1. A clear focus on a specific role or type of job and how you are well qualified for it.
2. Emphasis on what you most want employers to remember about you – the top reason(s) that make you stand out as the best person for the job. Think of these as your key selling points.
3. Accomplishments/results/impact. How did you make a difference for your past employers? It’s not enough just to list your duties – that’s just a job description, and it won’t sell you.
4. Skimmability. If a busy recruiter looks at your resume for just 10 seconds, what will they notice? Make sure your key selling points and other essential qualifications are so visible the reader can’t miss them.
6. The right sections in the right order for your unique situation. Strategically choose to include the sections that work for you, in the order that works best for you. For example, if you’re a recent graduate or seeking a role in the higher education field, then your Education section should probably be near the top. Formatting is especially important – and tricky – when you’re revising your resume for a career change.
The only required sections are Name, Contact Information and Experience. Additional sections to consider are a summary (although you don’t necessarily need to give this a heading), Core Competencies (or Expertise), Skills (or Technical Skills), Education, Awards, Affiliations, Volunteer Experience, Additional Experience and Interests (if they’re relevant or they enhance your brand in some way).
7. Formatting that works well in Applicant Tracking Systems. An ATS is a system that “reads” resumes (generally only in .doc, .docx, .rtf or .txt formats) and uses the information to fill in a standardized candidate profile. Human resources personnel then do keyword searches through the profiles to find candidates to interview.
ATS’s are easily confused and may jumble or reject your resume if you include unusual fonts or symbols, nonstandard section headings (like “Relevant Roles” instead of “Experience”), or place crucial information in headers, footers, text boxes or graphics, none of which will be read by an ATS. Don’t use this kind of formatting.
8. Good, strong verbs, especially at the beginning of each bullet item in your Experience section. Here’s a good list.
9. Clear, concise, correct writing. With so many other resumes in the running, a confusing or wordy one may end up being discarded to save time.
As for the mechanics of English – correct spelling, grammar, word usage, capitalization, punctuation, etc. – you might be surprised by how many errors you’re making. Even professional writers see a mess of red ink when an editor has gone over their work. At the very least, hire a professional proofreader. You’d be surprised how affordable it is. I know a very capable pro who charges less than $15 to proofread a two-page resume.
Even tiny errors like bad punctuation can subtly detract from the intelligent, well educated impression you want to convey.
10. Smart management of your career timeline. Be strategic in your choices about how far back to go, whether to include months or just years, and what jobs to include or leave out.
Making the resume look eye-catching and attractive with tasteful use of color, shading, fonts and graphics (while following the advice in #7 above!) can be helpful, but the 10 factors above are even more important.
Follow every one of these resume writing tips if you want a strong resume that gives you the best shot at getting the interview!
This article was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for accuracy.