
It’s no secret that resume reviewers generally do not spend a lot of time on a single resume. Because of this, you’ll want to highlight key skills or other qualifications that make you a great candidate at the top of the document.
What qualifications make you a great candidate is certainly case-by-case and will likely need to be tailored toward the specific job to which you’re applying. Options include a simple list of key skills, your educational background–particularly for recent grads–or even your work experience if that is where your resume is strongest.
3. Put Your Most Recent Job First
The above point has one caveat: Even if your most recent position is not what you want to highlight, make sure your work experience stays in reverse chronological order, meaning in order of your most recent role to your least recent role. Because this is standard for resumes, having your jobs out of reverse chronological order can confuse hiring managers into misreading your resume.
Additionally, make sure your most recent position is, in fact, your most recent position! Employers expect resumes to be as up to date as possible, so make sure to freshen up your work experience each time you hop back into the job search.
4. Indicate If a Job Was Contract
If you have any short-term contract jobs in your work history, make sure to indicate this on your resume. This can easily be done by adding “contract” to your title (e.g., “Contract Copywriter”) or the word “temporary” (Call Center Representative, temporary). Contract roles are great for building experience and can make opening doors into specific employers or industries more attainable, but having multiple two-month positions listed on your resume without indicating that they were contract may not reflect well on your dedication to a job.
5. Check Formatting for Readability
We know it can be tricky to cram your entire work history, education and skillset into a resume, but it’s important to ensure that your resume is scannable. Here are three things to look out for:
- Is the font easily readable? Make sure the font is clear and professional. Times New Roman, Arial and Helvetica are great options. DO NOT USE ALL CAPS.
- Is it scannable? Use bullet points instead of long paragraphs
- Is it easy to look at? Ensure the space between elements is enough for the eye not to be overwhelmed
To illustrate this point, here is an example of bad readability:
Dizzying, right? Let’s make it better!
Notice three things we did: We used spacing and bolded letters to differentiate elements, bullet points to make it more scannable, and a font that looks more professional and is easier to read. This allows recruiters and hiring managers to see your experience at a glance!
6. Double-Check Spelling and Grammar
It goes without saying, but your resume should be as polished and flawless as possible. To ensure maximum luster, we recommend reading your resume out loud to yourself to help catch any mistakes or clunky wording—we promise it helps!
While you’re proofreading, it’s a good idea to check your writing for brevity. If you can find a shorter way of saying something while still sounding professional, go for it! This will help you with our last tip:
7. Make Sure It’s Not Too Long
Try to keep your resume to one page. Make sure your writing is tight, your formatting is streamlined, and even play around with spacing and font sizes (not too small, though!) to make it all fit.
If you absolutely must, you can get away with two pages—particularly if you are a more senior/executive-level professional with a lot of solid experience to feature in their resume, or have chosen contract roles as your career. That being said, brevity and efficiency are key here—so do your best to keep it short!