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The Ultimate Guide to Writing the Perfect Resume

Updated Jul 9, 202130 min

The Ultimate Guide to Writing the Perfect Resume

Updated Jul 9, 202130 min
The Ultimate Guide to Writing the Perfect Resume

The Ultimate Guide to Writing the Perfect Resume

Updated Jul 9, 202130 min

The Ultimate Guide to Writing the Perfect Resume

Updated Jul 9, 202130 min
The Ultimate Guide to Writing the Perfect Resume

Overview

 🏆 Goal

Craft a professional resume that makes hiring managers at your dream jobs excited about you!

📗 When to read

When you’re ready to kick your job search into gear. So, before you apply for jobs or set up interviews, get your resume ready to go so that you can send it as soon as you’re asked for it. 

🔑 #1 Tip

Quantify your achievements on your resume. Take time to get this right up front - it will pay off big time!

⌚ Time Required

6 hours. Resume writing takes real thought, iteration, and feedback to get this right. 

✅ Done When

You have a master version of an outstanding resume that you can leverage for each job application you pursue.

Resume Guide Overview GIF

Understand

Making a great resume is harder than it looks. 

Don’t worry, though; we’ve got you covered. We’ll set you up to create something great that you will be excited to share with employers. Our career experts have spent countless hours working with candidates and hiring managers. Now, we are letting you in on what we have learned 😎.

Let’s start by making the goal really clear. A great resume is:

  • A summary of your accomplishments. It’s a brief 1-2 pager showcasing your experiences and accomplishments that are most relevant to a particular opportunity. 

  • A golden key to opportunity. It unlocks doors that a merely good resume wouldn’t, enabling job interviews and networking conversations that you’d get passed over for otherwise. It converts to interviews.

  • An attention grabber. A great resume is aesthetically pleasing, showcases brand names, and convinces the viewer to read your content. It earns the right to be read.

  • A storytelling tool. The right resume paints a compelling narrative of a professional human, marketing “you” as a product. It draws positive attention and the desire to learn more from anyone who reads it

  • Often a first impression. People will often see your resume and make a judgment about your value before seeing or talking to you. This first impression contributes to the final decision to offer you the job or not.

  • Readable by humans and computers alike. A great resume makes sense to each of its three primary audiences: the hiring team, recruiters, and your future employer’s ATS. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through exactly how to create a great resume. We’ll go step-by-step from format to bullet points to fit and finish. This guide is helpful to people who’ve never built a resume before, as well as people who have done so several times already.

How to Write a Resume

Building your resume doesn’t have to be daunting or painstaking. In fact, it can be pretty straightforward. 

Let’s make it as easy as possible. Simply follow these steps one by one:

  1. Pick Format. Find a template that is easy to read, stands out in a good way, and makes you feel confident for interviews. 

  2. Add Content. Complete the scaffold of your resume. Arrange your resume's key sections to convey your story and paint a picture of who you are. 

  3. Craft Bullets. Write clear, concise, and achievement-focused bullet points that clarify the value you bring to the table. This guide will show you how to brainstorm all of your relevant experiences in a long list that makes it easy. 

  4. Get Feedback. No great resume is made in a vacuum. You’ll absolutely want to solicit informed opinions about how competitive your resume is for the goal you’re targeting.

  5. Tailor. Tune your resume to the specific job you’re targeting. (Spoiler alert: multiple versions likely!)

  6. Proofread. Triple-check for grammatical errors and formatting inconsistencies. Get someone to proofread it for you.

With us so far? Great. Now let’s dive into each of the steps!

Diving Into Resume Writing

Pick Format

Lots of us tend to get hung up on the format of a resume. So let’s start by saying: there’s no such thing as a perfect resume template. What one person hates on a resume, another person loves. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

As a rule of thumb, your resume should be 1 page long. This should always be the case if you have 10 years or less of experience. 

Choosing a Resume Template

Picking your template is one of the most fun parts of creating your resume. Getting the end goal in mind is motivating! 

