10 tips to give your resume the edge

Your resume may be good; it may even be great, but there are several ways you can fine tune it to stand out to recruiters and hiring managers.

An important thing to remember when applying for a position is that your resume is usually first looked at by someone in HR. These individuals look for buzzwords that show you may be qualified to get an interview. They could review hundreds of resumes in a day, so you need to make sure your resume quickly and concisely conveys the right information so they pass yours along to the hiring manager. 

Once you get past HR, you need your resume to pass the second test: the scrutiny of the hiring manager. Buzzwords won't save you here. The hiring manager will take a more thorough look at your resume, so sell yourself. The goal is to get the hiring manager to say, "I need to interview this person."

What does a good resume look like? Here are 10 resume tips that will put you ahead of the competition.

1. Use an eye-catching design

You need your resume to give a good first impression, and the best way to do that is to make it visually appealing while sticking to a professional format that includes:

  • OBJECTIVE: State the job you’re applying for. The objective section is short and to the point. Just make sure that it applies to whatever job you are trying to get. (If you’re a more seasoned professional, consider expanding this section with a one-sentence summary of your expertise.)
  • EDUCATION: List where and when you went to school and the degree(s) obtained. Hiring managers can glance here to get a sense of your formal education level. Even if you haven't been in school for quite some time, it’s still important to list it.

  • PROJECTS, ACCOMPLISHMENTS, SKILLS: Highlight your skills and expertise, projects you’ve worked on that would translate well to the position you’re applying for, and any work-related awards that accentuate your qualifications. Emphasize projects you led in a non-standard method that brought success to your department or organization. 

  • LICENSES and CERTIFICATIONS: Showcase certifications that are beneficial to the job you’re applying for.

  • WORK EXPERIENCE: List the names of the companies you’ve worked for, the position you held and a brief description of your responsibilities. Start with your current position or your most recent job if you are not currently employed. Subsequent entries should look the same way.

Notice that the headings above are bold and in all capital letters. This helps anyone scanning the resume to quickly locate specific information. Also, the bullet points are a must to make your resume professional and easy to read.

You should also make sure your formatting is error free. Are you using consistent fonts? Does everything align correctly? Is there anything that looks odd? Every small detail must be buttoned up.

2. Create a quality page header

This is such an important part of formatting your resume that it’s in a category unto itself. A header is easy to create and a great way to include all of your pertinent contact information without taking up much space. Space is limited, so this tip will help you use it wisely!

For example:

Jane Doe page header

This only takes up a single line and shows how you can be contacted by mail, phone and email. Again, this is just one more technique you can use to get your pertinent information in your resume in the most efficient way possible.

3. Beef up your verbiage

It's important to say things in a way that conveys your experience in the most attention-grabbing way possible.

Here's an example of a project you may have worked on:

In charge of making an Oracle database

This is a great piece of information, but it won’t get HR or the hiring manager to notice. Instead, say something like this:

Spearheaded the creation of an Oracle database for business use

This shows you really took charge of the project. You also gave some insight into the project’s outcome by showing it was for business use.

It's all about putting down the best information possible without taking up too much space. Some other great descriptive words you can use include:

  • Efficiently …

  • Well acquainted …

  • Proficient in …

  • Actively worked to …

4. Customize and prioritize the info on your resume

This is something that you have to do if you want your resume to make it past HR.

Study everything you can about the job you are applying for, the company itself, and think about what the people doing the hiring will be looking for. Tailor your resume to fit this profile by prioritizing your content.

If you’re applying for a job as a software engineer with a company using Node.js, React and Github, then be sure to really drive home the point that you have those skills and highlight the work you’ve done with those technologies. Make sure you list these skills and experiences first in their respective sections. If you list it in the middle or the end, you risk it not being seen at all. Don't lose out on a shot at an interview because the technical skills that would help you get the job are buried at the bottom of your resume. 

You should constantly tweak your resume to make sure what you have at the top is the most relevant information to the job you are applying for.

5. Tell the truth

It has to be said. Do not put that you managed a project if you watched everyone else do the work and put your name on it. Do not say you are an expert in Angular if you're not even sure what it is.

There is a difference between tweaking your resume to highlight your accomplishments and lying to get a job. Don't even tell a little fib; it will eventually come back to haunt you.

6. Stick to one page

Even if you’re just entering the workforce, it’s difficult to keep your resume condensed to one page. But, if you follow the steps above, you’ll have a much better chance. Why? Because hiring managers don't have time to rifle through two or more pages. More often than not, your resume will get tossed out without so much as a look if it’s more than one page. 

Trim the fat. Be direct. Represent yourself in a clear and concise way.

7. Don't sell yourself short

At some point in your life, you were told that it's not polite to brag. But on your resume, you have to brag about yourself a little bit. You need to show all of your relevant strengths and abilities, and you need to come across strong and confident. If you can't show how good you really are, then how will the hiring manager be able to see if you can help the company you're trying to be a part of?

8. Keep out the stuff you don't need

Here are a few things you should not include on your resume: 

  • Age

  • Marital status

  • Irrelevant associations and memberships

  • Previous pay

  • Irrelevant recreational activities

  • Etc.

Make sure the information you provide falls under the sections listed above and keep everything else out. You don’t have room for unnecessary or irrelevant information.

Another thing you may want to consider removing—even though it falls under one of the sections—is your entire work history. Be selective. If you’re wondering whether or not you should include a specific position, ask yourself if the responsibilities you had in that role are relevant to the job you’re applying for now AND if you held the job relatively recently. If you can’t answer yes to both of these, consider cutting it. Exercise a bit of creativity and judgement to decide what stays and what goes. Ultimately, what's most important is to represent yourself in the most positive and relevant way.

9. Proofread! Proofread! Proofread!

Proofread your resume until you know it’s perfect. Then, proofread it again. Have a trusted friend proofread it too—someone you know who will pay close attention to the details and will give you honest feedback and sound suggestions. Don't give it to that friend that's going to glance at it and say, "Yeah, I love it."

Also, if you can, have someone that has recently gone through a similar job search take a look and give you recommendations on what to include on your resume. They can proofread it and give you feedback they wish they had as they went through their own journey.

10: Make it your own

Remember, these tips have been tried and tested, but they’re just guidelines. You have to put a little bit of your own style into your resume. That’s the last touch that will make you stand out from the pack.