12 Steps to Perfect Your Resume and Stand Out

June 28, 2018

Your resume is often the first impression your potential employer has of you. Having a professional and well-written resume is a crucial step in preparing for your future career. To help you get started, here are 12 resume tips.


1. Cut the fluff.

Avoid generic tag lines such as “hard worker,” “leader,” and “visionary” because an employer will gloss over those. Rather, give specific details of excellent performance or unique skills and attributes. For example, you are fluent in XYZ language, that you were the college XYZ team captain, or state your military experience and CPR training.


2. Focus on the needs of the organization.

Don’t say something like, “I hope to go to graduate school someday and this job would be a great stepping stone to my future career.” That tells potential employers that you won’t stick around. Instead say something like, “My goal is to add extraordinary immediate- and long-term value to your organization.”


3. Incorporate strong action verbs.

While you want to avoid generic verbs that add to the fluff, make sure the ones you use are descriptive and accurate. Again, refer to the job description as a guide for which relevant action verbs to use. Stick with strong action verbs such as “managed,” “created,” or “facilitated.”


4. Quantify with numbers and be precise.

Use percentages and dollar amounts. If you talk about managing things such as money or people, include the numbers and amounts. How many people did you supervise? Write numbers, percentages, and dollar amounts down specifically.


5. Write down your accomplishments in the order of importance.

When employers are glancing over your resume quickly, they want to know that you meet all the strict requirements of the job first. That’s why writing your skills in order of importance–based on what the employer wants–will make it easy for whomever is reading your resume. Tailor what you say to the specific job as well.


6. When using a strong verb, make sure to use the right tense.

This simple rule is often overlooked. If you’re doing it currently, use a present verb. If you’ve done it already, use a past verb. For example, if you are the creator of XYZ currently, use “creator of” instead of “created”. Switch up the tense of the verbs you use accordingly.


7. Make sure there are no errors or typos.

Yes, this might seem obvious. Have multiple people read your resume just in case. Sometimes it’s difficult to catch your own typos.


8. Tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for.

Always do as much research as you can on the job you’re interested in. Having one general resume that is used for different opportunities is not as effective. Your resume should be job-specific.


9. Your resume should match your cover letter and reference letter.

Using the same heading on both your cover letter and resume will help your employer recognize that your pages go together. This means that each page should have the same font, feel, and format.


10. Prepare for the interview as soon as you send out your resume.

This means having business attire ready and picked out beforehand. A perfect resume will not compensate for an unprofessional appearance. While unfair, the world often judges us by how we speak and what we wear. Perfect the resume, but also perfect your professional image.


11. The length of your resume should reflect the relevance of the content.

For most people starting their career, the length of their resume is typically one or two pages. The most important thing to remember is keeping the information on your resume relevant. If you can help it, try to avoid having a resume that stops after a page and a half — this helps it look more professional.


12. Make sure your references know they’re references.

The last thing you want is to put someone down as a reference who isn’t prepared to speak professionally on your behalf. So make sure your references know you well and agree to being on your reference page. It also helps to send them an email along with a copy of your resume, notifying them of the jobs you’re applying for, just in case they get a phone call from your future employer.


The following Crown College faculty and staff volunteered their top resume tips:

Melessa Henderson, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
Martha Swift, Director of Student Engagement