20 Resume Writing Tips to Stand Out and Land Your Dream Job in 2023
Are you looking for new ways to make your resume stand out from the crowd? Writing a resume is an art. It’s about selling yourself in a short space and with a limited amount of viewing time. It should represent you as a person, your work experience, skills, achievements, and the potential that you bring to a new employer.
A resume is often your first impression on the hiring manager, and you need it to be excellent. However, there are several simple tweaks that you can make to your resume that can improve your chances of landing an interview and getting the job. This article presents 20 resume writing tips to help you create a winning resume, which will help you get the position of your dreams.
Resume templates to help you get started
Building a resume from scratch is hard work. While there are some great professional resume templates out there, they might not suit your specific qualifications or industry. This can make it challenging to find a template that’s a good fit for what you have to offer. Instead, it’s better to create a resume that highlights your strengths and matches the job description for the position.
If you’re just getting started in the resume writing process, check out this Upwork article on how to write a resume in 2021. This helpful guide reviews three different resume formats—chronological, functional, and combination—and offers a detailed look at the information to include in your resume.
If you’ve already got a resume and need to spice it up, refresh it, or optimize it, then continue reading for our list of the top 20 resume writing tips and tricks.
Personalize your resume so that it’s brief and direct: Tips 1–4
The job search can be a challenging process, especially if you feel like you’ve been searching for a while but haven’t gotten a bite. When the hiring manager is going through your resume, it’s essential to present yourself as the most qualified applicant.
The best way to do this is to ensure that you’re matching your resume to the job. By tailoring your resume to the specific position, you’ll be able to highlight the skills and experiences that make you the right candidate for that role. Not only can this help you land more interviews, but it’ll also make it easier to understand the job you’ll be doing and how you can fit that job description when the interviewer starts asking you questions.
1. Keep a master list of all jobs
Keep a master list of all jobs, duties, and responsibilities you’ve held in your career—along with the contact information for past employers. This master list helps when writing resumes and cover letters, giving you a solid foundation to start with when writing about the jobs most relevant to what you’re seeking. If you don’t have a list of past employment, create one now so that you reference it when updating your resume, now and in the future. Below are some of the things to include in your list :
- Company names
- Dates of employment
- Coworkers and colleagues to include on your reference lists
- Responsibilities and job duties
With the help of the position’s job descriptions and your list of past jobs, you can build out personalized resumes and get your applications submitted quickly.
2. Put the most important things at the top
When updating your resume, it’s crucial to prioritize. Your resume is your first opportunity to make a solid and lasting impression on the person reading it, so you want to make sure that you get it right! The best way to do that is to take a few minutes to organize your information in a way that’ll best catch the reader’s attention.
Your resume must guide the reader through the information that they need to make the right decision about you. That means prioritizing content and not giving everything equal weight. You should always put the most important and impressive information at the top of your document. For example, if you’ve prepared a strong professional headline or resume summary, you should start your resume with that. If you’ve earned industry awards, you may want to place that information at the top. If you’re a student looking for an entry-level position, you can start with your education or accomplishments.
3. Make your contact info prominent and correct
The goal of your resume is to get you an interview. For that to happen, the reviewer needs to know your name and how to contact you. Therefore, your name should be the largest text on the resume and prominently featured at the top of the page. You want to be memorable, and making sure your name is seen by the hiring manager is a big thing to emphasize.
In addition, your relevant contact information should be featured near your name and include your location/city, phone number, and email address. Always make sure that this information is accurate, up-to-date, and your direct contact information. Your direct, personal contact information should be used rather than a work email or phone number.
NOTE: If you are creating or updating your profile on Upwork, check out our article, “9 Tips to Help You Create a Freelancer Profile That Stands Out.” If you are communicating with a hiring manager for a job through the Upwork platform, please note that sharing your personal contact information, such as email address, phone number, or LinkedIn profile, is not permitted. Additionally, all communication should take place through the Upwork Messages feature. Learn more about using Upwork Messages.
