Your resume is often the very first impression you make on potential employers. It is your calling card, your ticket to the interview, and the key to unlocking your career aspirations. But crafting a resume that truly stands out among hundreds (or even thousands) of applicants can be a daunting task.
Think of your resume as your personal marketing tool. It tells your professional story, highlights your skills, experiences, and qualifications—and it gives employers a feel for your personality, work style or leadership approach.
A well-crafted resume can be the difference between landing your dream job and getting lost in the proverbial pile on your potential employer’s desk—especially in today’s uber-competitive market.
But with ever-evolving resume trends and varying industry preferences, job seekers often grapple with numerous questions about how to create a resume that truly shines. Many job seekers wonder about the best format, the most impactful words to use, or how to address certain aspects of their work history like short stints with certain companies or career breaks to care for children or loved ones—experiences which also translate to marketable skills which you can include on your resume.
Here, we will answer all these questions and more. Learn how to get your resume noticed and most of all, leave a lasting impression that moves your career forward.
The Essentials for Crafting an Outstanding Resume
In a world where recruiters (and now AI) sift through hundreds of resumes daily, how do you make yours grab their attention?
Choosing the Right-for-You Resume Format
One of the fundamental choices you’ll make when crafting your resume is selecting the appropriate format. The format you choose will depend on your unique career journey, experiences, and the job you’re applying for. Let’s explore three common formats: chronological, functional and combination.
Chronological Resume: The chronological resume format is perhaps the most conventional and widely recognized as a standard approach. It lists your work history in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job and working backward. It’s an excellent choice if your career has followed a linear progression and your previous roles build toward and align well with your current job goals.
Functional: In contrast, a functional resume focuses on your skills and qualifications rather than your work history. This format is ideal if you’re changing careers, have “gaps” in your formal employment history, or want to emphasize specific skills relevant to the job. It allows you to sell your capabilities and achievements straight away.
Combination: As the name suggests, the combination format combines elements of both chronological and functional resumes. It provides a balance between highlighting your work history and emphasizing your skills. This format works well for candidates with diverse experiences or those aiming to change careers while showcasing their transferable skills.
To choose the right format for your resume, consider your unique circumstances. Reflect on your career trajectory, the specific job you’re applying for, and any gaps or challenges in your work history. Remember that your resume is a dynamic document, and you can tailor its format to each application to highlight the most relevant information.
Pro-tip: Beyond the duties you performed at a given role, think about the value you delivered, the problems you solved, and the results you created. Most anyone can do a job—but only you can bring your signature energy and approach to success in the role. So, own who you are and frame it up proudly using the resume format that’s best for your one-of-a-kind career journey.
Crafting a Compelling Summary or Objective Statement
Your resume’s opening statement is your prime opportunity to grab and keep a recruiter’s attention. This mini personal brand anthem is a powerful yet concise claim that hooks the reader on the many amazing skills, distinct experiences and valued behaviors you bring to the table.
So, should you craft a summary or an objective statement? Let’s explore the differences to help you determine which best aligns with your career goals.
- Resume Summary: A summary statement, also known as a professional summary or summary of qualifications, provides a snapshot of your career. It’s ideal for candidates with significant experience who want to highlight their key accomplishments, skills, and qualifications. A well-crafted summary immediately highlights your value to potential employers.
- Objective Statement: An objective statement is suitable for candidates who are just starting their careers, changing industries, or reentering the job market after a hiatus. It is a declaration of intention that focuses on your career goals and what you aim to achieve in the position. But a good objective statement also makes clear the type of company you’re looking to join and the kind of impact you intend to make. Lastly, an objective statement helps employers understand your motivations and aspirations which saves you both time in the end regardless of the outcome.
Creating an Attention-Grabbing Opener
Regardless of whether you choose a summary or objective statement, your goal is the same: to captivate the recruiter and then enchant the hiring manager. Start with a powerful hook that encapsulates your professional essence. This could be a striking achievement, a unique skill, or a brief anecdote that illustrates your passion for your field.
Next, provide a concise overview of your qualifications and highlight your most relevant skills and experiences. Tailor this section to the job description and emphasize the precise experiences and/or abilities that make you an ideal candidate. Keep it focused and to the point, typically no more than 3–4 sentences.
How to Showcase Your Work Experience on a Resume
Your work history is the backbone of your resume, and how you present it can significantly impact how recruiters perceive your qualifications. Let’s get into how to effectively showcase your work history:
- Structuring Your Work History: Start with your most recent job and work backward. Include your job title, the name of the company, the dates you worked there, and a brief description of your responsibilities. Use bullet points to make this information easily scannable.
