We’ve researched and reviewed hundreds of thousands of resumes over the past few months. This has not only helped us create the best resume examples and guide for 2021 but also put together solid data-driven advice for job seekers.
We’re right in the middle of the annual deluge of resume and job search prediction articles. Will the video overtake paper? Will the traditional resume finally die?
We don’t think so.
However, the traditional resume format has changed, and we’re here to offer you the best 25+ battle-tested resume tips out there.
So the next time you need a great resume, you’ll have all you need at hand.
25+ Resume Tips from Users and Resume Experts
1. Show your passion
Every employer wants you to be passionate about what you do. To grab their attention right at the start, you need to show passion for the industry you’d like to join or the job you’re aiming to get. The most effective way we’ve seen this done is by sharing a side-project connected to the position you’re applying for.
When he was applying to a Content Marketer position at Hotjar, Louis shared his side project on his resume. Having interviewed over 10 interviews with top marketers for his podcast, he knew this would catch their attention.
The key was to be as specific as possible, including results and specifics. He believes this was one of the things that moved the needle for him.
2. Be specific and show your impact
You’ve probably heard this advice before, but it’s far too easy to forget. Just what do we mean by “show impact?”
It boils down to ensuring every bullet in your experience section answers this question: “What was the result of my involvement?”
Doing this simple thing ensures your resume will instantly stand out from the rest, particularly those which only list responsibilities.
In addition, instead of 10 bullets per position, focus on 3-5 but make them count. They should be short, concise, and as specific as possible. You can also use Laszlo Bock’s formula: Accomplished X as measured by Y by doing Z.
What does that mean in practice? Here’s Laszlo’s explanation:
|Start with an active verb, numerically measure what you accomplished, provide a baseline for comparison, and detail what you did to achieve your goal.|
|Laszlo Block, Google’s SVP People Operations|
Generated 2300 qualified leads, roughly 700 more than the average lead generation associate, through a combination of cold emails and LinkedIn messaging.
In 2021, every company wants a candidate who can have a positive impact. So show them what you can bring to the table.
3. Use colors to stand out
It’s 2021 and so the era of black and white resumes are over.
Here’s one of the resume tips the designers and creatives in our readers will like: use colors.
We’re not talking about extremely bright colors that don’t match. We mean subtle colors which complement each other and look professional.
Having a bit of color on your resume can help you stand out from the pile of black and white resumes. If you use the colors of the company you’re applying for, it will instantly signal that you’ve done your research and that it’s not just another position you’re applying for – you really care and want this one.
Top tip: If you’re applying for a highly corporate or a governmental job, maybe using color isn’t the right choice for you. If you decide to use colors, use combinations of grey and black, for example.
Check out Enhancv’s resume templates for different color combinations to choose from.
4. Read the job description a few times
|Did you know there are over 400 different Applicant Tracking Software systems that companies can use to weed out candidates?|
|Jessica Holbrook-Hernandez, Certified Professional Resume Writer|
Yes, 400! And that number grows every year due to software advancements.
This is one of the most important resume tips and advice we can’t repeat enough for 2021.
Before you start writing your resume, check the job description and write down these things:
- Keywords describing skills (soft and hard)
- Keywords describing the experience (the years, responsibilities, etc.)
- Keywords describing culture (“playful team”, etc.)
- Why do you believe you’d be a good fit?
After you do this, make sure you sprinkle those keywords in your resume. The key here is to make it look natural rather than stuff every section with keywords.
Other keywords to look out for:
· Certifications: read our job-specific guides and resume examples for relevant job certifications
· Tools or programs required for the job
· Education: PhD, master’s, or specific bachelor’s degree
· Location: Companies often use city names or zip codes to narrow down candidates for local-specific jobs
Top tip: Even if you don’t have the length of experience the potential employer required, apply for the job. Employers often raise the number of years in the job description to filter out the weakest candidates.
5. Research your potential colleagues
It’s easier than ever to find your potential employer and their team members on social media. Right after you read the job description thoroughly, get to know the potential employer. See what their values are, who is their idol, what are they interested in?
Then try to mirror their language into your resume. When your potential employer reads it, they’ll feel like you already know each other.
Granted, this isn’t one of the resume tips you can easily pull off with 10 minutes of work.
But the extra prep work you do here will pay off in dividends once your resume catches their attention.