4. Create an online presence or portfolio
Your resume is a powerful tool to show off your skills and accomplishments. However, it’s not the only tool in your arsenal. Creating a professional online presence that’s more dynamic than your standard resume can be an asset to your job search. There are a few simple ways to get started when building your professional web presence:
Update your LinkedIn profile
Creating or updating your LinkedIn profile is a beneficial exercise for any job seeker looking to create a professional presence on the web. LinkedIn is a powerful social networking tool that professionals use to connect with other professionals. The platform allows you to network with hiring managers, your connections, and other professionals and serves as a way for potential employers to find you.
Build a personal website and blog
Not only will a personal website help you highlight your experience, but it can also serve as a platform for further growth. You can use it to position yourself as a thought leader by blogging on topics relevant to your industry or career path.
Create an online or downloadable portfolio
Designing an online portfolio showcases any work samples or other information that you want to include to bolster your resume. In addition, it can serve as a hub for potential employers to contact you or find out more about you during the interview process.
Browse Project Catalog for more resume writing services.
Resume formatting: Tips 5–9
It’s vital to make sure your resume is as compelling as possible. But how do you make sure yours gets read and you get a call for an interview?
Many employers will reject a resume based on missing information or simple formatting mistakes. So, as you format your resume, keep these five resume writing tips in mind to help you make sure that it fits your needs and appeals to the reader.
5. Don’t use fancy resume formats or fonts
Each industry can be a bit different when it comes to resume expectations. For example, a graphic designer or marketing specialist can add a higher level of flair to their resumes than an investment banker or lawyer. Research good examples of up-to-date resumes for your intended job for additional formatting recommendations.
But regardless of your career path or job, your resume should be clear, concise, honest, and easy to read. Always use a professional and readable font type and font size. For example, Arial and Times New Roman are commonly used in resumes. Whichever font you choose, remain consistent throughout the entire document and make sure your section headers stand out with larger font size, capitalization, or bolding.
6. Keep it to a single page, if possible
A resume is intended to be a short overview document tailored to a specific position. In contrast, a CV is more of a complete account of your work history and professional experience. A single-page resume format forces you to be brief and concise. Hiring managers won’t be thrilled to see long-winded descriptions of your past work and won’t spend the time flipping through multiple pages of a resume. Unless the job description requests a CV, keeping your resume limited to a single page is optimal.
Note: In addition to your resume, consider writing a personalized cover letter that expresses your interest in the position and highlights how your experience can benefit your prospective employer.
7. Keep it simple
The best resumes are often simple. Hiring managers and recruiters have a short amount of time to review your resume and decide if it’s worth scheduling an interview with you. So, try to use a simple structure to your resume and make it faster and more readable. One of the easiest ways to keep your resume simple is through bullet points.
- Rather than writing long paragraphs, use short, punchy bullet points
- Bullet points increase readability
- Try to keep it to 3-5 bullets per list to keep it short and simple
8. Design for skimmability
In addition to keeping your resume simple, make it so that a hiring manager can quickly skim it and pull out the necessary details.
- Use clearly defined section headers
- Use an easy to read font
- Include a resume header or summary to give them a brief overview of your experience in a few sentences
- Remove unrelated information and filler text
9. Keep in mind a clean, consistent format
Don’t discount all of your excellent experience by missing simple mistakes in your resume formatting. For example, say you used a period at the end of one bullet point, but not the other. Likewise, you include a hyphen here, but not there, even though it’s the same phrase. These kinds of formatting errors can stick out like a sore thumb on your resume, and recruiters are sure to pick up on these things.
Another helpful tip for keeping your resume clean and readable is to add white space and margins between content. Although space on a one-page resume is limited, not every part of the paper must be covered with text. White space can make your resume easier to read and can be used to encourage hiring managers to review more of the vital parts of your qualifications.
Creating a career snapshot: Tips 10–12
The work experience section of your resume will provide an informative view of your career and should connect what you’ve done in past jobs to what the employer is looking for in the current job. To best represent your work experience, it often helps to include the following information in your work experience section:
- Job titles and positions
- Company name and location
- Brief description of job responsibilities and duties
- Dates of employment
The purpose of your resume is to convince someone to hire you for a position. Therefore, make sure you’re presenting your career and work experience in the best light possible. Use these four resume writing tips to ensure that your career snapshot shows hiring managers that you’re the best candidate.
