resume tips

56 Resume Tips to Get Your Dream Job

1. Customize your resume for each job

If you want to find a job fast, it is critical to customize your resume for each opportunity. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have or how qualified you are, a generic resume will not help you get your dream job.

For best results, customize your resume for each job the following way:

  • Include the appropriate keywords for the job.
  • Use the job title in the description.
  • List specific requirements for the position.
  • Include your location – You don’t need to include your home address, city and state are sufficient.

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2. Be honest

What you write on your resume matters. The purpose of your resume is to get you hired. What you put in there should be true. If you don’t tell the truth it could come back and haunt you. There are countless examples of people getting jobs, then get fired for lying on their resumes.

There are many reasons you should be honest on your resume, here are 5 of the most important:

  • You could set yourself up for failure. If lie your way to a job you are unqualified for, you will most likely fail.
  • Experienced hiring professionals have an eye for cheats.
  • Inconsistencies are fairly easily detected during the hiring due diligence process. It is easy to verify your work history or your school records.
  • Your resume might impress, but lies are easily detected during the job interview process.
  • A dishonest resume prevents you from showing off your real skills.

3. Place the highlights to the top area

The top third section of your resume is the one that creates the first impression about you. Focus on your greatest accomplishments in this area. The top section is what the hiring manager will read first. It is important to make a strong first impression, to keep the hiring manager interested.

Show your most relevant experiences on the top of your resume.

4. Less is more

Resist the temptation to list every job, award, certificate, and reference on your resume. Think of your resume as the most important highlights for a specific job. Think of it this way: What jobs, skills, and experiences have prepared you best for this job? And, emphasize those skills.

Each of your customized resumes should highlight only the skills and experiences that are most relevant to your dream job.

5. Start with the most recent experiences

Technically, you could list your experience several different ways. The preferred way is to list your most recent experience first. If you don’t start with your most recent work experience some hiring managers might think that you are hiding something.

6. Work off of a master list of all jobs

Having a master list of all jobs will simplify the process of writing customized resumes. Keep a master file of all past jobs, to be used a quick reference. The master list will save you a lot of time.

7. Forget about the objective statement

For the most part, the objective statement is a waste of resume space. Using an objective statement dates your resume. Outdated is not the message you want to send with your resume. Instead of including the objective statement focus on your experience and qualifications for the job.

8. Make it a one-page resume

How long your resume should be? Even though the optimal length of a resume is a hotly debated topic, the most important thing is to keep it as short as possible.

Keep the information in your resume to the point. Only include information relevant to the job you are applying for. No fluff.

9. Create a personal website

Sometimes you need more than a resume to tell your whole story. Create a personal website to include additional examples of your work experience. For example, if you are a designer, your resume isn’t the right platform to show examples of your design work. If you are a coder, you could show examples of your work on your personal website.


10. Don’t be too creative

Your resume should have a simple formatting. You don’t want to surprise the hiring manager with a completely unconventional looking resume. What hiring managers want is the ability to quickly and easily read your resume. The easier to you make it on them the better for you.

11. Use the right font

The best resume fonts are modern and easy to read. There are thousands of different fonts you can choose from. No matter what font you use, select one that is easy on the eyes and shows up well in print and on the screen.

Pick one of the following fonts:

  • Aerial
  • Times New Roman
  • Trebuchet MS
  • Calibri
  • Didot
  • Georgia
  • Helvetica
  • Garamond
  • Verdana

12. Select the correct font size

12 points are the appropriate font size for your resume. Anything smaller will be too difficult to read. Anything larger will take up too much space.

13 Bold

Make headlines bold. You could also bold your previous job titles.

14. Italicize

Italicize subheadings within your resume.

15. CAPITALIZE correctly

Capitalize the following in your resume:

  • Your degree – “B.A. in History”
  • The abbreviations of your degrees – “B.S., M.S., Ph.D.”
  • Your title when used as a heading – “Director of Technology”
  • The title when it is before the person’s name – “Vice President of Sales John Stephens”
  • The first word of a bullet point. – “Managed 10 person sales team”.

16. Don’t underline

Avoid underlining text. Studies found that reading underlined text is more difficult than reading a regular text.

17. Use bullet points

It is best to use bullet points to focus on your job skills and accomplishments.

For example:

  • Increased sales by 25% within the first 12-months.
  • Managed 12 people within research department.

18. White space helps

Resumes with white space are easier to read. Leave a healthy amount of white space on your resume. Leave at least one-inch margins. Leave some blank space between sections of the resume text, to break the content into chunks of information.

19. Don’t stand out too much

We all want to be noticed. Unfortunately, resumes that are too different could be ignored. Infographics, videos, or presentations are great tools to stand out, but they are not your resume. A resume is mostly text with a few design elements like bullet points. Because there is a good chance that machines read your resume before a human looks at it, you have to be careful about how it’s put together. Too many bells and whistles could make your resume unreadable.

