50 tips to get your resume read

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By Wes Weiler, Published on New Grad Life

So you’ve found a job posting for your dream position. Now what?

The job search can be a frustrating process, but it’s also a time full of possibility and potential. Each new listing is a chance for an exciting new opportunity. But once you’ve found a job that sounds like the perfect fit, how do you make sure your resume gets read? Our experienced team has seen thousands of resumes. We know what works…and what doesn’t. Here are 50 of our top resume tips.

Make a Great First Impression

1. Avoid fancy fonts. Prepare your resume in 10-point or 11-point Arial or Times Roman typeface.

2. Edit carefully. Then edit some more. Spelling or grammar can kill an otherwise strong resume. The ability to write well is expected, not seen as an extra perk.

3. Read backwards. This is a great editing trick that helps your eye catch errors.

4. Ask a friend. Another pair of eyes really helps here, so ask a friend to look it over and give you feedback.

5. Make things easy for HR. Human Resources people are overwhelmed with resumes, they take just a few seconds to skim each one. Grab their attention quickly by putting the most important information on the front page, then entice them to read more.

6. Get your resume in early. Establish yourself as a strong candidate early on, and you become the standard by which other applicants are measured.

7. Mix it up. A combination of paragraphs and bullet points is the best way to convey your experience. Start with a brief paragraph that outlines your responsibilities, followed by a bulleted list of specifics.

8. Keep it consistent. Make sure the layout, font, and margins of your resume match those of your cover letter.

9. Keep it simple. Don’t go overboard with underlining, italicizing and bolding. When used sparingly, it will highlight what’s really important.

10. Make it a PDF. While not necessary, sending your resume as a PDF ensures that the formatting remains the same on any computer.

11. It can be more than a page. Don’t sacrifice readability to cram your entire job history onto one page. There’s no consensus on length, but for most entry-level seekers, one page will do. Two pages will usually suffice for mid-career professionals, and three to four page resumes are generally reserved for executive and senior management positions.

12. Layout templates aren’t necessary. While layout templates seem like a great idea, they may not be the best way to present your own information. Find a layout that works for you.

Communicate Clearly

13. Be strong. Use strong action verbs and resist the urge to make your resume read like a job description. Highlight your actual job performance.

14. Forget buzz words. They usually don’t say anything of substance and HR people know that they’re used as filler. Instead, use terms specific to your field, and show your employer that you really know what you’re talking about.

15. Be positive. Show your enthusiasm in your great attitude. Negativity is a turn off to employers, just as it is in so many other aspects of life.

16. Show, don’t tell. Include facts, and tangible results to demonstrate what you’re capable of.

17. Highlight important numbers. Percentages, dollar amounts, sales figures, if you’ve got them, use them. These are great, solid data points that clearly convey your experience, even across industries.

18. Get past the scanners. With a growing number of employers using scanning technology to help manage resume submissions, take extra care to use language to get past the bots. Take your cues from the job description and pull keywords from there.

19. Make it readable. Even the most amazing candidate’s resume will be ignored if it’s too dense, misspelled, or oddly formatted for the HR person to get through.

Inject a Personal Touch

20. Personalize your cover letters. LinkedIn, company websites, and Google are your friend. Do whatever it takes to start your letter with something other than, “To Whom It May Concern.”

21. Inject some personality. While your relevant job skills are the most important, employers like to know that they’re hiring a well rounded employee, with a range of interests and skills. Don’t be afraid to mention leadership positions, hobbies, or other notable nuggets of information. This is especially helpful for entry level job seekers, who don’t have much work experience.

22. Name drop. If you’ve got a connection to someone within the company, let HR know by including a brief line in your cover letter.

23. Write a great cover letter. A great cover letter can get your resume read and in some cases can help bolster a weak resume. This is an excellent place to show some personality.

24. Don’t get too clever. It’s great to have a sense of humor, but if you go overboard with email subject lines or resume content that is more clever than relevant, you could get weeded out by automated filters.

25. Show how valuable you are. Desirable candidates are those who consistently produce great results for their former employers. Highlight your accomplishments, and then back it up with hard facts.

26. Resist the urge to go overboard. While employees want to see your personality, they don’t want to open emails with unnecessary sound and graphics. Let your personality shine in other ways.

Do Your Research

27. All jobs are not equal. It’s not necessary to give the same level of importance to all of your previous jobs. Emphasize the ones that are relevant to the position.

28. Quality trumps quantity. By researching and applying only to the positions that match your qualifications and career goals, you’ll find greater success and minimize heartache. You’re not looking for any job, you’re looking for the right job.

29. Research, research, research. It’s not enough to do a quick scan of the job listing. Familiarize yourself with the position, the industry, and the employer.

30. Being qualified isn’t good enough. Showing specific knowledge on your resume demonstrates that you’re a serious candidate and gives you an edge over other candidates who simply meet the minimum requirements.

31. Highlight your contributions. With the specific knowledge of the industry and employer, you can show on your resume how you brought added-value to your previous jobs and what you can bring to this new job.

32. Explain obscure information. If you are applying to a position outside of your usual field, the person reading your resume might not have a full appreciation of your former duties. You can remedy this by including a few sentences of explanation under each job title.

Get Cozy with Technology

33. Provide links. Don’t just say that you have a blog/Twitter/LinkedIn.

34. Reach out through social media. Sending a quick tweet about your application to a company’s Twitter is a great way to convey your enthusiasm about their job opening and differentiate yourself from the pack.

35. Have a professional email. Use an email address that includes some variation of your name. Register for a new account if necessary.

36. Write something in the message body. Even if sending your cover letter and resume as attachments, don’t forget to include a short note in the body of the message.

37. Go one step further. Paste your cover letter in the body of the message. This puts your info front and center and saves the HR person the extra step of opening a file.

38. Name your file appropriately. Don’t forget that the name of your attachments will appear in employers’ inboxes.

39. Use a subject line that works. When sending in a resume via email, make sure to use a clear subject line that indicates that you are a job seeker.

40. Create a professional email signature. While you’re contact info should be on all of your materials, having it in the body of your email allows the HR person to see your info at a glance.

Don’t Forget That Little Things Make a Big Impact

41. Pay attention to detail. This includes not just looking for typos, but formatting documents, naming files, and doing your research.

42. Use parallel structure. This is exactly what it sounds like, and is a great way to add clarity to your writing. Be consistent in tenses and parts of speech when listing job duties.

43. Follow up with a phone call. If you haven’t received a response to your application after a reasonable amount of time, a polite phone call to check on your status can get things moving and show’s that you’re interested.

44. Be honest. A surprising number of job seekers lie on the resumes. Be honest with yourself about what you really want and be honest on your resume to ensure that you find the right position.

45. Sleep on it. After writing your resume, review it carefully, then put it aside for the night. Come to it the next morning with fresh eyes for a final edit.

46. Don’t ignore the paper. So much of the job search occurs online that paper resumes are becoming a thing of the past. Nevertheless, there are situations in which a paper resume is required. Make sure it’s on good quality stock, clean and free of damage.

47. Use polite correspondence. Begin and end all messages with “Dear” and “Sincerely.” Don’t forget to thank the HR person for their time in either your cover letter or a short email message.

48. Follow application instructions to the letter. If you send your resume materials somewhere else, they stand a chance of getting lost in the shuffle.

49. Be open to criticism. If a friend helping you edit comes back with some suggestions, receive them with an open mind.

50. Send your resume in with confidence. You’ve earned it!