20 Resume Writing Tips That Will Take It From Basic to Wow

pen writing on paper

Resume writing is not easy, but neither is having a job that doesn’t align with your purpose. These resume writing tips will help you land a job you love. 

So grab a cup of coffee, put on your favorite work music, and let’s get down to business. If you get bogged down, distracted, discouraged, then take a break. 

    The important thing is that you connect with your resume. It should represent who you are, the work you do and why you love it.

    The time that you invest in your resume now will pay off with an interview for a job that fills your soul.

    Why These Resume Writing Tips Work

    First of all, you are not just searching for a job. You are here because you want to love the work you do.

    You need a resume that confidently and honestly represents who you are and what you want from a job. Believe me, you do not want to spend half your life pushing paper for some soulless company because bills.

    At Job Affirmations, I want to give you resume writing tips to truly connect to a career that has meaning and brings you joy.

    But you deserve to be happy and have a job that values who you are, nurtures your talents and lights you up. 

    When I say lights you up, we’re talking about you as-a-kid-hearing-the- ice-cream-truck excited. Your resume plays a huge role in communicating your personality, strengths and enthusiasm to potential employers. 

    You are a marketer compelling your audience – the people who hire – to give you the job you wantAt the end of this resume polishing process, you’ll have something to be proud of — a series of well-written statements that express who you really are and the work you love to do.  

    You’re freaking amazing. It’s time to tell your new boss. These resume writing tips start with the look of your resume. Why? Because design affects readability and readability affects how you write your resume.

    What Resume Design Should You Use?

    Before we get into the resume writing tips, I want to state a sometime-obvious truth: How your resume looks has a lot to do with how well it reads.

    By reads, I mean scans. But what resume design should you use? It depends on the job and who is reading your resume.

    Resume Readers: Bots vs Humans

    A recruiter or HR professional spends a whopping 6 seconds reading your resume.

    An applicant tracking system has already had its way with your resume by the time it gets to human hands.

    There’s a conflict between the bots and humans when it comes to resume design.

    Resume-reading bots are soulless machines looking for keywords. They prefer simple designs with no shading, no symbols, photos or fancy pants fonts. Humans subconsciously want to read something that makes sense visually. 

    Icons and shading help to direct the eye and provide emphasis on the areas where they are used. 

    Bots want just the facts in arial and times new roman in a word doc. Humans want a pleasing design that gets the most important information above the fold starting at the left-hand corner. 

    The point here is that you need to have two templates at the ready — an ATS-friendy one and a clean, human-pleasing one.

    Resume Design Basics

    A well-organized, streamlined approach is best when designing your resume. 

    You also want to consider the type of job you are applying for. If you want a job at a marketing agency, then you can take a more creative approach.

    If you are applying to a government job or a more conservative firm, go traditional. Creative Market has hundreds of affordable resume templates you can buy.

    If you sign up for their free goods of the week, you might see a resume template that you can snag for free. Below is an ad for the weekly free goods.

    Check out our growing list of resume examples to inspire you.

    1. Make Contact Information Easy to Find

    This is where icons can be helpful or hurtful — it depends on who you ask. We believe in the power of tiny pictures.

    Icons tell people that you didn’t just dust off your text-heavy resume and slap it into an email.

    Besides, icons make it easier for recruiters and potential new bosses to contact you for an interview. They don’t have time to play find the phone number.

    2. Break Up Text into Chunks

    Text-heavy resumes are a thing of the past. Sending one in will say I’m over 40 and I don’t know what year it is. Resumes should be easily scanned by the person reading them. 

    You are scanning this article right now so break the text down with bullets, white space and brevity.

    3. Clearly Define Resume Sections

    Again, people want to see your skills, education and contact information. They want to see a brief summary of your qualifications for the job you are applying to.

    If a human is reading the resume go for the bento-boxed design that keeps your info neatly wrapped in white space. 

    If you are applying to a large corporation that uses ATS and you want to DIY your resume to please the bots, then check out this in-depth how-to. 

    Note: Do not fall for those infographic designed resumes with bars or stars that show how proficient you are. The Resume Genius rants about it here. 


    4. Keep the Length to Two Pages Tops

    No one but you cares that you have 20 years experience.

    They want to see recent and relevant information about you and how you fit into the job you are applying for. One page for 5 years or less.

    Two for 10 years and no more than 15 years of work history on the resume.

    5. Use a Boring San Serif Font

    Use boring san serif fonts on your resume such as arial and calibri.

    The bots like times new roman too. Please do not get cute and use some obscure font. Make sure the font size is 10-12. No one wants to squint scan a resume.

    Resume Writing Tips + Editing

    Use these resume writing tips to get your document into great shape for an interview.

    Next up is taking a critical eye to your resume.

    Read it as if you are a hiring manager. It would help to have the job description of the position you are applying for available to refer to. 