20. Make your contact info easily seen

Don’t include your home address on your resume. It is not required.

You should include the following contact information on your resume:

  • Email address – Use your personal email only. Never include your professional email address. It is also important to avoid using silly email addresses like [email protected].
  • Phone number.
  • A link to your Linkedin profile.
  • Twitter handle – It goes without saying that your social media profiles should be suitable for professional eyes.

21. Make it skimmable

A skimmable resume is easier to read. If you make the hiring manager’s job easier, you are improving your chances of being recognized.

22. Hire a professional

If creating a resume is not your strong suit, hire a professional to help you. The professional touch could be the difference between getting a job interview and getting lost in the sea of mediocre resumes.Your resume is the most important document of your job search, treat it accordingly.

Work Experience

23. Focus on what is relevant

Focus on the most recent 10-12 years of your career. Only include experience relevant to your target position. Include more of what is relevant and none of what is going to help you get the job.

24. What if you have no relevant work experience?

Not all is lost if you have no relevant work experience. Emphasize on transferrable and related experiences. Do you have skills that can be transferred to your dream job? Have you taken seminars or course that could be useful? To amplify all of your transferable skills, describe how they would help you with your target position.

25. Limit your bullet points

Resist the urge to have too many bullet points about your accomplishments. Keep the number of bullet points at or under five. Focus on the five most important accomplishments and ignore the rest.

26. Avoid insider jargon

Don’t stuff your resume with industry jargon. The hiring manager is not going to understand industry jargon. Your resume should be understandable for non-experts within your field. The first eyes on your resume will be most likely of a recruiter or a hiring manager. Make sure the resume is readable to them.

27. Include facts, numbers, and figures

It is hard to argue with facts. Great resumes include all relevant facts, numbers, and figures.

As you think about what numbers and figures to include consider the following:

  • By what percentage did you improve x?
  • What dollar amount of projects did you manage?
  • How many people did you manage?

Facts give hiring managers insight into your qualifications.

28. Boast about your accomplishments

Your resume is no place to be shy about your accomplishments. Companies want to hire people who make things happen. Show them what you did. How did your previous employer benefit from having you on the team? This is your chance to communicate that you are the right person for the job.

29. Present your soft skills

Hard skills are important to get attention, but you also need soft skills to get the job.

Show evidence of soft skills such as:

  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Communication skills
  • Passion for learning
  • The ability to grow and evolve
  • Problem solving
  • The ability to negotiate
  • Conflict resolution

30. Include unpaid work experience

Have you worked on any projects that would help you get your dream job? Even if it was a non-paid project, you should include it. Have you volunteered or worked as a freelancer on a project that required relevant skills? Share it on your resume.

31. Use a variety of action verbs

Don’t use the same action verbs over-and-over. Many resume bullet points start with the same boring words.
Get creative with the action verbs you include on your resume.

Instead of an overused verb like “managed”, try verbs like, “chaired”, “eliminated”, or “inspected”. There are hundreds of action verbs, avoid reusing the same verbs most resumes include.

32. Optimize for target keywords

Keywords are important for multiple reasons. Software that does the initial scanning needs to find the relevant keywords in your resume. Hiring managers also need to see the appropriate action verbs.

Use the job description to come up with a list of relevant keywords. Look for keywords that are used multiple times and in key areas.
Having the right keywords will increase your chances of getting noticed by applicant tracking systems.

33. Avoid cliches

The last things to include in your resume are empty words. Vague terms such as hard worker, team player, and attention to detail are just a few examples of empty words. They are overused and they will not help you get an interview. Think of a unique way to describe how great you are.


34. Focus more on experience much less on education

Unless this is your first real job out of college, let your education follow your experience. If you have work experience, it will help you more to get noticed that your school work.

35. Start with your most recent degree

Start your education section with your highest degree. Unless you have other school work that would be more relevant to your target position.

36. Exclude the dates

The hiring manager cares more about your education than what year you have graduated.
Don’t list your graduation dates. The reviewer cares more about whether or not you have the degree than when you earned it.

37. Mention honors

Share if you have graduated with honors. This is especially important when you are fresh out of college with little or no work experience.

38. Skip GPA

It is not necessary to show your GPA. If you are short on hard skills or real work experience, showcasing that summa cum laude might help you.

39. Show online or continuing education

Professional certifications, online or continuing education might be the secret to getting noticed. Online education is widely accepted and could show that you are motivated to learn new skills on your own time.

Skills, Awards, and Interests

40. List your relevant skills

List the required skills in your resume. Does the job calls for specific tech skills list them on your resume? Of course, only do this if you actually possess the skills.

Avoid skills that everyone should have like email, fax, Microsoft Word, etc. Listing basic skills could make you seem less skilled.