Note: Referencing your master list of past work experience from resume tip #2 makes creating your career snapshot an easy and quick process for any potential job.
10. Tailor your resume to the job description and industry
The temptation to apply without adjusting your resume to that job is understandable but not advisable. Companies want to know that you’ll go the extra step, and a little personalization can help you stand out.
Comb through the job description to find the listed requirements, preferred qualifications, and soft skills. Then, use these words in your resume in a relevant way, showing that you understand the company’s needs. Also, identify industry buzzwords and use them to ensure that your resume matches the current industry terminology.
11. Remove short-term positions that don’t align
Your resume is a career snapshot used to express your fit for a position, not a complete work history. When deciding to include or remove something from your resume, it’s essential to consider how the hiring manager may perceive that. If something on your resume doesn’t fit the job you’re applying to, then it may be better to remove it to highlight more relevant or recent work experience.
Take a look at some of your previous positions. For example, that restaurant job from the summer after graduation that’s still on the resume? Unless you’re applying for a position within the restaurant industry or demonstrating a required and transferable skill, it may take up space that could be better used selling yourself.
It’s also helpful to consider how potential employers look at time gaps in work experience on a resume. For example, suppose there is unrelated and non-transferable work experience that doesn’t align with the position you’re applying for. In that case, if you take it out, it may leave a sizable gap in your work history. To fix this, you could leave it in there with the position, company, and dates but minimize the amount of space used to describe the role and responsibilities.
With that said, many employers are changing the way that they think about employment gaps. Taking time off work no longer carries the same stigma in many work circles that it used to even a few years ago. Taking time off work to care for yourself or others has become a more accepted practice. Plus, more and more people are exploring non-traditional work through the freelance and gig economies.
12. Achievements: Show, don’t tell
If you have experiences that match a requirement in the job description and a relevant accomplishment in the field, make sure to include that as a bullet point in your resume. Use action verbs to describe your achievements and how they benefited your past employer. Action verbs are more potent and can help communicate what you’ve achieved in previous jobs. For examples of great action words to include in your resume, check out this list from the Office of Career Services at Yale University.
In addition to using action verbs to stand out to hiring managers, it’s helpful to quantify your achievements and represent them with numbers or statistics. Numbers can demonstrate measurable success in your career, which is something that recruiters want to see. Below are a couple of good examples of using action verbs and quantifiable data for resume bullet points:
- Managed a team of four programmers that implemented weekly code revisions and improvements for software used by 1.2 million active users.
- Analyzed sales trend data and presented three sales improvement plans to the senior management team that increased revenue by 18% in the following quarter.
- Organized 24 live marketing events in 18 cities, which provided over 800 leads for the company.
Education, skills, awards, and interests sections: Tips 13–15
Your resume should work for you, not against you, because of your work history. While many resumes are designed with work experience toward the top, some resume formats feature a more function-focused resume layout. These resume formats emphasize the value of other sections instead of focusing on work experience.
The next few resume writing tips and tricks emphasize the value of your skills, education, extracurriculars, community service, and other experience to set yourself apart from other job applicants. For example, prominently featuring the education, skills, awards, and interest sections of a resume can help job seekers with non-traditional work experience to highlight their fit for a position and draw attention to their strengths.
13. No relevant work experience? No worries
Suppose you’re applying for an entry-level position without past work experience, or transitioning to a new career path, or rejoining the workforce after a long gap. In that case, you may not have the work experience of other applicants. But, there are different ways to showcase your fit for the position by choosing a resume format and including information that highlights other valuable skills and experiences you can bring to your prospective employer.
14. Highlight your education and training
Employers will place more value on an applicant’s education for some jobs rather than their past work experiences, especially for entry-level positions or careers requiring advanced professional degrees.
For the education section, list all your educational experiences with the most recent or highest degree earned at the top. It can be helpful to include your education information even if you didn’t graduate or are still attending school. In either case, the classes you’ve taken and the credits you’ve earned are still relevant information, especially if they match the job or skill requirements.