We’ve seen thousands of resumes here at Placement and built out a pack of easy-to-use Resume Templates. They’re designed based on seeing what works to successfully land candidates interviews. They’re recruiter-approved and verified to work with ATSs. All job seekers we work with at Placement have access to them. 

If you’re not working with a Placement Career Coach, you can search online to find good resume templates. Try looking on MBA career websites, Etsy (yep, really!), career websites like the Muse, or asking friends and family.

Can the ATS read my template?

Right. Let’s cover that. An ATS, or Applicant Tracking System, is software used by employers to track and manage candidates. Common ones are Workday, Jobvite, Greenhouse, and Lever. They ingest your resume and make it easy for people at the company to read your information. The issue is that some resume formats show up as gobbledygook in an ATS. Not all ATS' accept all file types. But company websites don’t actually tell you what file types they do or don’t take. This can cause you to be immediately disqualified without ever getting a chance.

To make sure you’re good:

  • Create your resume in Google Docs or an up-to-date version of Microsoft Word.

  • And always, always, always export your resume as a PDF before you send it. 

  • Don’t use anything exotic like Adobe Illustrator or Canva. Some ATSs can’t read those files.

Is my resume template good?

Great question! There are multiple things to consider here.

In terms of look and feel, think about your audience. In 2021, recruiters are reviewing 400+ resumes for each job posting. Quite literally, their eyes get tired, and they get bored. Yes, even people with a great work ethic. You have to earn their attention!

To do so, first make sure your resume is easy on the eyes:

  • For most roles, include a bit of flair or color to stand out from the crowd (but keep it classy). Try an accent color or slightly unexpected font. Look on Etsy, Creddle, and Canva for inspiration. 

  • For roles in a more formal environment like financial services or management consulting, keep with a simple, conservative resume style. Find a template used by MBAs, and you’ll be good. 

  • If you’re in a creative field, your resume had better showcase your design and creative sensibilities in a positive way.

Next, make sure that it’s easy to read. That means:

  • Font size is no smaller than 9.5 points.

  • Font is easy to read, professional, and consistent throughout the document

  • Ample white space

  • Margins are no smaller than 0.7 inches

  • Accommodates ~400 words of content

  • “Skills” is on the top or the side

Then, make sure your resume is complete with all the following sections:

  • Header

  • Summary

  • Experience

  • Education

  • Skills

  • OPTIONAL: Projects, Activities, or Interests

Keep in mind that what works for resumes changes over time. Just because your template worked well a few years ago doesn’t mean it necessarily will work well now!

What to Include On Your Resume ✔️

Once you've selected your resume template, it's time to add in your basic content.  We’ll walk through what to include in each section.

This is the easiest part! Let’s start with easy.

Professional Header

First, you want to add information at the top of your resume but not in the actual header. ATS' often don’t pick up information in the page header. Just adjust the margins so that the whitespace still looks right.

Once you’re there, here’s what to include:

Personal Details

First and last name

  • If you go by a nickname that you want recruiters to use in the interview process, put it in quotation marks to help people feel comfortable addressing you (Katerina “Kate” Lake)

  • If your name is extremely common (Ben Smith) then add your middle initial or name to stand out (Ben S. Smith)

City, ST

  • It’s really not necessary in 2020 to include your full address. Just take it off.

  • If you’re a remote employee and the job is remote, put “Remote, USA” at the top. This is especially true if you live outside a major metropolitan area.

  • If you live in a suburb that’s not well known, instead put the name of the metro area where you’re located, especially if the HQ office is located there (e.g., “Denver Metro, CO” instead of “Watkins, CO”).

  • If you’re applying to a role in a place where you don’t live, leave off the location entirely.

Title of the role you’re applying for 

  • Edit this every time you submit your resume so that it matches the role you’re applying for. Yes, really.

  • Use the generic version of the job title (i.e., if the job title is “Account Executive, EMEA Region,” you can just put “Account Executive”).

Contact Information

Email

  • If your email address gives away your age, then change it (johnjfowler@gmail.com not johnfowler1993@gmail.com).

