How to Fix Your Resume in 2021 [51 Essential Tips]
So you finally sat down, had some coffee, did some brainstorming, and finally wrote the perfect resume.
Whew, that’s fantastic!
But does that mean you’re all done with your resume forever?
Maybe the industry’s not the same, the recruiters’ expectations are changing, or you simply missed something on your first draft.
Whatever the case, a resume is a continuous work in progress.
There’s always room for improvement: if you want to stay on top of your game at all times, you should revisit and fix your resume periodically.
You might be wondering “Well, what exactly do I fix?”
That’s what we’re here to help you with!
In this article, we’ll go over 51 essential tips for fixing your resume.
Without further ado, let’s get to work!
How to Fix Your Resume
Fixing your resume doesn’t mean deleting what you have and starting from scratch.
On the contrary - you don’t have to throw your hard work away!
Instead, we’ll go over each section of your resume and give you some tips on how to upgrade it.
So, here’s the sections we’ll review:
- Style and Layout
- Summary or Objective
- Work Experience
- Honors and Certifications
- Other Fixes
Now, let’s get started with the first section:
Fix Resume Formatting
There are 3 main resume formats commonly used: reverse chronological, functional, and combination. After you’ve chosen the right one for the job you’re applying for, here’s what else you need to remember with regard to formatting:
- 1) Be consistent. You want to use the same type of font and size for all sections of the resume. If some of your sections come in italic and some in bold, and they all come in different sizes, you’ll end up with one messy resume.
- 2) Every inch of your resume is valuable real estate and you want to make the most of it. Narrow down the margins of the resume to gain more room for text without making the format look weird.
- 3) Clearly separate sections from each other. For a clean and organized look, make sure you leave some empty space or insert a line in between sections. This will also make it easier for the recruiter to skim.
- 4) Set line spacing between the text at 1.0 or 1.15 and use double lines after subheadings. These measurements are typically good numbers for most resumes, but you can make some adjustments based on the amount of text you have. The idea is to make lines divided and readable, without having to cut information.
- 5) Remember that (in most countries) the best resumes aren’t longer than 1 page in length. Unless you have a decade’s worth of experience, try to stick within the limit.
Want to save yourself from the hassle of formatting your resume?
Use an online resume builder! All you have to do is pick from a template, and all the formatting is done for you. You just have to fill in the contents, and your resume is good to go.
Fix Your Resume Style and Layout
The style and layout of your resume is the first thing a recruiter notices before even reading anything. It’s important to leave a good first impression by following these tips:
- 6) Pick a resume design type that’s relevant to your field. E.g. if you’re applying for a role in a bank, go for a traditional, black-and-white resume. Applying for a creative role? Pick a more colorful template.
- 7) Make sure you use the right font for your resume. Stay away from fonts that you’d never see on the company’s website or that distract from the text itself.
- 8) Be reasonable with your font size. In an attempt to fit more information, you might not realize it and end up with a small, uncomfortable text. Recruiters won’t like that.
Fix Your Resume Header
The next section you need to get right is the resume header. Here’s how you can do that:
- 9) Speaking of images, make sure you are familiar with the rules of the country/company where you are applying with regard to photos. Know if you should include your picture in your resume or not.
- 10) If you’re submitting your resume online, it’s a great idea to link to other related accounts or websites you might have, for example LinkedIn or Behance. Make sure the links function!
- 11) Include your location, but not your exact mailing or physical address. Recruiters simply want to know if you’re near their area or not so the name of the city and country will be enough.
- 12) Provide all the necessary contact information like phone number and email. Make sure you are not using your work phone number and that the email address listed is professional and easy to read.
- 13) If you have an online portfolio or personal website you would like the recruiter to see (i.e. Twitter, Behance, Quora, YouTube), this is the place to link to it.
Fix Your Resume Summary or Objective
Although a resume summary or objective is not absolutely required, it is recommended to have one.
It’s important to note that they are NOT the same thing.
A resume objective is what you would use if you don’t have a lot of experience, but want to convince the recruiter that you have the right skills for the job. It is typically 2-3 sentences.
A resume summary briefly mentions your professional experience, biggest achievements, and top skills. It’s about 1-2 sentences.
So, to fix your resume summary or objective, do this:
- 14) Make sure you are clear with which one of the two you are using. Do you want to focus on your skills and career goals or your professional experience? If you’re a career changer or a recent graduate, go for a resume objective. Otherwise, a resume summary works best.
- 15) Both the resume summary or objective should be short and concise. Look at it as a trailer to your resume - it should be brief, but give the recruiter enough information to catch their interest and make them want to learn more about you.
- 16) Use quantifiable information or data whenever you can. Numbers are easy to skim and allow you to get the information across correctly.
- 17) When it comes to goals and qualifications, be as specific as possible, and make sure they are tailored to the job.
- 18) Stick to simple language and avoid using complicated words on purpose. If the recruiter notices you’re just trying too hard to sound smart, you won’t leave a good impression.
Fix Your Education
As easy as listing your education might sound, missing some key details might cost you some points with the recruiter.
Here’s what you need to pay attention to in this section:
- 19) Usually, you should place it below work experiences, as it’s less important. However, if you’ve recently graduated college, it makes sense for the Education section to come first.
