Want a Great Resume? Follow These Top 5 Tips

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

Your resume is your calling card - and your brand. What does it say about you? What does it convey to any potential employer? Think of it this way: you're putting a piece of paper in front of someone who knows nothing about you. They can't see you, they can't speak with you, and they only have your resume to interpret who you are and what you'd bring to a job if they hired you.

So many times, as recruiters, we see resumes that are sloppy, or not well-laid out, or missing critical information that might have moved them to the 'A' pile, but instead they ended up in the round file (garbage can). It is not up to the hiring manager to fill in the blanks, nor to try to guess what your accomplishments might have been in a particular job. That's YOUR job.

When you create your resume, you need to focus on these Top 5 Tips:

Include a summary, but ditch the objective statement

Objective statements are the old 'to gain more experience in my career' or 'to build on my education and experience' or 'to work for a great company that values my contributions'. They are useless, and do not add any value to a resume. Everyone knows why you're applying and the advantages of working for great companies that help you develop professionally. Don't waste valuable real estate (space) on your resume with content that doesn't add value or no one will read.

Instead, focus on a Summary. These are typically three to five lines at the top of your resume that tell the employer who you are and what you'd bring to the role. Here's an example: "Accomplished Tree Surgeon with 10+ years experience in arboricultural methods with a focus on pruning. Specialties include Alders and Oaks. PhD in Tree Studies from Harvard, sought after lecturer and guest speaker'.

What does that tell you about the individual? If you were hiring a Tree Surgeon, would you read on? Of course you would! (especially if you have a forest of oak trees that need pruning).

Bullet Point Your Skills

Consider that the average recruiter spends just 6 seconds skimming resumes before moving on. Would this make you rethink how you've formatted your resume? Help make it easy, and help keep the reader's eyes moving with quick bullet points that highlight your key skills. Use a table so you can have two or three rows of words across the page.

Focus on Achievements, Not Tasks

Never post a list of duties under a job you've held. It doesn't say anything about you other than you were responsible for a sundry list of items, and can look lazy especially if you actually copied and pasted the job description into your resume (big no-no). Think about not only what you did, but how you did it and what outcome it had. Compare these two lines:

  • Wrote copy for the website.


  • Authored industry specific web-site content, utilizing metrics to inform topic selection, driving reader engagement up 50%.

Quantifiable data is key; if you have statistics about how you improved something (increased customer satisfaction, reduced costs in some manner), be sure to include the specifics.

Use Key Words Tied to the Job You're Applying For

This is an important piece for two reasons: one, it helps highlight how you fit what they recruiter is looking for and two, if the company is using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) they will have likely set it up to scan for key words from the job posting. For example, if the job requires a Bachelor Degree, you need to be sure you have the words 'Bachelor Degree' in your resume.

Think about how this translates in terms of the job you're pursuing. Read the requirements of the role. Read the qualifications they are looking for. Use free online tools like word clouds to identify words that are repeated in a job posting, and make sure they are included in your resume. The hiring manager should be able to glance at your resume and easily see how it matches with the job post itself.

TRIPLE Check for Grammar, Spelling, & Accuracy

The best piece of advice I ever received in terms of ensuring a written piece of work was error-free, was to print it out and read it. It's amazing that when you look at something online, it looks fine, but print it out and whoa! Errors. Your eyes play tricks on you when reading from a computer, and your familiarity with the content doesn't help: the more you read it, the less you actually 'read' it.

Print it out, and read line by line. Have a friend read it. Double check dates and make sure you didn't miss anything. Save it for a day and read it again. Read it backwards (this can be helpful for catching spelling errors; your eyes automatically slow down to look at each word).

Bottom line, your professionalism is on the line. Sloppy errors are an easy save if you take the time.

There we have it - top five tips for a great resume. Not only will it make you look good, but you'll make the recruiter's job easier, and quickly find yourself on the way to an interview.

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