RESUME ADVICE

What Makes a Good Resume

Everyone thinks they can write a good resume.

But that’s easier said than done.

There are lots of specifics you need to keep in mind to improve your chances of getting an interview.

Even if you go successfully through the ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems), shortlisting candidates depending on keywords, you will have to go through the fast glance of the hiring manager.

So you need to make that glance count.

You need to make your resume stand out in front of all other candidates.

You probably realise now how difficult of a task that could be.

But we’ve got you covered.

In this article we are going to go through everything you need to know step by step:

  • Why is writing a good resume important?
  • How to improve every section of your resume?
  • Does the cover letter contribute?

And, of course, we are going to leave you off with some great tips and tricks.

So, if you are ready to dive into that adventure, let’s get started.

Why is writing a good resume important?

First of all, you need to understand why it is so important to write a good resume.

Your resume is the first impression you give your potential employer.

You want it to be a good one, or you might never meet.

Your resume has to present you in the best possible light.

It should demonstrate your work experience, education and skills.

A good resume shows how your qualifications relate to the position you are applying for.

This is important both for the ATS, and the hiring manager.

The chances of getting an interview if your resume is not tailored to the job, are really slim.

So make the extra effort.

The right resume format

Now that you understand the importance of a good resume, it’s time to take the first step to creating it.

That first step is really crucial, so take your time with it.

Choosing the right Resume Format can be a real game-changer, as it defines what your resume focuses on.

There are three main resume formats you can use and we will go through each one to help you out.

Reverse Chronological Resume Format

This resume format focuses mainly on your Work Experience Section.

Using a reverse chronological resume gives the hiring manager an overview of your whole work experience.

The specific part is that your most recent work experience is listed at the top, and your first positions are listed at the bottom of the section.

The main point of this resume format is to show that you are a loyal employee with lots of experience and qualifications.

The longer you stay at a company, the more trust your potential employer would have that you would stay in their company for a while.

If you want to learn more about this format, you should check out how to write a Reverse Chronological Resume.

Functional Resume Format

That resume format would be more suitable for you if you don’t have much experience.

A functional resume format focuses more on your skills, rather than your work experience.

Another reason for using that resume format would be if you are changing your career path, and you are applying for a job in a different industry.

Your potential employer is interested not only in experience, but in your skillset as well.

If you think that’s the right resume format for you, learn more about how to write a Functional (Skill Based) Resume.

Hybrid Resume Format

The hybrid resume format is one that takes the best out of the Reverse Chronological Resume Format and the Functional Resume Format.

It is relatively rarely used, but you might find it to be the right fit for your needs.

It would be the right format for you if you are applying for a junior or mid-level position, as it shows both a rich skillset, and work experience, that you can apply to your new job.

If you want to use this resume format, make sure you first learn how to write your Hybrid Resume right.

Keep your Contact Information Up to Date

Once you are ready with your resume format, it’s time to go through your resume section by section to make it the best it can be.

And the first thing we need to take care of is the first thing that the hiring manager would see.

That is the Contact Information.

It is crucial to make it easy to spot.

If you don’t make your contact information easy to find, you might never be called for an interview.

Usually the best place to put it on your resume is in the Resume Header.

What the resume header should include is:

  • Your Full Name
  • Current Address (optional)
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address (make sure it has a professional formatting)
  • LinkedIn Profile (or online portfolio, if relevant to the job position)

Make sure you include these things with an easy-to-read font, and you should be good to go.

One last thing, stay away from any specifics that can lead to grounds for discrimination (age, marital status, race, religion or anything irrelevant to your professional description)

Make an Impactful Summary

Good, we fixed the contact section, but now let’s focus on the first section that the hiring manager actually has to read.

So what you need to do is catch the hiring manager’s eye right there, so that they would read the rest of your resume.

You might be wondering what exactly is the Summary Section.

What that section does is that it shows your potential employer your area of expertise through your work experience and skills.

The tricky part here is that you need to sum up all that in just a few sentences.

