How to Write a Great Resume
Writing an excellent resume isn’t easy. And in today’s world where competition for jobs is fierce, writing a fantastic resume is more important than ever.
Empire Resume specializes in crafting resumes for job seekers, and we know there’s an abundance of advice out there about resumes. There’s so much advice about resume-writing that it can become downright confusing.
Fortunately, there are several things resume-writing experts agree on when it comes to crafting a resume that’ll land you a job.
Getting a resume past an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is the first step. But remember that resumes should be written not just for an ATS but also to impress HR managers and hiring managers.
Empire Resume will explain precisely how to write a great resume, telling you what you need to include, avoid, and highlight.
Preparing to Write a Resume
Before writing the resume, set aside time to do a few things to prepare. It’ll make the resume writing process much easier.
First, research the company and the position. Look at the company’s “About Us” page and figure out its mission statement and values. Discern what major keywords are used throughout. The keywords will come in handy because you can then use them on your resume tailored for the job.
Next, review your strengths and weaknesses. Think about your past accomplishments, the things you do well, and what you don’t do so well. This type of self-awareness is critical when writing a resume because you’ll be able to highlight what you’re best at and soften the areas where you may need improvement.
Design the Resume to Beat an ATS
It’s essential to design a resume that’ll get past an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This software has been around since the 1990s, but it’s evolved dramatically in the past five to 10 years. And today, almost every company (especially large ones) uses an ATS to screen resumes.
What is an ATS? To put it simply, it’s a software companies use that sifts through resumes for keywords and other things such as generating automatic reply emails and scheduling interviews.
Companies like them because it makes the hiring process more efficient. Unfortunately, an ATS can make it more difficult for job seekers because you have to “beat it” before your resume even gets in front of an HR manager or hiring manager.
The main things to know about ATS is that they typically don’t see photos, graphs, or charts, can’t read the text in text boxes, and they read Microsoft Word Documents better than they read PDFs.
To increase the chances of beating an ATS, you should:
- Use a Microsoft Word document and organize everything in a one-column layout.
- Ensure your contact information is placed in the resume’s body and not in a header or footer.
- Use standard section headings like Skills and Professional Summary to ensure your resume’s info is gathered correctly.
Another thing to remember is to use keywords specific to the company, position, and industry – just don’t overdo it with keyword stuffing.
Include Proper Contact Info
Adding proper contact information at the top of your resume sounds easy, but there are a few things to consider. For example, should you include your address? What about social media profiles? All good questions.
Here’s a listing of potential info and whether or not to include it:
- Name. Obviously, this is necessary. Include your first and last name, while your middle name is optional. If applying to a specified field like law or education, include your Ph.D. or proper title.
- Title. We strongly recommend including a resume title. It doesn’t have to be the exact title of the position you’re applying for, but maybe something more general about your career goal, like Brand Strategist or Customer Service Professional.
- Email. Definitely. You should include your email address even when you’re emailing your resume. And make sure your address is professional and not an account with a nickname like “CowboysRule25@gmail.com”.
- Mailing address. This can be problematic and could be a reason to discriminate against you. However, if you’re applying to a local company, they may want to know if you’re close by. Therefore, we recommend just putting down the name of your city or metro area and not the full address.
- Phone number. Definitely. Employers will call you on this number to arrange an interview. However, only include one phone number.
- LinkedIn. Highly recommended. Include your unique LinkedIn URL. Nowadays, HR managers will certainly check LinkedIn after looking at your resume, so you want to ensure they’re looking at the right one.
- Social media. Optional. We recommend including them if you post work-related things on social media or if you’re applying to a job where it would be pertinent, such as in communications or public relations.
- Blog/Website. Optional. Like social media, if you have a blog or website that’s professional, don’t be afraid to show it off.
- Photo. Don’t include one. LinkedIn (which the hiring manager will likely check) already has a picture of you. And in most English-speaking countries, it’s not custom to include photos on resumes.
Start with a Professional Summary
Hiring managers only spend an under 10-seconds reviewing resumes (many studies show this number to be closer to 6-seconds, and the top third of the resume is what they look at first. So, needless to say, the professional summary at the very top is critical!