Your resume should also list professional training, certifications, or industry licenses that you’ve completed. This non-traditional education can show your aptitude to an employer and reference how it’ll contribute to your job performance. In addition, a job seeker that’s actively expanding their skill set can be a great sign of value and drive to a potential employer. If you’re looking to expand your current skill set, check out some of these digital marketing certifications or IT certifications that you can complete online and add to your resume.
15. Honors, achievements, and awards
Hiring managers and employers are looking for candidates that can add value to their teams and organizations. Listing past awards, honors, and achievements on your resume can show that you’ll bring proven results to a potential employer. Include these accomplishments with supporting information or quantifiable data to highlight the ways that you can repeat your past successes at your prospective new job.
Make sure that your application is ready to submit: Tips 16–20
Before submitting your application, it’s crucial to ensure that everything on your resume is polished and presentable. Begin by carefully reviewing your resume and making sure it matches the job description for your desired position. An effective resume will use many of the best resume tips listed in this article so far, but if you skip any of these crucial last tips, all of those other updates may not be enough.
16. Use the right language
The tone and language used in your resume must match the intended audience. Your writing should come across as professional, and it’s vital that your word choice properly represents this. Consistency is key when it comes to writing a resume. Below are a few things to make sure you keep consistent throughout the entire document:
- Use of first or third person
- Past tense or present tense
- Use of contractions, slang, and jargon
17. Proofread for grammar and spelling
You can never be too careful when proofreading your resume for errors. Read your resume multiple times to ensure there are no mistakes in your final version. A single error or typo can lead a reviewer to put your resume in the “no” pile, with all of the other rejected applications.
Once your resume is close to the final draft, ask a friend, family member, a trusted former colleague, or industry professional to look it over. Extra sets of eyes reviewing your resume are never a bad thing; repeat this step as many times as necessary.
Basic spell checking your resume in one program might not catch all potential grammar/spelling mistakes. Different programs might find missing words that often don’t appear in a single spell check. Try copying and pasting the text into other word processors such as Microsoft Word, Google Documents, Notepad, or a generic online text field to make sure that you’ve corrected all of the potential spelling and grammar mistakes. You can also use more advanced editing and writing tools like Grammarly.
18. Use resume tools to check the relevance
Today, most online job postings use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). These systems use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced algorithms to decide if a recruiter or hiring manager even sees your application. When an application is submitted, the system checks the resume’s text for specific keywords to ensure that the resume and application are relevant to the job description. If it doesn’t match the job description or information provided by the employer, the candidate’s resume may not even be passed along to be reviewed by a real person.
That’s why it’s helpful to put similar resume review tools to work for you before applying. There are many free and paid programs and websites that can check the relevance and grade on the quality of your resume. Find the best resume improvement tool for your needs with a quick Google search for phrases like “resume ats tool,” “resume grading tool,” or other similar search phrases.
19. Save it as a PDF file
Regardless of which program you used to create your resume, it’s important to save the document as a PDF before submitting it. Other file format alternatives, such as a Word Document, may not retain the proper formatting when opened on a computer without the original program. PDFs as a file type are designed to maintain document formatting and keep the resume text readable, by ATS systems and humans, across different devices and programs.
20. Constantly update it
Continue to work on your resume for each opportunity that comes along. You’ll get that coveted interview for your dream job soon enough with a great and up-to-date resume.
The grand finale: next steps
If you’re not a professional writer, it can be challenging to craft a perfect resume from scratch that effectively gets the attention of hiring managers. As a result, many job seekers turn to resume writing experts to help them create or improve their resumes. Freelance resume writers can be a helpful resource because they’ve read and reviewed thousands of resumes. In addition, top resume writing experts understand what hiring managers are looking for and can help you describe your experience in a way that enables you to stand out.
You should never settle for a poorly written and ineffective resume. If you need a bit of extra help getting your resume to the next level, consider hiring a freelance resume writer on Upwork to help you put the finishing touches on your resume.