41. Create skill sections

Don’t list all skills together. Group them together such as “software development” or “project management”. Breaking your skills into sections make reading them easier.

42. Let your personality shine

Credentials are the most important part of your resume. It is also important to show your personality. Write a human-voiced resume that tells the hiring manager who you are.

43. Use the word “I”

A great way to give your resume some personality is to use the word “I”.

44. Tell stories

Share a short story in your resume to show how you have used your skills, rather than just list your skills.

45. Omit controversial interests

Leave politics out of your resume unless it is relevant to your dream job. Showing controversial interests could hurt your chances of getting a job interview.

46. Be proud of your accolades

Include your awards in your resume. You can also include a sentence why you were awarded each particular award. Non-professional awards might also help you, but they will have a much lesser impact.

Gaps and Other Difficult Resume Situations

47. Avoid the short-term jobs

If you worked as a temp for a few months, you might want to exclude it from your resume. Be ready to answer questions about short-term jobs during an interview.

48. Marginalize the gaps

You can marginalize the gaps of short-term work history by omitting start and end dates. Use years only (2015-2016).

49. Justify serial job-hopping

Explain your reasons for leaving for your new position, with a simple explanation such as “department eliminated”, “layoff due to company bankruptcy.” By being upfront about gaps, you justify the reason for job hopping and make it less of a problem.

50. Explain unusual breaks between jobs

Are you re-entering the job market after a long sabbatical? Explain your reason for taking time off between jobs like “I took a year off to travel to South America to perfect my Spanish language skills.”

Finishing Touches

51. Please, delete “References Available Upon Request”

Believe it or not, hiring managers will ask for references if they want them. There is no need to spell out the obvious.

52. Proofread, then proofread it again

Make sure that your resume if free of spelling errors and typos. You will need to do more than just rely on your spellchecker. Ask trusted friends to proofread your resume. Ask at least three people to proofread your resume.

53. Create a PDF version

It is best to use a PDF version of your resume than a .doc version. The PDF file will retain its formatting. Before you send your PDF version, open it in a couple of different computers. Make sure the formatting looks good on all of them.

54. Use common sense file naming

Ready to save your resume? Save your resume as “Joe Taylor Resume” instead of “Resume-version-2.8.” Using the proper naming makes it easier for the hiring manager.

55. Keep it up-to-date

Have you learned new skills? Add it to your resume. Do you have a new email address? Change it on your resume.

56. Get it to a real person

Resumes are most effective when human beings look at them. Whenever you are applying for a job get it to the hiring manager. There is no substitute for making a real connection with someone. Your chances of getting your dream job are hugely improving if you can make a personal contact with the hiring manager.

Bonus: Need a job? Consider Using an Executive Search Firm

If you’re an entrepreneur contemplating taking a position rather than starting a new venture, selecting a search firm may be a viable option. In today’s market, the hiring employer pays for the search firm’s fees. The firm that you choose will directly affect the results that you can expect to receive. It is a good idea to work with a firm that you know. Ask yourself who helped you fill key positions when you were searching for your present/previous company. These firms are known entities. You know how they operate and how well they perform. You’ll receive superior service because they have benefited from their association with you in the past and are hoping to benefit from it again. They know your industry, your likes, dislikes, and so on. They can search out the best opportunities based on their history with you.

There are many benefits to working with a search firm. A job search firm can help you with privacy issues, time management and quality of life. Plus, it’s a benefit to brainstorm with someone else. These are highly skilled agents that are a free service to use in your search. In addition, their representation of you grants you priority with choice employers.

Because the practices of search firms vary greatly, you’ll want to set some ground rules with your representing firm. Establish when you’re resume may be submitted. Does the firm receive carte blanche to submit you for opportunities that meet the criteria you’ve set? Or do they need to apprise you of the opportunity and employer before any submission? Many firms work cooperatively to fill positions and place executives. Does your firm have permission to share your resume with other search firms? Or, again, do they need to apprise you before any third-party activity takes place?

The level of service you receive from your firm is a direct reflection of the relationship you’ve built. When this is well developed, you’ll have an industry ally who will enthusiastically and doggedly promote your interests. This relationship is as important as your other business relationships. While not necessary, being known as a resource of referrals by your firm will make you invaluable and ensure their loyalty to you. Most importantly, it will keep you always on their mind and the lookout for the most lucrative opportunities. In the end, a firm’s ability to open doors and make introductions depends on an executive’s willingness to communicate with them openly and often.

photo credit: Career Fair at College of DuPage 2014 54

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George Meszaros is the editor and co-founder of Success Harbor where entrepreneurs learn about building successful companies. Success Harbor is dedicated to document the entrepreneurial journey through interviews, original research, and unique content. George Meszaros is also co-founder of Webene, a web design and digital marketing agency.