By Kristen Bahler
January 2, 2018

Let’s be honest: Writing a resume is a drag.

After all, this isn’t exactly a task for the gainfully employed. If you’re reading this, you’re probably out of work or daydreaming of greener pastures.

But here’s the good news: Learning how to write a killer resume can ratchet up your job search, cement your status as a top notch candidate, and increase your chances of landing a new gig. In other words, it’s a major game changer.

Here are some expert-approved resume tips for nailing the job search this year, and a downloadable template that will make the process a whole lot easier.

Note: Each numbered tip corresponds with the example resume below.

(Some resume elements courtesy of TopResume; downloadable template here)

[1] Resume design matters

A good resume design is eye catching, without being an eyesore. This template is simple and clean, with a sleek aesthetic that sets it apart from every other resume out there.

Don’t be too heavy-handed with italics, bold, and all-caps — use them sparingly, and for emphasis. The best resume fonts look good on both a screen and on a sheet of paper, so choose a modern style, and do a test print before you send it off to employers.

“If content is king, then aesthetic value is queen,” says Debra Wheatman, President of the New York-based Careers Done Write. “I would stay away from Times New Roman. That’s the sweatpants of font.”

[2] Format your resume so the juiciest parts are up top

The top one-third of your resume is valuable real estate, so make it count.

Instead of a mailing address, a good resume tip is to add your LinkedIn address next to your name and contact info. And while you’re at it, make sure your LinkedIn profile is as robust as it can be, and an accurate reflection of your candidacy.

“The overwhelming majority of professions use LinkedIn,” says Amanda Augustine, TopResume’s career expert. “So your profile not only has to exist, it also has to support your resume.”

Objective statements on your resume are a thing of the past (“This is a marketing document, not a Dear Abby letter,” Augustine says). Use a summary statement instead, which is basically just an elevator pitch for why you’re the best person for this job.

When it makes sense, change the title on your resume to match how it’s presented in the job listing, Augustine suggests. If the company is looking for a “Marketing Communications Director,” and you meet the qualifications, it’s in your best interest to use that title something like “Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications.”

If you’re applying for a job you’ve never held before, it’s best to lead with something more generic, like “Marketing Professional.” Even if it’s not a perfect match, your resume summary statement can provide some context.

“View everything through the lens of ‘what do I want in my next job?’” Augustine says. “If you want to be competitive in today’s job market, you have to be able to advertise yourself.”

[3] Beat the resume bots

Large companies don’t have time to parse through the numerous resumes they get for every open position. So they get applicant tracking systems to do it for them.

It works like this: When you upload your resume to an online career portal, an ATS scans it for keywords applicable to the job you’re applying for. The main function of these programs is to whittle down candidates, so the majority of resumes are swiftly eliminated.

“Normally, over 75% of candidates are taken out of consideration before a human ever sees their resume,” Augustine says. “So you have to strategize your resume based on a piece of technology.”

ATS systems are trained to scan vertically, so resumes that are aligned down the center are a safe bet, Augustine says.

Another key to passing the bot test is tailoring your resume to include some of the keywords or skills from each job posting. If you’re unsure of which words to choose, Augustine recommends pasting the text from the ad into a free word cloud app, which will tell you which resume skills, technologies, and qualifications the posting references most frequently.

“You want to make sure whatever you’re listing is matching up with whatever they’re asking for,” she says. “That’s the greatest insight you have as to how they’ll evaluate your application.”

[4] Find a balance

To give the eye some variety, use a mix of paragraphs and bullets throughout the resume body.

The same principle goes for the actual content. When you’re deciding what resume skills to add, technical and other expert-level know-how should definitely get first dibs.

Certain soft skills, like those that signal leadership, negotiating, and communication skills, are OK to add to your resume in moderation. But be selective — this resume template nods to public speaking and event planning, and not punctuality or attitude, for a reason.

“You want to be avoid being overly fluffy,” Wheatman says. “Employers are looking for concrete skills. If they’re filling an engineering position, they don’t care how ‘outgoing’ you are.”

[5] Walk the walk

Avoid the temptation to stuff your resume with “responsibilities.” Employers care far more about your successes, and how you can mirror them at their company.

Be specific, and provide relevant statistics wherever you can. Revenue wins, client growth, and budget savings are easy to quantify — and are resume gold.

Don’t have any numbers-driven examples? Look to your skills section and think about how to validate that section. Are you the go-to resource for new hires, or for customer queries? Do you specialize in increasing efficiencies, or decreasing defects? Have you ever acted in a leadership capacity, even if it wasn’t in your job description?

“Underneath the text, there’s a story,” Augustine says. “Find a way to connect the dots.”

[6] Be selective

The more crowded your resume looks, the less likely you are to hold a recruiter’s attention. Instead of cramming every entry-level job and internship you’ve ever had onto one sheet of paper (two sheets if you have more than 10 years of experience), pick and choose the roles most relevant to the one you’re applying for.

Be discerning in your descriptions, too. The exact date you started and finished your previous job, or the year you graduated from college, is probably irrelevant.

“Reading a resume is a boring, tedious thing,” Wheaton says. “Think about the most compelling things you want to share with your audience, and move along.”

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