Write Your Best Résumé: 7 Winning Tips

A friend recently asked me to edit her résumé, and I was happy to help. Before I began editing, though, I did a quick Google search for some résumé writing and editing tips. Because it never hurts to hear what others have to say, right?

Below, I share the seven tips I found to be most helpful, and which I applied to my friend’s résumé —what this Tulane University webpage calls a “word picture of the unique combination of skills and qualities you offer an employer.” Word picture: I like that.

1. Avoid writing a one-size-fits-all résumé. Monster’s Peter Vogt advises, “Employers want you to write a résumé specifically for them. They expect you to clearly show how and why you fit the position in a specific organization.” So for every job you apply for, set aside time to make specific adjustments to your résumé.

2. Bullet-point accomplishments, not job responsibilities. Both Vogt and Tulane agree on this one. These accomplishments “may be an award you received or money you saved the company. You may want to highlight a skill you developed, one which would benefit your prospective employer,” Tulane notes. For example, instead of “Monitored employee productivity to reduce operational costs,” try “Increased company-wide revenue by 15 percent by managing employee productivity.”

3. Make your “word picture” speak for itself (Tulane). What unique skills and qualities do you want your résumé to highlight? If you’re an operations manager … your prompt commitment to customers’ needs? Say: “Respond to customers’ phone calls, e-mails, and texts within 30 minutes.” If you work in public relations … your intuitive understanding of search engine optimization? Consider: “Integrate keywords in Web communications to increase online visibility by 5,000 views monthly.” Your high school English teacher may have said it best: Show, don’t tell.

4. Begin with a “career summary,” not an “objective.” According to the professional association ASME, the average hiring manager scans a résumé in only 25 seconds. So start your résumé off strong with an attention-grabbing career summary of “who you are and what you do”—rather than a clichéd objective like “Motivated professional seeking interesting position.”

For example, my career summary: “Ten years of professional experience in writing and editing. Expertise in a variety of writing styles, including AP and APA. Flair for developing content that is concise yet engaging. Communications work experience in the fields of higher education, marketing and public relations, and newspaper and magazine publishing. Energetic, organized, dependable.”

Get nearly 200 more ideas for your career summary here.

5. Use the right keywords (Daily Writing Tips). Make sure the words you use to describe your accomplishments, skills, and qualities match those included in the job description. This is especially important if your prospective employer uses technology such as keyword-searchable databases to screen job candidates. Learn more here, “Tapping the Power of Keywords to Enhance Your Résumé’s Effectiveness.”

6. Similarly, use verbs that mean something, urges David Silverman in the Harvard Business Review article “How to Write a Résumé That Doesn’t Annoy People.” Think action, short and sweet. Better yet, don’t think much at all—simply check out this article from The Muse, “185 Powerful Verbs That Will Make Your Résumé Awesome,” and choose the verbs that best fit you.

7. Lots more tips from Forbes. I love the excellent resources on Forbes, and I especially love the hundreds of helpful search results that come up when you look up “résumé writing.” So here you go, friends: everything from “Five Things Your Résumé Must Convey in 10 Seconds” to “Three Marketing Tips to Make Your Résumé Stand Out.”

Good luck getting that job!

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