  • If you or an outdated email provider, change your email address, then change it. (eviejgold@gmail.com, not eviejgold@yahoo.com).

  • If your email address is questionably professional, then change it (melissatok@gmail.com not horsegirl26@gmail.com).

Linkedin URL 

  • Most recruiters will look at your LinkedIn profile, so make it easy for them to find it.

  • Your Linkedin profile URL defaults to something like linkedin.com.com/veronica-ketts-h0679g7. Use this guide to shorten your URL to linkedin.com/veronica-ketts. So much nicer!

Cell phone number

  • If your area code doesn’t match the area code where you’re applying, use Google Voice to get a phone number that does match.

Alright, that was the easy part! Next up, summary.

Resume Sections GIF

Professional Summary

Your resume summary is an incredible opportunity to catapult yourself in the reader's mind as the best candidate for the job. Use a 1-3 sentence statement that excites the reader and convinces them to read your resume.

The summary section is not a good place to talk about what you are looking for in a position or career. Instead, focus on showing the reader that you’re the right person for the job by focusing on the value you can add.

This is how to build a stellar summary that will get you interviews:

  1. Start with the professional title you’re aiming for

  2. Include your years of experience

  3. Add the meat of the summary, making it narrative-style or achievements-based

For a narrative-based summary, you’ll want to call out:

  • The aspects of your experience that most directly align with the job description (i.e., the industry, company type, or size of organization)

  • 3 areas of expertise that differentiate you from other applicants

  • Optionally, a key achievement you want to highlight

Like this:

Operations Manager with 5+ years of experience enabling revenue generation and driving growth at Fortune 500 companies. Developed and implemented processes and onboarding documentation to help scale an organization from 100 to 2,000 employees. Expertise in sales planning, project management, and cross-functional collaboration.

You can copy-paste this into your own resume and use it as a template:

{Job title} with {X} years of experience in {your role or department}. Strong background in {key differentiator} with a focus on {your unique value vs other applicants}. Expertise in {keyword1, keyword2, and keyword 3}.

For an achievements-based summary, you’ll focus on what you’ve actually done. This works well if you’re in a very performance-driven role, you’re quite junior, or your career isn’t as linear, and you want to focus your story on what you have achieved.

Here’s what that looks like:

Marketing Associate with a track record of major launches:

  • Designed and launched “Kandle Light,” Kandle.io’s first monthly newsletter; grew readership from 200 to 4,000 in two months

  • Increased organic Instagram following by 30% MoM by creating weekly content and using paid posts to increase page traffic

  • Improved Grow with Google's CTR by 50% in Q3 2017; worked with engineering to implement countdown timers as a call to action

And here’s a formula you can copy and paste:

{Job title} with {X} years of experience and a track record of {what you’ve accomplished}:

  • {Achievement 1}

  • {Achievement 2}

  • {Achievement 3}

Either way, these styles of summary make it easy in 5 seconds to understand who you are, why you’re applying, and will convince people who get a copy of your resume to actually read it!

Resume Objective

A resume objective is helpful for people who don't have much work history. If you are a career changer or new grad targeting entry-level positions, you can include a resume objective.

Here are some example resume objectives:

Hard-working recent graduate with a B.S. in Physchology from the University of California, Berkeley. Passionate about applying lessons from cognitive science to build compelling product experiences. Seeing a role as an Associate Product Manager where I can learn while producing significant results for the business.

Education Section

Naturally, you’ll want to include your education on your resume. This should take up a relatively small portion of your resume. 

Include the following:

Name of Institution

  • If you went to a school that’s known by its nickname, include that nickname. Example: “Louisiana State University (LSU)” instead of just “Louisiana State University”.

Degree(s) Obtained

  • If you obtained multiple degrees, that’s usually interpreted as impressive. It can also be distracting, depending on the story you want to tell. 

  • Don’t feel obligated to spell out the names of odd degrees. Example: If your major was technically named “Romance Languages & Literature,” it’s fine just to put “Spanish & French.”