Plus, you can use your research to do well on the interview.
6. Be confident
Your resume is a document that doesn’t only represent your professional experience, but also you as a person. If you’re proud of who you are and what you’ve achieved (you should be, you’re awesome!), it needs to come across on your resume.
You can achieve this by keeping your resume consistent, specific, and balancing the professional (experience, education, projects, etc.) with the personal (passions, most proud of, life philosophy).
7. Make every section count
Having around 2 pages at your service is not the easiest, especially if you have extensive professional experience. For this reason, make sure you only include sections that are relevant and add the most value to your resume.
You can also achieve this by leaving some of your experience out, especially anything which isn’t 100% relevant to the job or company you’re applying for. (Like that waitressing job you did in college!)
What does this have to do with your resume? From our research (especially talking to our users directly), networking is essential to your job search. Not only because it allows you to discover new companies and positions you haven’t heard of yet. But also because it helps you learn new things.
Get strategic in your networking. To put this in practice you need to first find a company you’re excited about. Then, check if there are any events this company will be attending (job fairs, conferences, meetups, etc.)
Also, check whether they’re organizing some events themselves. If so, definitely attend those and make sure you meet someone from the team. When you send your resume to them, chances are they’ll already know who you are and you’ll be one step closer to that dream job.
9. Send your resume to the right person (and make sure they got it!)
Alrighty, let’s take a pause from resume tips on writing and design.
Let’s talk about your resume’s deliverability.
What was the process of sending your resume to a potential employer the last time you did it? Was it by hitting the “Apply” button? Probably, and you are not alone!
The truth is, this isn’t the most effective thing to do.
Send your resume to a relevant person instead of just blindly submitting it through a website or job portal.
Yes, many vacancies posted in job platforms don’t reveal the name of the recruiter or hiring manager. But that’s no excuse not to get personal.
If you’re like many of the candidates who tout “online research” as one of their skills, this should be an easy task for you.
Here’s how to prove it:
· Copy a couple of sentences in the job ad and search for it on Google. Chances are, the job ad is also posted on their website or LinkedIn. If it’s on LinkedIn, the job ad will show the name of the recruiter at the bottom.
· If the Google search doesn’t yield any results, look up the company’s website and visit their team’s about page. Find the company recruiter and the manager of the department you want to join, then look up their names on LinkedIn and other social media. For startups or small companies, find the CEO, and send your resume directly to them. These extra little steps can really help you stand out.
If you haven’t received a response within a few days, it’s probably because they haven’t seen your email, not that they ignored it.
That’s why you should go ahead and send them a friendly follow-up. You can find a couple of examples on our follow-up email guide. In short, send a follow-up after 4-5 business days, with a friendly tone.
Don’t send an angry message with “Why haven’t you responded to my email??”
11. Customize your resume for every position
Have you ever send the same resume to multiple employers? We’ve all done it in hopes of saving some time. But spending those extra 20 minutes to update your resume can really higher your chances. The reason is that even though the job descriptions seem the same for certain positions, every company is different.
In addition to being all about you, your resume is also about your potential employer. The summary section (if you’re using it) should be tailored to each job ad.
12. Don’t copy-paste the keywords
Our friends from Fairygodboss (a career blog for women) shared their top resume advice for 2021:
Always tailor your resume! Your generic, send-to-everyone resume won’t land you a competitive job (or even get you in the door for an interview).
Here’s what you can do: Take a highlighter, either physical or digital, and mark each word in your resume that relates to the job you’re applying for. Within the job description, you should find each skill and responsibility and then see if you have something that corresponds on your resume.
While you won’t want to copy and paste all these words in arbitrarily, you do have to demonstrate – with your resume – that you read the job description, have the relevant work experience and history, and have the required skills.
13. Let someone else review your resume
It’s never a bad idea to ask someone to look at your resume. Especially if it’s someone who knows you well. Often, they can give you a hand by identifying your strengths and spotting mistakes.
Top tip: When you use Enhancv, be sure to turn the Content Analyzer on. It will spot any vague words, repetition, or grammar mistakes.
14. Give yourself enough time
Honestly, when it comes to resumes, what most of us want is to spend 5 minutes on it and have a resume that will get us that dream job.
But good things take time and so does the writing of a good resume. Remember, the upside is getting the job you want, so spending a bit more effort is worth it.