- Tailoring for Relevance: Ensure that your work history is relevant to the job you’re applying for. Highlight experiences and achievements that directly relate to the position’s requirements. This demonstrates your suitability and immediately captures the recruiter’s attention.
- Emphasizing Achievements: Instead of merely listing your job duties, focus on quantifiable achievements. Use numbers, percentages, or specific outcomes to highlight your contributions. For example, “Increased sales revenue by 20% in Q3” is more impactful than “Responsible for sales.”
Use Quantifiable Achievements to Stand Out
Recruiters love numbers. They provide concrete evidence of your accomplishments and make your resume truly shine. Here’s how:
- Identify Achievements: Reflect on your past roles and identify achievements. Did you meet or exceed sales targets? Did you streamline a process to improve efficiency? These are valuable accomplishments, especially when you let them shine with steps 2 and 3.
- Quantify the Impact: Next, quantify those achievements. Use metrics, percentages, or other numbers to showcase the extent of your success. This not only provides evidence of your abilities, but it also grabs the reader’s attention. You exceeded sales targets? By how much? You improved efficiency? By how much? Recruiters and hiring managers like big numbers because they cannot lie. Results speak volumes, and everyone loves a good before-and-after story, so serve up these proof points and watch the interview requests roll in.
- Action Verb Examples for Your Resume: Begin each bullet point with a strong action verb. Verbs like “achieved,” “increased,” “implemented,” or “managed” convey a sense of action and responsibility. They make your achievements more compelling.
How to Address Employment Gaps on Your Resume
Employment gaps can raise questions for recruiters, but they don’t need to hold you back. Here’s how to handle them:
- Be Honest: Transparency is key. If you have employment gaps, acknowledge them in your resume. It’s better to provide a brief explanation than leave gaps unexplained.
- Use a Functional or Combination Format: If your work history has multiple gaps, consider using a functional or combination resume format. These allow you to focus on skills and achievements and minimize the emphasis on specific dates.
- Address Gaps in the Cover Letter: Sometimes, it’s better to explain career gaps in your cover letter (yes, you should write a cover letter). This allows you to provide context, tell the recruiter why this time off was valuable (rather than letting them draw their own conclusion), and send a clear signal that you’re ready for work. Remember, your career break was likely a highly valuable time of introspection and clarity about what you really want from your career. Recruiters and hiring managers alike will appreciate your candor in sharing how a career break added just as much fuel to your career trajectory as some of your past roles.
How to List Temporary Work on Your Resume
Temporary work can be a valuable part of your career journey. Here’s how to include it effectively on your resume:
- Create a Dedicated Section: If you’ve taken on temporary roles, create a separate section on your resume to showcase them. Use a clear heading like “Contract Work” for temporary jobs or “Consultant Engagements” for more long-term specialized project work.
- Highlight Relevant Experience: Tailor your temporary work descriptions to align with the job you’re applying for. Emphasize skills and experiences that are directly transferable to the new role.
- Specify the Temp Agency: Mention the staffing agency or agencies you worked with. This leverages their brand and demonstrates your range in adapting to different work environments and employer needs.
How to List a Staffing Agency on Your Resume
Staffing agencies play an important role in connecting job seekers with employers, and there’s real value in making this clear on your resume.
- List the Staffing Agency: Include the name of the staffing agency under each temporary role you’ve held. This provides context and shows your success across a diverse range of industries and workplaces.
- Emphasize Versatility: Showcase the versatility and adaptability you’ve gained through staffing agency placements. Highlight your ability to quickly learn new skills, adapt to various work environments, meld with existing teams, and quickly excel in different roles.
- Quantify Achievements: Your achievements as a contract worker who shined brightly in various staffing agency placements? Yep, those are just as valuable to recruiters as any. Did you consistently receive positive feedback from internal or external clients, leaders, or coworkers? Were you selected for your prowess in handling challenging or complex assignments? Did you lead the pack in sales volume or reduce fulfillment time by 15%? Use numbers and specifics to clearly convey these wins.
How to Present Education and Training on Your Resume
Your educational and training background plays a significant role in landing your next job, even if you’re an experienced professional.
Here’s how to present it effectively:
- Highlight Your Degrees: Start with your most recent level of education, whether it’s an associate or bachelor’s degree, master’s, or any other relevant certification. Include the name of the institution, the degree you earned, your major course of study (if applicable), and graduation date.