Year of Graduation

  • Some people say that you only need the year you graduated on your resume and that if you put the full years “2008-2012,” it will look like you didn’t graduate. Other people say that some ATSs throw out resumes that don’t specify how many years you were in school for. We recommend just putting the graduation year.

Accolades (optional)

  • If you have significant and meaningful sports or leadership experience (e.g., D1 Soccer Captain, President of Student Government), it’s great to include those.

  • Don’t include activities that you weren’t highly committed to (e.g., off-and-on volunteer experience).

  • If you graduated college less than 3 years ago and your GPA is above 3.6, it’s great to include it.

Location of Institution

  • If you went to a school that’s not well-known, it’s helpful to put the schools' location to help paint a picture for the reader.

  • If you went to a school with its location in the name, there’s no need to add the location. Example: “Middle Tennessee State University.” 

Should you include high school on your resume?

Great question! For jobseekers with a college degree, you can usually omit your high school. There are situations where it is helpful to include it, though.

Include it when:

  • High school is the highest level of education you have, and college degrees are not usually required for the job you are seeking.

  • You are a recent grad, and your high school GPA was high, or you achieved honors.

  • You went to an elite preparatory school that potential employers may recognize.

Work Experience

Assuming you’re at least a year out of school, the work experience section is the most important and detailed section on your resume. It’s where you use bullet points to describe the positive impact you’ve had and to highlight your biggest accomplishments.

List your roles in reverse chronological order, including exactly:

Name of company

  • If you worked for a small division with its own name i.e., “The Creative Group,” just put the more well-known parent company name. So in our example, that’d be “Robert Half.” Don’t crowd recognizable brands with other words.

  • If your company goes by “Companyname, LLC” drop the “LLC.” Make it as easy to read as possible.

Job Title

  • If you had a somewhat obscure job title – and most of us do – it’s completely fine to simplify the job title and make it relatable. Here are some perfectly valid substitutions:

    • Sr. Service Delivery Manager → Sr. Delivery Manager

    • Sr. Quality Assurance Specialist II → QA Specialist

    • Outbound Loan Sales Specialist → Outbound Sales Representative

    • Director of Admissions & Enrollment → Director of Operations

  • If you had a fancy title for low-level work, it’s also fine to downgrade your title. Here are some perfectly valid substitutions:

    • Director of Marketing (at a 3 person company) → Marketing Manager

    • Account Executive → Account Development Representative

    • Implementation Architect → Implementation Manager

  • Never inflate your title on your resume in a way that jeopardizes your reputation or would rub a hiring manager the wrong way if they found out. Here are some invalid substitutions:

    • Sales Representative → Account Executive

    • Business Analyst → Data Scientist

    • IT Project Manager → Product Manager

  • If you had multiple job titles within a company, generally, you should put the title you had when you left. There are some exceptions. For example, leave multiple titles on if you transitioned from sales to account management and want to go back to sales

Employment Term

  • List both the month and year (e.g., March 2016 - August 2019)

  • If you have gaps or short stints, some people will tell you just to put the year (i.e., 2016 instead of April - November 2016). Other people will tell you they throw out every resume that doesn’t have months. There’s no perfect answer, but we recommend including the months even if you do have gaps. Most people see right through it if you try to hide gaps by only putting the years anyway.

Location 

  • If you worked remotely from somewhere near a major metro area, say, Watkins, CO, just put “Denver, CO (Remote).” 

  • If you worked in two locations for the same company, just put the location you were in when you left.

Bullet Points

  • Actually, hang on. Pause game. When it comes to descriptive, action-oriented, and quantitative bullet points about the value you added, that’s a whole topic unto itself. Really, you should skip this part for now and leave the bullet points blank to start off with.

  • We’ll cover these in the Craft Bullets section to really make your professional experience.

Skills Section

If you’re starting with an older resume template, there might not be a Skills section on it. Or, the Skills might be relegated to the bottom of the document. Today, your skillset is an important way to distinguish yourself and highlight your technical skills. In fact, it’s now the best practice to highlight your relevant skills in the top half of your resume. We find that the best resumes include skills at the top or along a sidebar in a 2-column layout.

