The job market is more competitive than ever nowadays. A standout resume could be the difference between getting that first interview and getting snubbed. The tips below can help make your resume look more impressive and you land a job.
1) Keep it in the right tense.
Make sure that everything you did in a past job is written in the past tense. For example, “Wrote articles daily” or “Programmed mobile apps using Objective C.” Similarly, if you have a job that is listed as a present job, you’ll want those skills to be in the present tense. This would read, “Writing articles daily” and “Programming mobile apps using Objective C.” Ensuring that your tenses match will make you look like a better writer, which is a good skill to have for any job you are applying to.
2) Put only relevant experience.
Some people have completely different resumes depending on what jobs they are applying to, and that is not only okay but preferred. If you are applying for a job as an IT professional, writing down your experience as a clothing retailer is not going to help—even if you were in the job for two years. It might actually hurt your chances of getting the job because your resume will not look direction-oriented towards the career you are applying for. Although it hurts, make sure to take out any experience that does not directly (or at worst indirectly) relate to the job you are applying for.
3) Fill gaps in your resume with volunteer work.
Sometimes it is inevitable to be out of a job for a few months or even a few years. However, gaps in a resume never look good to potential employers and are considered to be red flags. Fill this time with relevant volunteer work. If you want to be a veterinarian, volunteer at local animal shelters. If you are trying to be a lawyer, do some free grant proposal writing for a non-profit. Volunteer work during times of unemployment shows that you are committed to bettering yourself and the skills you need to rock your next job. Every employer wants an employee that has this kind of motivation.
4) Put your education right at the top.
A lot of people have mixed feelings about whether your education should go at the top or bottom of your resume. Your education will be one of the top reasons an employer will hire you. In fact, according to a study published in the Wall Street Journal, you are likely to be paid 32% more if you went to an Ivy League. This should be reason enough to put your school right at the top. But don’t worry if you didn’t go to a top school, an employer will still appreciate being able to find your education right away at the very top of your resume.
5) Add some easy certifications.
To add a little leg up over the competition, consider getting certified in relevant skills. Any medical or health resume can instantly be boosted with CPR and First Aid certification. For those applying to government jobs, OSHA offers free training courses and certificates online that look great on a resume. Anyone applying to an office job can get certified as a Microsoft Office Specialist. These certifications can be the difference between getting your resume noticed or quickly tossed aside by a potential employer, and usually do not take up too much of your time.
Originally published Nov 14, 2014, updated Aug 12, 2020