    When it comes to how to write a resume, the biggest rule is to customize the resume to the job you are applying for.

    To do this, you must create a resume that imitates the tone, keywords used and priorities in the job description.  

    This tactic subliminally says, I understand what you are looking for in your next employee and I can deliver.

    Marketers use the term resonates to describe the magic that happens when the message fits the audience. If you don’t know what your message is, you can check out our How to Find Your Purpose Without Losing Your Mind series 

    6. Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation

    This may be a duh question, but you have to have an error-free resume. Grammarly can help you correct basic punctuation, word usage, and verb-noun agreement errors.

    7. Have Someone Else Read Your Resume

    A fresh eye is helpful in catching context errors. Pick a friend who will tell you without apologizing that your butt looks huge in those pants or you have kale in your teeth. Brutal honesty is a gift here.

    8. Read Your Resume Out Loud

    If you stuffed adverbs and adjectives into every nook and cranny, your resume is hard to read.

    You should be able to scan it in less than 10 seconds. 

    The Hemingway Editor App is another great proofing tool that can help you write clearly. It’s free.

    9. Use Resume Words That Represent You

    If you cut and paste from a sample resume, you are not writing a resume that represents who you are.

    The main reason people hate their job is it doesn’t fit. If you are not genuine in your resume, you will not attract the right opportunities that fit who you are.  

    Here’s my take on resume action words, which can punch up your writing.

    10. Relevance, Relevance, Relevance

    Check the tone. Is it conversational or conservative? Of all the resume writing tips on this list, being relevant is most important. That means understanding the company and giving it exactly what it is looking for.

    Does your resume address all of the must-haves and preferred qualifications listed in the job description? 

    Use this cool free tool from JobScan to compare your resume to the job description.

    The tool will tell you how relevant your resume is to the job you are applying for.

    The next questions dive into the nitty-gritty of the different sections of the resume.

    Your Resume Section By Section

    11. Make Contact Info Current and Clickable

    Make it as easy as possible for a hiring manager or recruiter to contact you. Take the time to insert links to your website, LinkedIn and email.

    Make sure this info is in the top left corner or center of the resume. Test all links and phone numbers to make sure they work. 

    Here’s a tip: You don’t have to put your exact address, but always include city and state.

    12. Summary: State Your Value and Skills

    Next on our list of resume writing tips is you need a summary statement. Here are extensive instructions on how to write one.

    When scanning the resume, a hiring manager can know without reading any further whether you deserve a closer look.

    Make every word count.

    13. A Summary Should be Relevant to the Job

    If a job description wants someone with sales experience, then this is the place to highlight that.

    If a similar job is looking for someone with an MBA and 10 years of experience leading teams that need to go in your statement. 

    Here is an in-depth article I wrote about writing a summary statement.

    14. Put Education First if You Lack Experience

    A lot of times this information is at the end of the resume, but it is important to put it where a resume reader can find it quickly, especially if it is required for the job.

    If you are a recent graduate, education is going to be the bulk of your resume. Put it before your work experience.

    15. Follow a Standard Format for Education

    If you have not graduated, indicate the anticipated graduation month and year.

    If you have completed coursework, additional certifications or hold licenses for a certain job, include this only if it applies to the job you are applying for.

    16. Work Experience: Relevant Info Only

    Employers want to know that you have relevant skills and that you have used them recently.

    There’s no need to include work experience from 20 years ago.  This is a highlight reel, not an autobiography. Mid-career job-seekers can cut the experience to the past 15 years.

    17. Include Company, Month and Year Worked

    Writing your work history in a standard format may seem like a little thing. But this is a big part of how to write a resume that is clear.

    18. Are Your Accomplishments Relevant?

    There is a common theme in this list of resume writing tips. Every piece of information on your resume has to relate to the qualifications of the job that you want. 

    Make sure that even if the company or job title don’t match up, that the work you did there checks off the job functions of your potential employer.

    19. Be Honest — Always

    Lying on your resume is lying to yourself. A job search is really about finding your truth and accepting your authentic talents and abilities. Inflating overstating and exaggerating yourself is lying. 

    By the same token, give yourself credit for your great work. Don’t be humble if you truly kick butt at something.

    20. Skills Pay Bills

    The final task on this list of resume writing tips is to create a list of relevant skills. It satisfies your compulsion to include everything on your resume but in a concise way. And it gives resume readers a reason to keep reading.

    If you checked all of their boxes, then they will give your resume a closer look. 

    Again, people don’t really read resumes, they scan them. A list is easy to scan. Don’t bury these skills in the experience section.

    So that’s it. These 20 resume writing tips will help you assess your current resume and get you on your way to write one that will get noticed. Good luck and never settle.

    Tracey Lamphere

    Tracey Lamphere, M.S. IMC is the editor of Job Affirmations, a publication that provides information and ideas to use mindfulness, positive affirmations, and visualizations to transform your career.

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