7 expert strategies for optimizing your resume
You’re applying for jobs, so you open the resume you used two years ago and update it with your most recent position. Are you ready to send it out to employers now? Not quite! A resume you haven’t looked at for a while usually isn’t the best it could be, so it’s a good idea to optimize it with some improvements to the content and formatting.
1. Show your greatest achievements first
When you write a resume, it’s at your discretion whether you list education or work experience first and whether you list items in chronological or reverse-chronological order. Use this flexibility to your advantage, and organize the items in your resume so that the accomplishments you’re most proud of are near the top. Leave less crucial sections like hobbies at the bottom of the page. Then when hiring managers pick up your resume, they’ll see the best parts first, and they’ll likely want to read further.
2. Proofread and fact-check
You probably proofread your resume before using it the first time, but it’s possible that you missed a typo. Proofread your resume again. Check that dates are accurate, that titles and employers’ names are spelled correctly, and that there aren’t any misplaced punctuation marks. These types of minor mistakes in a resume can appear careless and can frustrate employers who are trying to verify details of your career, so it’s worth it to go over your resume one more time and make sure it’s error-free.
3. Remove throw-away lines
Does your resume include lines like “References available upon request,” “searching for a suitable position,” or “please see experience below”? Those statements don’t convey any information about you and may give a hiring manager the impression that you’re just trying to fill up space. Delete these empty lines, and add more concrete details about your experience and education instead.
4. Add action verbs
Sometimes resumes contain a lot of boring verbs such as “was” or “had” that aren’t very descriptive. Try to replace them with action verbs wherever possible. For example, instead of saying “had five employees in my team,” you might say “supervised five employees,” “managed five team members,” or “led a team of five employees.”
5. Track experiences consistently
Your resume should tell the story of your career, and that story is more compelling if you show how your skills and experience have developed as you’ve moved from one job to the next. Of course, your career path may not have followed a straight line, but it’s a good idea to identify some themes that are common to your past experiences and to emphasize those similarities. For example, if you now work in accounting and you used to work in operations management, you may want to note that you gained experience with operating budgets and financial projections that are relevant to your current accounting work. Consistently highlighting qualities that are common to your experiences suggests that your career path has followed a logical progression and that you’ve built up expertise over time.
6. Use a new template
Years ago, resume templates were little more than forms to input text with room for a sidebar or two. They’ve come a long way since then. If you originally created your resume in one of those early templates, or if you haven’t yet tried a good resume app, consider redesigning your resume with a free resume builder like Resume Genius or Uptowork. The templates available from these sites make skilled use of graphics and color, and they’re far more visually appealing than a basic text document.
7. Highlight skills and certifications
Hiring managers want to see the types of tasks you know how to complete on the job. To showcase your abilities, devote areas of your resume to certifications and skills. Skills can include software you’ve mastered, languages you speak, or subjects you’re experienced with like purchasing or event planning. If the skills section on your resume overlaps with the job description of a position you’re applying for, that suggests to the hiring manager that you might be a good match for the position.