In this section of your resume:

  • Organize your skills into 2-3 categories, so they’re easy to understand.

  • Include the 5 hard skills you are honestly strongest in.

  • Include the 5 soft skills most relevant for the job (assuming you have them).

  • Include 5 skills you possess that not everyone does (assuming they’re relevant).

  • Don’t bother including skills that everyone knows (Microsoft Office, Microsoft Word).

If you’re having trouble getting started:

  • Find 3-5 people who do the role you’re interested in on Linkedin and stalk their skills section.

  • Take 3-5 job descriptions you’re excited about and copy-paste the text of them into a word cloud generator, such as TagCrowd. Pull out the skills that show up that you actually do have, and add those in.

  • Ask yourself what your current or past manager has told you you’re great at. Add some of those!

If you’ve got a good draft and you’re not sure it’s great yet, that’s OK. You can come back around to finalize the skills section after you write the bullet points.

OPTIONAL: Projects, Activities, or Interests

About ⅓ of job seekers we work with at Placement end up with one more section on their resume: Projects, Activities, or Interests.

This varies by person, and you should only include it if you’ve truly done something out of the ordinary outside work. As a general rule of thumb, don’t include something unless you’ve spent 100 hours on it. 

Some examples include:

  • Co-Founder, Sideproject.com. Concepted and built a product allowing travelers to receive custom local recommendations from travel experts for $15

  • Organizer, SF Data Science Meetup. Grew membership from 300 to 1,500 over two years, booking speakers monthly

  • Independent YouTube Creator. Planned, shot, promoted, and edited over 600 videos centered on consumer electronics, user tutorials, and product reviews, earning 9.8MM total views

  • International Marathon Runner. Ran marathons in 11 countries (and counting!)

If you have something truly unique to showcase, this is an opportunity to present yourself as well-rounded, and to show your human side to the hiring team. If you do include this section, add it at the very bottom of your resume. It’s a way of showing you go the extra mile.

Writing Resume Bullet Points ✍️

Now that you've done the easy part of adding the foundational content to your resume let’s tackle the meat of the resume: writing your bullet points.

We’re going to do something a little bit different here. Don’t start by trying to write bullet points in your resume itself. Close the resume template with all the good info that you’ve populated. Really, close it.

Pop open a brand-new Google Doc. (Side note: You can make a new Google Doc just by typing docs.new in your URL bar. You’re welcome.)

You want to spend ample time upfront using your brain and really thinking about what stories you want to tell. This is much more effective, especially for anything you worked on more than a couple of months ago. Otherwise, you’ll start to feel like you’re banging your head against your resume.

What we’ll be doing here is 3 simple steps:

  • Brainstorm. First, a brainstorming exercise to figure out what stories you want to tell.

  • Bullet. Generating a master list of bullet points that describe your professional achievements. 

  • Copy-Paste. Finally, whipping back out your resume and pasting in the beset bullets you came up with

This approach works well because: 

  • It pushes you to think broadly about your whole experience and the stories you want to tell during your interviews.

  • It makes it so much easier to have multiple versions of your resume down the line.

Again, our overall goal is to make it easy for the reader to quickly understand who you are, what you offer, and the positive impact you’ve had professionally.

Brainstorm 🧠

Let’s start with a brainstorm. Jog your memory about what you actually did at your last few employers. This includes the projects you’ve worked on, successes you’ve contributed to, and responsibilities you’ve owned. 

Begin with your most recent job because this will be the easiest role to remember and help you hit the ground running. Imagine talking to a friend or an old colleague. Get your thoughts out quickly. Don’t think about wordsmithing, formatting, or relevance. 

Copy-paste these questions into your Google Doc and answer them for each role:

  • What are/were my main objectives?

  • What projects most prepared me for the job I want?

  • What professional achievements am I proud of?

  • When's a time I took initiative?

  • Whom did I influence? How?

  • What are the biggest impacts I made? What did I accomplish?

  • Did I help the company grow?

  • Did I drive revenue? 

  • Did I reduce costs?

  • Did I improve profits?

  • Did I attract customers?

