Back to Basics: Top 10 Tips for a Tip-Top Resume

by Anya Jennings on December 29, 2009

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Your resume is the first thing a prospective employer sees, and in this economy, every employer is likely to see a lot of them. Use these tips to make yours effective…and memorable.


1. Call in the Grammar Police

Typos are unbelievably common, and most people are blind to their own mistakes.  Before you send your resume out, run it past someone with a superior grasp of grammar and spelling. Even a small mistake can send up a red flag to an employer. If you are careless with your own resume, how careless will you be with company information? Make it perfect.

2. Watch the formatting

Formatting involves more than just font style; consider colors, backgrounds, and contrast. Many preformatted resume templates contain elements that won’t scan, and most large companies and recruiters use application tracking systems (ATS), scanning software that save resumes to a database. If your resume won’t scan, it won’t be considered, and you won’t know why you didn’t get a call.

3. Truth is golden

Or is that silence? In any case, don’t lie. No matter how badly you want the job or how tempting it is to embellish your hireability factor, don’t do it. Information is way too easy to verify these days. You’ll get caught.

4. Duties are dull. List your kudos

A potential employer doesn’t really need to know how many hours you spent each day doing mundane tasks. List your accomplishments. Cite examples of ideas and workflow improvements that led to quantifiable results, like more sales or improved efficiency. Show him the sort of innovation that you can bring to the table.

5. Punch up your writing

One of the cardinal rules of good writing: avoid passive speech, it’s boring! And one of the most overused phrases on resumes is “I was responsible for [duties]” To avoid a yawn-a-thon and stand out from the pile, use strong action verbs, and lots of nouns. “As Project Manager, I oversaw every facet of production from idea to implementation.”

6. Tell them what they want to know

The first thing under your contact information should be a list of your pertinent qualifications. Make it three to five one-sentence bullet points that describe your most desirable qualifications for this job. For best result, read the job expectations and stay as close to those specific points as you can while keeping to the truth.

7. Technically speaking…

Your resume should advertise what your selling points are. Add a section for Technical Expertise to highlight your technical skill set. Proficiencies can be categorized in logical groupings:
Hardware, Software, Programming Language Proficiency, Networking, Operating Systems, Peripherals, etc. You can also include earned certifications in this heading.

8. Practice good SEO

Scanned resumes are often located by keyword much like web searches, so make sure that relevant keywords are included in your resume text.

9. Get organized

Use headers to organize your information into separate sections for better accessibility.

10. Customize

Resumes should be individually customized to fit the job you’re applying for. One generic resume might be more efficient, but employers want to see information specifically tailored to answer their needs. It’s worth the extra time to edit parts of your resume to make sure it conveys how very right you are for this job.

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