If you try to rush things, it may result in more mistakes and you might overlook some important things. Think about resume writing as a creative process of self-discovery.
Turn on the music you like and check out some amazing resume examples for 2021. Once you have enough inspiration, go ahead and start writing.
15. Reverse chronological order
When you write your experience section, another rule of a thumb is to make it reverse chronological. This means starting from the most recent position first.
Keep your dates consistent, e.g. if you decide to specify months, make sure you mention months everywhere.
Once recruiters receive a resume, a lot of them go ahead and check your social media accounts, 38% of them to be exact. Why not make it easier for them and share links to your best accounts?
If you share your LinkedIn, make sure you’ve updated your profile so it’s in line with your resume. If you share your Instagram or Facebook, make sure all the pictures and posts will put you in a good light. Otherwise, you’re risking never to hear back from them.
Biron from Career Sidekick shared his advice for resumes in 2021 with us:
Add a link! Most employers and recruiters read resumes digitally, so 2021 is a great time to start adding a link or two.
Putting a link will show them you’re tech-savvy, make your resume stand out at first glance, and increase the time employers spend looking at your background overall.
Here are three ideas of what you can link to:
1. A case study showing a before-and-after of a past project. What results did you achieve? How did your past employer benefit from the work you did? Talk about real results, metrics and benefits to that employer, and how you got those results. You can create this as a Google Doc and share the link in your resume “Work History” section underneath your bullets for that role.
2. Create a short, 1-2 minute video explaining why you applied for their job and why you’re a great fit. Walk them through the most relevant pieces of your background and show them that you really took the time to read their job description before applying. You can upload this as an “Unlisted” video on YouTube, so only people you’ve shared the link with can view it.
3. Put a link to your online portfolio. If you’re a writer, graphic designer, programmer, or anyone else who could showcase past work in a portfolio, consider creating one and putting a link to it on your resume. If you have a website or blog, you can link to that. If not, you can create a one-page portfolio as a Google Doc for free.
18. Name your files properly
When you send your resume and your cover letter to a potential employer, they often put them all into one place. That’s why it’s best to name your files properly, including your first and last name, as well as your target job.
In practice, this means: Elon_Musk_Engineer_resume / Elon_Musk_Engineer_cover_letter.
This way, if your resume ends up in a file with many others, your potential employer will be able to spot your name straightaway.
Jon from Jobscan (a place where you can find valuable resume tips and career advice) said:
Tailoring your resume to the job description isn’t only about matching keywords and trying to beat applicant tracking systems.
Emphasize the responsibilities and accomplishments within your experience that are most important to the job for which you’re applying, even if they weren’t where you spent most of your time.
For example, let’s say you had a job in which you spent 27 hours per week fulfilling orders and managing inventory for the company’s online store. You spent the other 13 hours providing customer support.
When you apply for a new job as a Customer Service Representative, you don’t need to begin your work experience section with the fulfillment and inventory duties that took up most of your time.
Instead, start with and emphasize your customer support experience because it’s what the employer needs to see in order to qualify you for the role.
Your other experience can still be mentioned, but it doesn’t need to take up 70 percent of your resume space just because it took up 70 percent of your week.
20. Use power words
Keywords are the nouns – skills, background, experience, achievements—employers look for when filtering candidates.
Power words, on the other hand, are the verbs that emphasize your chosen keywords. Both play a role in helping you win a job.
Weak language like “responsible for” or “accomplished” do your accomplishments a disservice.
Go for more creative power words that not only emphasize what you did but also tell a story.
Examples of power words:
21. Create a separate section for notable achievements
Adding a section specifically for your achievements is another way to tailor your resume to a specific job.
Doing this allows you to minimize the editing work you have to. Just select two to three achievements most relevant for your desired job then put it in a separate section.
Use bolds, italics, and all caps to highlight other achievements, such as those related to soft skills for your job.
22. Ditch the questionable email address
Stop using the same cutesy email you had in high school or college. Get a professional email instead with your first and last name as the username.
Better yet, add your job title in there too.
In the same vein, more tenured applicants should stop using old emails they got from older providers like Hotmail, Livewire, AOL, or their service provider.
Seriously, who uses a Verizon email address? It’s quite telling.