  • Did I make the customer experience better?

  • Did I make the employee experience better?

  • Did I streamline a process?

  • What metrics were impacted by my work?

  • What are the lasting impacts of my work?

Then, do this same exercise for your second most recent role. And so on.

Once you have all this generated, you can move on to the next section! 

Tell A Story 📖

Next, let’s work each bullet point into a story about your accomplishments. Storytelling is simply the best way to communicate your experience because it makes information easy to understand. So once you have down your accomplishments, you’ll build each one into a quick story that’s easy to share.

Looking back through your brainstorm, you’ll have come up with a lot of responsibilities. These are things that you did and the actions you took. They paint a picture in the readers’ minds of what was happening and explain how you did things. They sound like:

  • Closed deals with clients

  • Wrote newsletters

  • Queried database in SQL

  • Used challenger sales techniques

  • Communicated with clients

  • Presented to leadership

  • Coordinated cross-functionally

  • Documented processes

You’ll also have come up with at least a few achievements. These are results you influenced. They’re the secret sauce to impactful resumes. They sound like:

  • Sold 4 life insurance policies of $500,000 each

  • Set up all social media profiles to drive market awareness

  • Got the brand in front of people through influencer marketing

  • Worked on making customers happy with every email

  • Hired a team of 6

  • Improved employee engagement through D&I initiatives

  • Caught an error that saved the company $400,000

  • Redid the onboarding process to make it faster

Effective resume bullets tie together achievements and responsibilities, showing how your actions influenced a quantifiable result. Sometimes, you’ll end up with multiple responsibilities or multiple achievements in the same bullet. You’ll end up with something like this:

  • Led go-to-market strategy, messaging, and marketing execution for the entire organization, increasing customer growth by 40% YoY and 274% in total

  • Designed a QA process for work completed by our offshore team that led to a 19% MoM decrease in profiles flagged for quality issues 

  • Eliminated radiology charge capture errors by linking charges, reducing $34,000 in billing errors annually

  • Coached 3 supervisors, 9 managers, and 5 directors through development, launch, and execution of process improvement in their departments

Not every bullet point needs to be an achievement or look exactly like this. Just aim to have 3-5 solid accomplishment-oriented bullet points per experience. 

Start with Action Verbs

Start every bullet with an action verb. We love this list of 185 Action Verbs from the Muse as a resource. Feel free to use it.

As you’re writing your bullets, be sure to:

  • Write everything in the past tense, unless it's a current responsibility in a current role. 

  • Use a unique verb for each bullet point. This makes your resume more interesting to read and avoids it feeling trite or fluffy.

  • Eliminate any pronouns (e.g., I, me, my, we, our) from your resume. Resumes with pronouns get far fewer callbacks than ones without.

Own the Spotlight 🔦

“Wow! I’ve got to meet this person!” is the feeling we’re looking to create.

To achieve that, adopt a tone that makes you sound important, competent, ambitious, and impactful. Include a bullet about any leadership scenarios (even if small!). It’s OK if you don’t feel like this as a person all the time. Most people don’t. :)

Often, initial drafts of resumes that we see reference a team, including keywords like “team player,” “collaborator,” or “supporting member.”  It’s OK to include those sorts of words once or twice. Just limit it to once or twice to keep the focus on you. 

Incorporate Numbers 🔢

You may have noticed that all the example accomplishments above included numbers. This is the single most powerful thing you can do to improve your positive response rate to your resume. Numbers complete the story and improve your credibility!

See for yourself how much stronger resume bullets are when they incorporate numbers:

Resume Data Points Comparison Table

It makes a huge difference. Right?

Rules of thumb for numbers on a resume:

  • Include one number in at least every three bullet points (no need to overstuff your resume with numbers).

  • It's worth the time, even if you have to go back through old documents or touch base with old coworkers.

  • If it’s against company policy to disclose numbers, put something more general instead. For example, say things like “multi-million dollar” or “greater than 100%”.

  • If you really don’t have the information, a very honest best estimate is acceptable. Just be prepared in an interview to explain how you estimated if asked. Be sure to use the same numbers you put on your resume when answering any interview questions!

