Tips for Writing an Exceptional Resume

Image shows a woman sitting at her computer with a cup of coffee beside her and a few different resumes. On her computer screen is her resume. Text reads:

Image by Brianna Gilmartin © The Balance 2019

Although it seems like common sense, having a rock-solid resume that includes all pertinent components is critical to landing your next job. Crafting an exceptional resume these days has the added challenge of attracting not only hiring managers but the software bots doing their upfront work. 

Everybody has a tip or two, and most are good when combined with wording that will make its way past the software screens. Some say that it can be beneficial to polish your resume with professional help to attain that extra edge, but with this list, you shouldn't need to. 

These resume tips were written to showcase your unique talents and skills and, when utilized correctly, should result in a click from both the hiring manager and stonewalling software bot. 

Review Successful Examples

Before you start work on writing or updating your resume, review resume examples that fit a variety of employment situations. Then select a style and format that best highlights your strengths and achievements.

Use a Template

Using a resume template as a starting point allows for personal customization on a predesigned platform. Add your information to the resume template, then tweak it to highlight your skills and abilities.

Choose the Best Resume Format

Several basic types of resumes are best for job openings. Depending on your personal and professional circumstances, choose a chronological, functional, combination, or targeted resume. Decide on one that best fits your work experience, educational background, and skill set. Take the time to customize your resume; it is well worth the effort as it won't seem copied.

Choose a Basic Font

When formatting your resume, use a basic font that is easy to read, both for hiring managers and for applicant management systems. Google also favors the simple over the complex. Many fonts make your resume clear and easy to read while retaining your individual style. 

Add Numbers That Quantify Accomplishments

Adding numbers to your resume shows employers in black-and-white fashion what you have accomplished at work. Not all of your achievements are quantifiable, but adding those that are can serve as powerful negotiation tools when the topic of salary arises.  

Include Contact Information, With a Caveat

Include all your contact information so that employers can easily get in touch with you. Give your full name, street address, city, state, zip code, phone number, and email address. If you have a LinkedIn profile or professional website, include those links as well. Under some circumstances, you might want not want to include your entire mailing address, but it is generally good practice to do so. 

Add a Profile

Consider using a resume profile or summary, with or without a headline, if you want to include an objective on your resume. Remember to tailor your profile to match your the job you want. The more specific you are, the better the chance of being considered for the job. 

Put the Most Important and Relevant Accomplishments First

Prioritize the content of your resume so that your most important and relevant experiences are listed first. Describe key accomplishments at the top of each position and quantify them if possible. 

Include Commonly Parsed Keywords

Your resume should include the same keywords that appear in job descriptions. That way, you increase the chances of your resume matching available positions and of being selected for an interview. Include keywords in your cover letter also, because that correspondence will be screened, too. Keywords change with the times, so stay up to date within your industry.

Optimize Resume Job Descriptions

These resume tricks will help you make your descriptions sound impressive, catching the hiring manager's attention.

  • Utilize subtle color highlights to draw the eye to important details or quantified successes
  • Blend your own style with language the software bots will understand. Good hiring managers will read the same
  • If possible, keep it under two pages. Bots and humans alike prefer shorter, more concise resumes

Slip Past the Software Bots

Some tips get you further than others. Resumes these days are often read by a machine before a human sees them. These quick and easy-to-do tips can help get your resume past the screening systems. A few simple tweaks can make the difference between getting deleted or getting read.

Research websites in your industry, they will most likely be optimized for software crawling. Recent example resumes of upper-management will have been optimized as well, and are a good resource overall on which to model your own resume. 

Write a Custom Resume for Every Job

Writing a custom resume for each job takes more effort, but the effort can pay off handsomely, especially when applying for jobs that are a perfect match for your qualifications and experience. The extra time spent is often paid back in the form of interviews. 

Send Resumes Properly and With the Correct Attachments

When sending an email resume, follow the employer's instructions on how to submit your CV. The employer may want your resume attached to the email message and sent in a specific format, typically as a Word document or a PDF. Always follow what the employer specifies. 

Send your attachments correctly and include all the information they require. At the bottom, let the recipient know how to contact you.