Make sure that you don’t write more than 5 sentences here, as there is a great chance you are going to lose the hiring manager’s attention.

Keep it short and to the point.

And most importantly - make it catchy.

The hiring manager should really get excited by your words there and simultaneously learn what your experience is and what you can bring to the company.

If you feel like you need to learn more about that section, we’ve got you covered with a great article - Resume Summary.

Include Relevant Work Experience

The work experience is the heart of your resume.

Especially if you are using a Reverse Chronological Resume Format.

Once the hiring manager is hooked by your Resume Summary, that’s the section they would go first to learn more about you.

So you should keep up the good work here as well.

The basics of your Work Experience Section should include:

  • Job position
  • Company
  • Location of the Company
  • Dates of employment

But as you are perfecting your resume, you wouldn’t want to settle with just the basics.

These 4 bullet points would give a real simple idea of what you did, but it stops there.

You need to present more to the hiring manager.

Employers don’t want only basic information, they are much more interested in the impact you had on the companies you previously worked for.

Make sure you find a metric to show off your results in your previous positions and don’t forget to list your accomplishments under each job position.

And last but not least, don’t list every job you have ever had.

Make sure every position you list is relevant to the job position you are applying for.

You should definitely spend more time on that section, and we’ve got just the article for you - Work Experience Section.

Don’t forget your Education Section

This should be one of the easiest sections to write, but that does not make it less important.

Having a clear education section is essential for your resume, especially if you don’t have much experience.

If you don’t have much work experience, but your track record in school is good, consider making your education section highly-detailed and include all your education-related accomplishments.

On the contrary, if you have a few years of work experience, your education section should shrink down to the basics.

In most cases, listing the school name, the attendance years and your degree would be enough.

But you should never leave out this section altogether.

Employers like well-educated employees, so make sure you list anything in your education that seems relevant.

If you feel like you need some more information about this section, check out this article - Education Section.

Make the Best out of your Skillset

Your Skills Section can be the most important one on your resume in certain situations.

Especially if you have decided to write a Functional Resume.

Before going deeper in that section, we should define the difference between the two main types of skills - soft and hard.

  • A hard skill is one that can be learned, taught, or measured and is not dependent on your industry.
  • A soft skill is a personality trait that is hard to measure but that makes you great at your job.

Now that you know that, you need to make a list of all skills you have in each category.

Having written down your whole skillset would also help you for future resumes.

Once you have all your skills in one place, it’s time to decide which ones to include on your current resume.

There are two main things you need to keep in mind while listing you skills:

  • Make sure you include both soft and hard skills, they are equally important
  • Look through the job position description. Make sure you use any keywords you find there. That would help you both with ATS and with the hiring manager later on.

If you focus on these, you should take the best out of your skillset.

But if you feel like that you can take more out of it, you should check out this Skills Section article.

Don’t Limit your Sections

Even though the Work Experience Section, the Education Section and the Skills Section are the most important ones on your resume, you should not limit yourself with them.

There are many more sections that can contribute to your results and help you get your interview.

We are going to give you the three most common ones, but don’t forget - you can list other sections as well, as long as they contribute.

Hobbies and Interests

A Hobbies and Interests Section can really contribute to your resume by showing that you have long-lasting interests and passions.

It is particularly important if you don’t have much experience but you have interests in the same professional direction as the job position you are applying for.

If you feel like this section can really help you improve your resume, check out how to write your Hobbies and Interests Section.

Certificates and Licences

This section can potentially be very important, but you really need to show something impressive, if you decide to go for it.

If you feel like some certification, award or honor would be relevant in your resume, feel free to include it, but make sure you do it right.

If you have any certifications or awards that you want to list on your resume but you are not sure how, check out these articles - Certifications on Resume and Awards on Resume.

Volunteer Work

Most candidates skip out on listing their volunteer work, no matter if they have experience or not.

Don’t be one of these candidates.

Volunteer work can really raise your points with the hiring manager.

It shows them that you are so passionate about something that you are willing to do it for free.

