How to Improve Your Resume: 10 Tips

If you’re looking for a new job, tuning up your resume is an important first step. In fact, even if you’re not looking for a new job, it’s always a good idea to keep your resume fresh.

If you haven’t done a resume in a number of years, it can feel like a major hurdle in making the career change you long for. Don’t let it be! The information below will give you conceptual advice, and plenty of resources exist to help you nail down the specifics so you can create a document that presents you at your professional best.

Here are a few tips to make your resume the best it can be:

1. Do research for your particular field before changing your resume. Different professions have different standards, and what’s normal for lawyers might not work for the tech industry. Google it, ask questions on LinkedIn, and generally do your due diligence so you look current and professional.

For example, including an interests/goals section at the top goes in and out of style and can be industry specific. Make sure your resume reflects the norm in your profession.

2. Use more than one page if your background and experience warrant it. Generally, if you’ve been out of school and in the workplace for more than a couple of years, you can go to two pages.  I’ve had lawyers 20+ years out try using a one-page document: That only does you and your credentials a disservice. It’s a myth that you need to stay to one page (once you’ve had some work experience).

3. Don’t put your academic credentials at the top once you have work experience. Employers are generally more interested in seeing what you can do for them, and that normally means the specific qualifications and skills you offer, not your class rank. The upside to this is that you no longer have to figure out how to make “top 75 percent” of your class sound good!

4. Keep in mind that your career counselor at your university may not know the latest trends and give you the quality of advice that you need. Or he or she might.  But it’s always a good idea to do your own research, since no one cares as much about your career as you do.

5. Deal with gaps in a straightforward way. Emphasize how you’ve remained/brought yourself current if, for example, you took time off to raise a child.  Gaps will eventually come up during the interview process, so you might as well deal with them head-on to save yourself time if they’re going to be a deal breaker.  Focus on what you have to offer the employer, being as specific as you can be.

Use a format that best reflects what you have to offer in terms of experience (chronological vs. functional, for example), but the bottom line is to be straight forward and proactive, addressing any questions before HR or the hiring committee has a chance to ask them.

6. Deal with the “anti-gap” problem the same way: Proactively explaining the reasons you’ve changed jobs 3 times in 5 years will go a long way toward getting over the job-jumping hurdle.

7. Find commonalities if you’re looking to change fields.  Do your old profession and your new both emphasize good people skills? (I’ll bet you can make that argument…).  Do your dedication, ability to work hard, and desire to get the job done transfer? (I’ll bet they do….).  Changing careers presents particular issues, but the foundation is to sell yourself to your new field based on your experience in your former.

8. Be specific. Regardless of whether you have gaps in your resume, are changing professions, or have an enviable employment history, you want to give specific, measurable information and results to demonstrate the benefits you bring to the employer. Winners are winners, and good management will recognize that. And you don’t want to work for bad management anyway, right? Selling yourself is doubly important for C-level executives.  Make them love you so you hold the bargaining power when it comes time to negotiate.

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9. Use the keywords from the job description. The further along in your career that you are, the less important this becomes. But early on, HR departments receive a lot of applicants, and it’s become common practice to use software to scan the submissions. That software looks for keywords that match the qualifications for the job.

10. Don’t use goofy fonts, funky paper, or anything else that you deem creative, but will sabotage your career.

For more information and details on formatting your resume, go here.


How to Improve Your Resume: 10 Tips — 2 Comments

  1. Great advice. I lhave over 20 years expeience in my field of retail customer service. I recently finished my under grad degree. does my education go at the top of my resume or the bottom?

  2. Congratulations on going back to school — not an easy thing to do! Anyway, it depends. If you’re applying for a position in retail customer service, or anything related to that (some sort of retail mgt, for example), I’d suggest putting your education at the bottom. If you’re looking to move into a completely unrelated field, I’d put it at the top. But if you can figure out how to tie in your customer service background in any remote way to a new position, I’d put the education last. Employers want to see what you can do for them, and although a good education is great, at the end of the day it doesn’t give you a lot of practical skills.