Add Keywords ⭐

In 2021, people don’t read most resumes. They just scan for brands and keywords. So, you want to make it glaringly obvious that you’re a strong potential fit for the role by including specific words they are looking for.

You’ll do this by grabbing the words from the job description and adding them to your resume. 

For example:

  • Let’s say the job description reads, “Communicate project status and milestones to key partners and ensure teams are accountable to complete tasks at hand.”

  • In that job description item, note the keywords, "project status," "milestones," and “accountable.

  • So, in that case, find a bullet point you have about project management. Edit it to include those keywords. As in, “Led weekly project status meetings for cross-functional team members, uncovering risks to project timelines and enabling 85% of project milestones to be completed on time.”

This can naturally take more than a few minutes per resume. A couple of tools you can use to make this easier are Jobscan and Skillsyncer. When you paste in the text of your resume and job description, the tools will highlight which keywords you have the opportunity to add. Pretty neat!

Another option is to use TagCrowd to generate a word cloud from the job description and then weave in the top keywords. It’s less accurate but fewer clicks. Take your pick.

Edit to a Crisp

As you’ve been adding numbers and keywords and accomplishments to your bullets, they’ve inevitably gotten a bit long and kind of wordy. That’s totally OK for now. But as the next step, we want to make sure the bullets are crisp, elegant, and digestible.

If you’re not a natural wordsmith, use these resume tips:

Read the bullet point out loud

You are aiming for readability. If it feels like a mouthful to read, it’s not done yet. Think about how you can simplify it. It is better to say less than to put something that most people don’t understand right away.

Think about the word economy

What is the maximum amount of information you can convey in the minimum amount of characters?

Workshop with a friend

You have an insane amount of context about your job, company, and industry. Read your bullet point to a smart person who doesn't know exactly what you do. Ask them what they think it means. The answers will surprise you! Ask them to explain it back to you in their own words. Their version will often be clearer than yours. 

Use a thesaurus

Look up synonyms for long words to find synonyms that have fewer letters. It might sound out there, but it works.

Copy-Paste

OK! Now, you should have ended up with a long list of bullet points in your Google Doc. Now, save this document as its own file so you can come back to it as needed when tailoring your resume for future roles. 

Select the most relevant, most impressive, and most representative bullet points about you and copy + paste the best of your bullet points into your resume template. 

Aim to include 2-6 really good bullet points per experience. You’ll likely have written some bullet points that don’t make it on the master resume. That’s completely OK.

At this point, you can edit down to 1 page. Or, leave it long for the time being and edit for each job as you go along.

And voila! Your resume is effectively complete. Well done! 🎉

Polish Your Resume 💅

Now, what most people do at this point is ask a couple of friends to look at their resume, and their friends say it’s good (to be nice), and then you move on.

Asking for feedback

To get truly valuable feedback (and avoid spinning your wheels on applications), we recommend:

  • Reach out to the 1-2 people you know that are the most knowledgeable about hiring and recruiting, plus 1-2 people you know who give you great, honest feedback.

  • Ask if they’ll hop on the phone with you for 30 minutes. Offer a favor in return if appropriate.

  • Send them a job description or two that you’re really excited about right before you’re about to hop on the call.

  • On the phone, send them your resume. Ask them to please give you stream-of-consciousness feedback as they are seeing your resume for the first time. Let them know they won’t hurt your feelings and that you want them to be as honest as possible.

  • Take notes!

  • Repeat with 3+ people you trust.

Of course, you can also sign up for Placement, and we’ll make all this happen for you!

Tailor Your Resume

In today’s market, you need to come across as a strong potential fit, not just as passably qualified. For each role that you subsequently apply for, you’ll want to make sure your resume is tailored exactly to the needs of that specific job.

To take a half-step back, there are two ways to do this:

  • Apply to one very specific archetype of role at one archetype of company, and tailor your resume about 25% for every job. For example, product manager roles at seed-stage to Series D tech startups in the SF Bay Area.

