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22 next-level resume tips from a pro – your checklist for a killer resume

CareerBuilder | June 6, 2019


Use this checklist to create a killer resume that gets noticed by recruiters and employers in your industry

In a competitive job market, it’s often not enough to have a “good” resume. To stand out from the crowd, you need a GREAT resume.

According to recruiter Glen Cathey, also known as the Boolean Black Belt, recruiters like him use Boolean searches (pronounced boo-lee-uh-n) to filter resumes by keywords and broaden or narrow their results to generate a solid list of qualified candidates. This helps them sift through thousands of resumes every day and pick out the best candidates.

Cathey knows a thing or two about how to make your resume stand out above the competition. So we sat down with him to get his insights about how he searches for candidates, then combined his insights with some expertise of our own to create this helpful checklist.

Here are 22 tips to take your resume to the next level.

🗸 1) Use the best keywords.

In today's job search, keywords are critical. Be sure to use relevant keywords, and keep them within five words of action verbs or any numbers you’ve used to quantify your experience so recruiters like Cathey will find them in their Boolean searches.

🗸 2) Avoid objectives.

Objective statements are passé. We recommend leaving off objective statements unless you are dramatically changing careers, from, say, a sales manager to a chef and need to explain.

🗸 3) Use bullet points.

It's best to use bullet points wherever possible. Hiring managers and recruiters like Cathey are short on attention and time. Bullet points guide their eyes to your best qualities.

🗸 4) Try sticking to one page.

Unless you're certain multi-page resumes are your industry's standard, do your best to summarize into a single page and link to more information online. Remember, the purpose of your resume is to get an interview, where you can then expand on your experience and highlight your key skills.

🗸 5) Use numbers.

Using numbers is the best way to quantify your experience. Have you led a team? How many people were on it? Have you increased sales? By what percentage? The more numbers you can attach to your experience, the better.

🗸 6) Include an email address.

You'd be surprised how many people forget to include their email address on their resume. (Pro tip: Use a professional email address. Sorry,!)

🗸 7) Include a phone number, too.

The fact is, hiring managers and recruiters want to hear your voice. It’s best practice to include a phone number.

🗸 8) And don’t forget a physical address.

While excluding a physical address will usually not rule you out from consideration, companies often prefer nearby candidates, because, according to studies by Forbes and others, nearby candidates usually have greater job satisfaction due to shorter commute times. If you don't live nearby, but you already plan to relocate, you have a couple of options: You can simply leave off a physical address, or you can list the address where you will stay until you relocate. Either way, be prepared to explain your relocation plan if you are asked.

🗸 9) Proofread it – aloud.

Proofread, use spell check, then proofread again – aloud. Tiny typos and other mistakes can inadvertently signal that you lack attention to detail, which when compared to other mistake-free resumes, can keep you from getting interviews. (Pro tip: Ask a friend you trust – preferably someone with good writing or speaking skills – to review your resume and give you candid feedback on it.)

🗸 10) Keep your sentences under 30 words.

We recommend writing resumes in short, punchy sentences like news headlines. They improve your resume's skimmability.

🗸 11) Use action verbs.

Starting your points with action verbs is a great way to show you are performance-oriented. (E.g., "Achieved 13 percent growth." "Saved the company 7 percent in quarterly operating costs." "Led a team of five engineers.")

🗸 12) Place numbers near action verbs.

Your verbs and numbers should live in harmony. Hiring managers and recruiters like Cathey build into their Boolean searches a measure of proximity between numbers to action verbs. Cathey says he typically looks for numbers to appear within five words of action verbs (see examples in No. 11.)

🗸 13) Put your most recent experience at the top.

To demonstrate career growth, in most cases it’s best to list experience in reverse-chronological order with your most recent position at top.

🗸 14) Put your education on the bottom.

Unless you are a recent graduate, we recommend listing your skills and experience first and education at the end. And even if you are a recent graduate, we still recommend highlighting specific, applicable skills and experiences above your education.

🗸 15) Consider images or icons (carefully).

What, images in a resume? Experience and skills notwithstanding, it's critical your resume stands out. Many professionals, especially in creative fields, are now including images and icons to do just that. Charts and work examples can work well in moderation, but don’t force it. Text-only resumes are still the most acceptable standard.

🗸 16) Vary your word usage.

If every points starts with "Responsible for...", or "Achieved...", you have more work to do. It's OK to have repeats; just don't overdo it. (Pro tip: Read aloud to hear how it sounds. If you hear yourself saying the same word over and over, it might be a good idea to find a different word. Having a thesaurus handy can help.)

🗸 17) Avoid jargon.

While big and/or industry-specific keywords are sometimes appropriate, don’t overload your resume with big words or industry jargon. While it’s recommended to use industry-specific keywords, going overboard can have the opposite effect, like you're covering for shortcomings elsewhere. It’s important to strike the right balance.

🗸 18) Keep your points specific and measurable.

Avoid using clichés and general phrases like "highly motivated," "team player," or "hard worker." Your space is limited. If you are as specific as possible – including numbers that back up your claims – you will put your skills and experiences in the best light.

🗸 19) Consider removing your graduation date.

In most cases, it's entirely acceptable to leave off your graduation dates. Most hiring managers don't care when you graduated; they care about your attitude, skills and experiences.

🗸 20) Don’t worry about GPA.

No GPA, no problem! If you want to talk about your education accolades, list honors instead (E.g., magna cum laude, fifth in my class, presidential scholar).

🗸 21) Be prepared with references.

If employers want references, they will ask. Your space is limited, so ditch the "References Available Upon Request" line and be prepared when asked.

🗸 22) Save your resume as a PDF.

Saving your resume as a PDF file locks down the formatting and style so everyone sees it the way you see it. Saving as a PDF is possible in most word processing tools simply by clicking File > Save As > PDF.

Bonus Tips for Resume Management

🗸 23) Give your resume an intuitive file name.

Oftentimes when you send/upload your resume – be it directly via email or through a job site like CareerBuilder – the name of your resume file will be shared with the recipient. To get a leg up over your competition, consider including your name, the month and year of last update plus a tagline that speaks to your experience. (E.g., "Susan Smith - metrics-driven marketer - June 2017.") This can improve your name recognition with employers and is just one more way to stand out above others with generic file names like “resume.docx.”

🗸 24) Update your resume frequently.

Whenever you have achieved something new, received an honor, or been recognized for great work, update your resume on CareerBuilder. Hiring managers and recruiters like Cathey typically filter their resume searches by recently updated, because it’s a tell-tale sign the job seeker is interested in a career change. The more frequently you update your resume, the more visible you will be in their searches.

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