- Relevant Coursework, Internships, Apprenticeships, Volunteer Work and More: If you’re a recent graduate or changing careers, include relevant coursework to demonstrate your knowledge in the field. This can provide context for your skills and interests, especially if your work history is limited. Also consider highlighting any unpaid experiences that added to your relevant skills, like volunteering for a hospice if your desired field is healthcare, or time spent as an assistant or apprentice to an industry leader.
- Honors and Awards: If you achieved academic honors, awards, or scholarships during your educational journey, consider including them. More than a mere humble brag, these distinctions bolster your resume’s credibility and substantiate your claims of personal and professional excellence.
Should You Put Your GPA on Your Resume?
The decision to include your GPA on your resume depends on various factors, including your industry. Here are some considerations:
- Recent Graduates: If you’ve recently graduated and have a very strong GPA (typically 3.5 or higher), it can be beneficial to include it—especially if it’s relevant to the job or field you’re interested in.
- Strong GPA: If your GPA is exceptionally high and demonstrates your academic prowess, showcasing it can be advantageous, particularly for roles where academic excellence is valued.
- Omit for Good Reasons: If you’ve been in the workforce for several years, and/or your GPA was average or not particularly relevant to your career, it’s generally advisable to leave it off. Success comes in many forms after all, and there are endless ways to convey the traits that make you a uniquely capable match for the job.
Incorporate Relevant Certifications and Training
Certifications and additional training can be powerful additions to your resume because they showcase your commitment to professional development. Here are some best practices for incorporating them effectively:
- Create a Dedicated Section: Include a section titled “Certifications” or “Training” to make these credentials easily accessible.
- List Relevant Certifications: Include certifications and training that are directly related to the job you’re applying for. This could be role or industry-specific certifications, software training, or other courses that enhance your skills.
- Include Dates: Mention the date of certification or completion. This provides context and shows that your skills are up to date.
How to Put Seasonal Work on Your Resume
Seasonal work, such as holiday retail positions or summer internships, can provide valuable experiences that should be included on your resume:
- Highlight Transferable Skills: Even if the seasonal work seems unrelated to your career goals, highlight transferable skills you gained. This could include customer service, teamwork, problem-solving, or time management.
- Emphasize Relevant Experiences: If the seasonal work is relevant to the job you’re seeking, ensure it’s featured prominently on your resume. Describe your responsibilities and achievements in a way that demonstrates your capabilities.
- Keep It Concise: While it’s essential to include seasonal work, be concise in your descriptions to ensure that the most relevant experiences receive the most attention.
Design and Formatting Tips for Standout Resumes
While we’ve focused heavily on the content of your resume in this article, it isn’t just about the content—it’s also about presentation. An aesthetically pleasing resume is more likely to catch the eye of recruiters. Here are some design and formatting tips:
- Use a Consistent Format: Maintain a consistent format throughout your resume. Ensure headings, bullet points, and fonts are uniform for a polished look.
- Don’t Shy Away from Empty Space: Don’t overcrowd your resume. Leave sufficient negative space to improve readability, deliver a clean UX, and make your most important points stand out.
- Incorporate Bullet Points: Use bullet points to organize information in a clean, scannable manner. This makes it easier for recruiters to quickly vet and grasp your qualifications and put you into the next phase of the hiring process.
- Utilize Headings: Write clear headings to categorize sections, such as “Professional Experience,” “Education,” and “Skills.” This helps recruiters navigate your resume efficiently.
Using Keywords for Optimal ATS Recognition
In a world where technology continues to reshape the way we work and connect, companies are increasingly relying on sophisticated Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to streamline their hiring processes. These ATS platforms have become the gatekeepers of the job application journey, automating the initial resume screening and allowing recruiters to focus their attention on the most promising candidates.
For job seekers, understanding how ATS works and how to effectively navigate this technology is crucial. ATS scans resumes for specific keywords, qualifications, and experiences, making it essential for applicants to tailor their documents to match the job description. This technology-driven shift emphasizes the need for not only a well-crafted resume but also a strategic approach to stand out in the digital crowd. To increase your chances of passing this initial hurdle, incorporate relevant keywords:
- Identify Keywords: Carefully review the job description to identify keywords and phrases specific to the position. These might include job titles, technical skills, or industry-specific terms.
- Incorporate Keywords Naturally: Integrate these keywords naturally throughout your resume. Place them in the professional summary, skills section, and experience descriptions where applicable.