  • Apply to a couple of different related archetypes of roles, have one resume for each archetype, and tailor your resume 25% for each job. For example, Client-facing Project Manager roles and Technical Program Manager roles at digital native organizations in Denver or remote.

Either way, each time you’re submitting a resume:

  1. Make a copy of the most similar resume you’ve made thus far and save it as a new document.

  2. Update the job title on the resume to match the job you’re applying for.

  3. Update the professional summary on your resume to best position yourself for the role.

  4. Rearrange the bullets, so the most relevant work experiences are at the top of each section.

  5. Incorporate keywords relevant to the job description as described above in “Add Keywords.” 

  6. Refer back to your long list of bullets so that you can most directly address what the job description is asking for.

  7. Make sure you keep the chronological resume format.

What about Linkedin?

Great question! We’ll be covering Linkedin in a lot more detail in an upcoming guide. 

The TL;DR version is: copy-paste all the bullet points from your long list onto your Linkedin profile. Linkedin favors profiles in its ranking system that include lots of rich content and keywords. Definitely take advantage of that and bias toward including more content.

Proofread Your Resume

Some recruiters literally throw out any resume with a typo. This might sound harsh, but recruiters are looking for reasons to say ‘no’ so they can whittle down the pile. You’re probably sitting there thinking, “I wouldn’t send in a resume with typos”. But it happens way more often than you think.

The more times you read a resume, the harder it is to spot errors. We use a process leveraged by professional copywriters to find errors. You can use it too:

  • Read your resume out loud. Check for any awkward wording. If it doesn’t sound clear, crisp, and succinct out loud, it probably won’t sound that way on a first read, either.

  • Export as a PDF. Look at the PDF in Preview. You’ll probably catch an error or two.

  • Print out your resume. Yes, on a printer. Look at it physically on paper and read every bit of content very slowly, holding a pen atop each word as you go.

  • Take a break from your resume and get a great night of sleep. Look at it first thing in the morning. 80% of people catch at least 1 typo this way.

  • Read the words backward. We’re serious. Start from the bottom left of your resume and proofread every word in backward order. You’ll find hard-to-catch errors this way.

  • Install Grammarly. It’s like spellcheck on steroids. It will help you catch grammatical errors that you might overlook otherwise.

  • Enlist help. Better yet, enlist help from 3 people. Let them know you’re looking for them to help proofread. It’s best to have someone do this that’s never seen your resume before.

By following these steps to put the finishing touches on your resume, you'll make sure your resume gets put at the top of the proverbial pile as recruiters sift through candidates to interview. We can't wait to see where your resume takes you!

Cover Letter

Your resume and cover letter go together like peanut butter and jelly. The digital era has made the cover letter less important than it used to be, but many employers still expect to see one.

We will cover how to write the perfect cover letter in an upcoming guide. For some quick tips today, consider the following:

  • Keep it short. Your cover letter should be the length of a compelling email. No more than 3 short paragraphs.

  • Don't repeat yourself. Simply repeating the facts from your resume isn't helpful. Use this space to sell yourself.

  • Customize it per job. The cover letter should express why you are interested in the company's mission and how your professional experience can meaningfully help their business.

Your Resume Checklist ✅

Pick Your Format

  • Select which of our resume templates you like best, or design your own

Add Your Content

  • Include your contact information in the header

  • Write your summary statement

  • List the positions you’ve held and companies you’ve worked for

  • List your education

  • Include key skills relevant to the position

  • Add projects or activities, if applicable 

Craft Bullet Points

  • Brainstorm all of the experiences you’ve had in your professional career

  • Write compelling bullet points that tell a story and begin with action verbs

  • Include statements about the results YOU were responsible for (it’s OK to brag!)

  • Refine bullet points, so they are succinct and impactful

Put On the Final Touches

  • Copy + paste finalized bullet points from your master document into your resume template

  • Tailor your resume for the specific role you’re applying for

  • Read your resume out loud and look at it as a printed out document to find any errors

  • Ask someone else to proofread for you (better yet, ask several people to proofread!)

Complete Resume Feeling

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