22. Get a resume writer
Holly from The Work At Home Woman mentioned:
If you’re having trouble crafting your resume, or worse yet, you’re not landing any interviews, it may be time to hire a professional resume writer.
Resume writers are often trained career coaches who write persuasively and can help you eloquently showcase your skills and expertise.
And since they do this for a living, they know all the strategies, resume tips, and layouts that will make your application stand out from the crowd.
They’re also great if you’re switching careers as they know how to spin your current talents into attributes for the new occupation you’re trying to break into. This one small investment may help you land your dream job a lot faster.
Get critiques from multiple resume writers first before choosing one. Most of them offer free critiques anyway, so this is a great way to test if you’ll like how they would approach your application before actually committing to one.
Top tip: We recommend you write your own resume. You know yourself best, after all. Find a resume writer only if you really feel lost and need additional support.
23. Don’t get too clever with your resume subheadings
Yes, there’s such a thing as being too clever.
Regardless of your chosen resume format or layout, you should always keep your subheadings simple to understand.
An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) will parse all the text from your resume, often stripping it of its design and fancy formatting.
But.. and this is huge but, the ATS will use the subheadings listed to interpret the text underneath it.
Avoid catchy but ATS-confusing subheadings like:
· About me
· Professional background
· Academic Achievements
24. Talk numbers
Use quantifiable figures to paint a clear picture of your achievements. While this is harder than the other resume tips here, especially if you don’t make it a habit to track your work, it certainly is the most impactful.
This applies not only to job-specific skills like sales, programming, or operations but also in terms of soft skills.
Below are several ways to add quantifiable figures in your resume:
· Money or resources saved
· Profit earned
· Labor hours saved
· Sales growth
· Manpower growth
Time and dollar figures, of course, aren’t the only ways to add numbers into your resume. You can also talk numbers in terms of:
· Range: Great way to use numbers if you can’t give an exact figure
· Frequency: Show how often you did something to prove mastery
· Size: Team size, number of app downloads, restaurant size, or basically anything that could show the scale of your success or responsibilities
25. Explain job gaps
Maybe you were laid off, maybe you were sick, maybe you had to take care of your ailing parents. Whatever it is, the important thing is how you present yourself.
Your resume is where you control the narrative so it’s only natural that you control this part of your professional history, too. Don’t let recruiters judge you with incomplete information.
Tell them what happened by including a short note on your resume.
There’s no need to dress it up. A one-liner in between job entries, or at the end of a short job in case of furloughs or company closure is fine. For instance, you could write:
· Company closed
· Layoff due to downsizing
· Maternity leave
· Relocated to a new city
Sure, this isn’t like the many boost-up-your-credentials resume tips listed here. But if you have a job gap, it needs to be addressed.
|If you are on furlough due to COVID-19 or have been laid-off due to this situation, then make a line item on your resume that says you were placed on furlough or the company closed. Because everyone has been affected by the pandemic, it is okay to mention it on your resume.|
|Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish, Certified Professional Resume Writer|
Would you rather wait and find out after the recruiter doesn’t call you because of the unexplained job gap in your resume?
Bonus Resume Tip: Name drop
Name dropping in person is considered tacky but it’s a hugged missed opportunity if you’re not name dropping on your resume.
It’s perhaps one of the easiest resume tips here.
Did you work with a well-known persona in your industry? Name drop him, his company, and what you did together.
Did you win a project from a major brand or company? Good for you. Share that news with the recruiters so they know how amazing you are.
Even if you weren’t the head honcho on said project or deal, your contribution still made it possible. Include it in your resume with the precursor that you’re a collaborator or part of the team that made it happen.
If your job contract has a non-disclosure agreement that prevents you from name dropping the actual brand names, you can use generic terms such as:
· Billion dollar US-based eCommerce company
· Major European car company
· China’s largest chat app
Those descriptors don’t mention a specific company but it gives you an idea of the company being referred to, right?
Recruiters use this strategy when hiring, so I say it’s fair game if applicants use it.
Keep calm and make your move
If you’re not happy at your current job, consider changing it.
To make this move, make sure you outline what you like and what you don’t like about your current job. Then research what other opportunities are out there that fits with your newfound goals.
Of course, don’t forget to follow these resume tips and use our resume builder for easier editing of your application documents.
We hope you liked our collection of resume tips and advice for 2021. If you think we forgot something important, let us know in the comments!