- Don’t Overdo It: While keywords are essential, avoid keyword stuffing. Ensure that your resume reads smoothly and doesn’t appear forced or irrelevant.
Should You Use Times New Roman for Your Resume?
Times New Roman was once a standard font for resumes, but modern resume trends have evolved. Consider these factors:
- Industry Norms: Research resume trends in your specific industry. Creative fields may allow for more diverse typeface choices, while conservative sectors may still prefer the classics.
- Readability: Times New Roman is a legible font, but it’s considered outdated. Opt for a look that balances professionalism with modernity and readability.
- Arial, Calibri, or Helvetica: These fonts are widely accepted in many industries. They offer a contemporary appearance while maintaining readability.
- Font Size: Ensure that your font size is consistent and readable. Typically, 10 to 12 points is the standard range.
How to Get Your Resume Noticed in the Digital Realm
Thanks to job boards, social media, and company websites, applying for jobs is more accessible than ever. However, this convenience has also led to a surge in the volume of applications that recruiters receive. In response, many employers have turned to ATS technology to efficiently sift through this deluge of resumes.
So, what’s the secret to getting your resume noticed when applying online, particularly in an ATS-driven environment?
- Understanding the Power of Keywords: We’ve touched on this earlier, but it’s worth emphasizing again. Keywords are the compass that guides your resume through the intricate maze of the ATS. To stand out, carefully analyze the job description for relevant keywords and seamlessly incorporate them into your resume.
- Tailoring Your Resume for Each Application: Avoid the temptation to send out a generic resume to multiple job openings. Instead, tailor your resume for each application. Customize it to align with the specific job requirements, skills, and qualifications sought by the employer. The more your resume mirrors the job description, the higher the chances it will navigate the ATS effectively.
- Optimizing Your Resume File: When you’re applying online, the file format of your resume matters. PDFs are generally safe bets, as they retain their formatting across different devices and software. However, some ATS platforms may prefer Word documents. To ensure compatibility, consider sending both formats when allowed.
Best Practices for Sending Your Resume to a Recruiter
When sending your resume to a recruiter, whether through an online application portal or email, follow best practices to make a positive impression:
- Use a Professional Email Address: Ensure your email address is professional and straightforward, ideally your name. Avoid quirky or inappropriate email addresses that could put people off.
- Compose a Clear and Concise Email: When emailing your resume, compose a brief yet impactful message. Introduce yourself, express your interest in the position, and mention that your resume is attached. Be courteous, confident, and professional.
- File Naming Convention: When naming your resume file, use a clear and standardized convention. Typically, “FirstName_LastName_Resume” works well. This helps recruiters easily identify your application in their inbox or database.
- Subject Line Clarity: In the subject line of your email, specify the position you’re applying for. This makes it easier for recruiters to categorize and prioritize applications.
By adopting these strategies, you’ll not only navigate the intricacies of online job applications, but you’ll also increase your chances of getting noticed in a very noisy and crowded job market.
Craft a Winning Resume with Peoplelink Staffing
Throughout this article, we’ve delved into the intricacies of resume crafting in the modern job landscape. We’ve explored how to choose the right format, effectively present your experiences, and optimize your resume for the digital age. But let’s recap the essentials that can truly set your resume apart.
- Know Your Audience: Understand the hiring manager’s needs, the company’s culture, and the industry trends. Tailoring your resume with this knowledge is the first step to success.
- Highlight Achievements: Rather than merely listing duties, emphasize quantifiable achievements. Numbers speak volumes to recruiters.
- Adapt to Technology: Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are now gatekeepers in the recruitment process. Master the art of integrating relevant keywords while maintaining readability
- Customization is Key: Avoid sending generic resumes. Tailor your document for each application, aligning it with the job description and requirements.
- Present Professionally: Ensure that your resume is visually appealing. Use consistent formatting, headings, and bullet points. Leave white space for readability.
- Stay Updated: Incorporate relevant certifications and training to showcase your commitment to professional development.
- Master Digital Etiquette: When applying online or emailing recruiters, maintain professionalism in every aspect, from your email address to your subject line.
Now, it’s time to put your newfound knowledge into action. Your resume is more than just a document; it’s your gateway to career opportunities. Your dream job is within reach, and your resume is the key. Craft it with care and watch your career soar.
For further expert guidance on resume building, interview preparation, and navigating the job market, partner with Peoplelink Staffing. Our experienced professionals are here to support your career journey!