This is especially helpful if you don’t have much experience since volunteer work can demonstrate different skills, professionalism, and maturity.

But once again, keep in mind its relativity to the job position you are applying for.

You don’t need to clutter your resume with anything that is not relevant.

If you want to learn more about how to list your volunteer work on your resume, you should take a look at this article - Volunteer Work on Resume.

Foreign Languages

Foreign languages are getting more and more desired by employers.

So if you know any, don’t skip out on listing them.

Their listing is simple - just add the language and specify the skill level you are at.

Keep in mind the different scales for level of knowledge, and which one does your potential employer require.

Even though it’s easy, it wouldn’t hurt to check out this article - Language Skills on Resume.

Cover Letter

Okay, you seem to be all done with your resume.

So you might be asking yourself - I have a great resume, do I need a cover letter?

The answer is always - yes, if you have the option.

Cover letters may be crucial in the hiring process because they let you provide context for your resume.

Furthermore, they let you show off your personality and your enthusiasm for the job you are applying for.

A well-written cover letter can really boost your application and be the game-changer in your hiring project, so don’t hesitate to learn How to Tell a Story in a Cover Letter.

Tips and Tricks

As always, we won’t leave you off without any tips.

There are a few important things that you need to consider before sending out your resume.

So make sure you pay attention.

Use Action Verbs

It is always a good idea to use Action Verbs on your resume.

They have proven to be extremely influential and can really help you get your interview.

Using them across your resume can really help catch and keep the hiring manager’s attention throughout your whole resume.

So make sure you don’t skip out on them.

Instead learn more about Action Verbs.

Design Matters

You can create the most perfect resume in the world, but if it looks bad, there is a great chance no one is going to look at it.

Don’t worry, there are just a few tips you need to follow and you will be all done with this point:

  • Stay away from templates that are too decorated, make it simple
  • Make sure there is sufficient white space. Your resume needs to breathe. Set margins to be at least 0.7 inches. It’s best if they are as much as 1 inch.
  • Keep your font professional. Good examples for such fonts are Arial, Georgia and Cambria, but you can use any font that resembles them as well.
  • Font-size should be above 11pt at all times. It’s best if you use 14-16pt for section headers and 12pt for the rest of the resume.
  • Make sure you have a One Page Resume. You can only consider a Two Page Resume if you have lots of relative experience you can show.

Be Honest

It’s not uncommon for people to lie on their resume.

But the truth is it’s never a good idea.

Hiring managers would keep in mind everything you had on your resume and wouldn’t miss to double-check it.

Even if they don’t do a background check on you, you will surely be asked a question on your interview, that would reveal your lie.

And then you lose your chances at the job, even if you were otherwise qualified enough.

So don’t waste your time trying to lie on your resume.

Keep it honest and you will find the right professional path.

Proofread

Last but not least, make sure your resume is error-free.

Typos and grammatical errors are the most common mistakes found in resumes.

And quite often they are a dealbreaker for the employer.

So don’t skip out on proofreading and do it right.

Here are some tips to be sure your resume would be mistake-free:

  • Try reading your resume backwards (it can help you identify errors by presenting the words in a new order)
  • Ask trusted friends, colleagues, professors and family members if they can review your resume (third-party opinions can help reveal new information you might have overlooked)
  • Try reading the resume a few times, but at different times of the day (it would clear up your mind and help you identify mistakes, you didn’t see before)

Takeaways: What makes a good resume?

We are all done.

Now you know how to make the best out of your resume.

You are now ready to start improving every section of your resume and make it catch the hiring manager’s eye instantly.

Take your time and go through all the tips and tricks we gave you, as they can be crucial.

Don’t forget to proofread when you are all done with writing your resume.

Now go perfect your resume and get the interview you want.

Make your move!
Your resume is an extension of yourself.
Make one that's truly you.
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Kal Dimitrov
Kal is a resume expert @ Enhancv. He frequently publishes blog posts around resume writing, cover letters & job applications. Kal also runs a Career Accelerator Bootcamp for young graduates.
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