Include a summary that highlights your top skills, experience, and the unique value you’d bring to the company. We recommend keeping it to a short paragraph with no more than four to six sentences that’s specific to you.
Think of the summary as a branding statement. Don’t just list your qualifications, but hone in on what makes you the ideal candidate, how you’d make a big difference and impact, and what makes you so valuable.
The Work Experience Section is Vital
The professional summary or branding statement at the top of a resume is critical. But the relevant work experience – and how you frame it – is arguably the most crucial part of your resume.
List your work experience in reverse chronological order (newest jobs first) and use a heading that says simply “Professional Experience” or “Employment History.” Using a simple heading such as these is essential because other headings may not be recognized by ATS software.
Most importantly, don’t just list your past job duties and responsibilities. Instead, you’ll want to include specific value-added achievements in your previous jobs and accomplishments. Even better, quantify the achievements with numbers, such as “increased regional sales by 15%.” The more specific, the better.
Lastly, avoid buzzwords and clichés and use keywords that will get you past an ATS and resonate with hiring managers. You can find relevant keywords to use by looking at the job posting and mirroring the language the company uses on its website and other published materials, but again, don’t keyword stuff.
Remove Dates Older than 10 to 15 Years
The reason you don’t need to include anything older than 10 to 15 years is twofold:
First, age discrimination is, while illegal, a real thing. Drawing attention to your age on your resume could hurt you more than you realize.
Second, hiring managers are really only concerned with what you’ve done lately. Highlighting your achievements from 1992 is so outdated and many of the initial screening HR personnel weren’t even born yet!
Erasing years of experience from your resume may be scary at first, but you’ll be better off in the long run. Hiring managers, especially younger ones, want to know what you’ve done lately, not in the distant past.
They also want to know you’re up to date on the latest trends and software, so that experience from 15 years ago or more may not be relevant anymore.
Keep your Education Section Trimmed Down
Based on where you are in your career, your education summary can be either the most important or least essential part of your resume.
Many companies value work experience and accomplishments over educational achievements. So, if you graduated college 5 years ago, sorry to say, but your academic achievements may not mean much.
The exception is if you’re in a particular industry (like education, obviously) where academics and certifications are highly valued.
The flip side: If you’re a recent college grad without much work experience, your education summary is maybe the strongest card you can play. Three years or less outside of graduation is considered recent. In that case, feel free to list more details, such as academic awards, GPA (if it’s between 3.0 and 4.0), and relevant student societies.
Keep the Resume to Two Pages
The rule of thumb is to keep resumes two-pages or less. Ideally, it should only be one page if you’re concise and list only relevant information.
Hiring managers will expect a one-page resume for recent college grads and those with less than 10 years of work experience.
However, if you have more than 10 years of experience, you may be able to get away with two pages (as long as you don’t list jobs with dates older than 2005, as we just discussed). Another exception is if you’re applying to an academic or leadership role, in which case more than one page may be necessary.
But remember, first and foremost, try to keep your resume as short and concise as possible by removing filler words, simplifying language, and getting to the point.
Remember, your resume is a marketing document designed to get you an interview, period! It must clearly and concisely showcase the skills, qualifications, and value you bring to employers in the 6-seconds they’ll spend reviewing it.
Get Some Help from Empire Resume
When writing a resume in 2021, you’re writing for three audiences: an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), the HR manager, and the hiring manager. Keep this in mind when tailoring your resume to each job, as you include relevant keywords to beat an ATS and write with the hope it sees human eyes.
Writing a great resume can be stressful, so don’t wait until the last minute when searching for jobs to do so. Ideally, you should update your resume every six months, so you’re keeping it fresh. That way, you’re not scrambling each and every time a new job opportunity comes along.
If you’re having difficulty creating an excellent resume, contact Empire Resume today. Our professional resume writers have years of experience crafting top-notch resumes that land our clients jobs. Contact us today at 801-690-4085 or email@example.com and ask about our free resume review.
Also, stay tuned to Empire Resume’s blog for more helpful career and resume tips, such as articles like How to Deal with Employment Gaps on Your Resume, Signs of a Layoff, and Understanding the Job Interview Process.
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Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.