- 20) Your entries should be listed in reverse chronological order: latest to earliest.
- 21) Unless it is your highest level of education, do not include your high school. Having a college degree implies you went to high school. So, writing it down will only take up your precious and limited space.
- 22) Write each entry’s information in the following order: name of your degree, name of the educational institution, and years attended. Optional: location of the program, GPA (if above 3.5), Honors.
- 23) For any accomplishments or awards, you can write a brief note or include them in the Accomplishments section.
If you want to know more about this section, you can check out our article on how to list education on a resume.
Fix Your Work Experience
To get an idea of what you can do, recruiters are going to have a look at what you’ve already done. This is a section they’re going to pay great attention to, so there really isn’t any room for mistakes.
Here are our top tips for fixing your Work Experience section on your resume:
- 24) Only mention work experiences relevant to the position. Including other unrelated experiences will only distract from the fact that you’re the perfect fit for the job.
- 25) If you have a lengthy career, don’t go more than 10 to 15 years back with your experiences. Also, you don’t need to talk about part-time jobs. An exception to these rules is when there’s an experience that would add a lot of value to your resume.
- 26) As with education, your work roles should be listed in reverse chronological order (unless you are using a functional or combination resume format).
- 27) For each entry, present the information in the following order: job title/position, company name, dates employed, responsibilities and achievements.
- 28) Use the month and year to indicate the start and end of a work experience. If still in the position, write “current” or “present” instead of an end date.
- 29) When talking about a position, avoid using buzzwords like “Coding Wizard” and use the actual, professional title.
- 30) When describing your duties, focus on achievements over responsibilities. You should also make use of numbers as much as possible and back those achievements up with quantifiable measurements.
- 31) If you have no work experience, you can include a summer job, university job, or personal project as an experience.
- 32) Gaps in between jobs? Make sure you give a brief, not-overly detailed explanation as to what happened. Otherwise, the recruiter might assume the worst and think you got fired.
- 33) If relevant to the position you are applying for, you can include volunteer experiences in the section. This addition is especially helpful if you have little to no work experience.
For more tips on this section, you can take a look at our article on everything you need to know about work experience on a resume.
Like every other section, your Skills section requires the same attention to detail, especially if you are using a functional resume format.
- 34) Although soft skills are very appreciated by employers, it’s best if you focus more on hard skills in this section. Terms like “teamwork” or “critical thinking” have become so overused that they don’t phase recruiters anymore. If you are going to mention them, make sure they are backed by work experience.
- 35) All skills you list should be tailored and related to the position you are applying for.
- 36) Update your Skills section regularly to reflect any new experiences.
- 37) There are certain key skills for each industry you should consider including. You can even create a separate Skills section for skills directly linked to the position, i.e. programming languages or editing software.
- 38) It’s a good idea to use a proficiency scale, especially for hard skills. Note beginner, intermediate, advanced, or expert next to each of them.
Fix Your Honors and Certifications
Any certifications or honors you have earned will definitely improve your odds with the recruiter. To highlight them, you should give them their own section and remember the following:
- 39) Only include honors and certifications relevant to the position or field you are applying for. You can also include something that isn’t directly related, but highlights your character and would give your application a boost.
- 40) List your certifications and honors in reverse chronological order. If you have an extensive list of them, only mention the most recent ones.
For the cherry on top, here are some more general tips to perfect your resume:
- 41) Typos and grammatical errors are a big no-no. Run your resume through a spell checker like Grammarly before applying anywhere.
- 42) When you save your document, pay attention to how you name the file. Use a professional title like YourInitialsResume.pdf or FirstnameLastnameResume.pdf. It’s a detail that matters.
- 43) When sending over your application, write an appropriate and professional email subject like “Computer Science graduate seeks a programming internship position”. Avoid general and unserious titles like: “programmer resume for application”.
- 44) Detach yourself from the content and have a general look at the aesthetics of the resume. Are there any weird empty spaces? Or too many words or characters crammed into one area? Make sure everything is neatly organized and spaced out.
- 45) Assuming the company will most definitely be using an Applicant Tracking System, you need to make sure that the format and keywords are right and that your resume template is ATS-friendly.
- 46) Check that the information on your resume is consistent with what can be found on your online profiles like LinkedIn.
- 47) Re-read the job ad to make sure everything is in order with what the recruiters are asking for. If there are any specific requests, i.e. including your photo in your resume or other formatting rules, make sure you comply with them.
- 48) Unless it is explicitly stated in the job ad, do NOT include a list of references in your resume. You should also refrain from using the typical “references available upon request”. Recruiters usually reach out to your contacts after the first stage of the application is over. So, as of now, references are not needed. In case they are requested, make sure you follow the appropriate rules on how to list references.
- 49) The same thing can be said in different ways. When it comes to your resume, you can’t afford to use the wrong wording. Make sure to use the right action verbs and power words to talk about your achievements.
No matter how good your first draft is, a resume needs constant fixing and upgrading. Make sure you periodically go over it and make the necessary fixes on:
- Aesthetics. Pick the right format and layout for an organized look with distinguishable sections. Make sure to use the right font and font size so that everything looks neat and professional.
- Content. Check that your information is up to date and consistent with what you have in your own profiles. Tailor your work experiences and skills to the job you are applying for.
Go over these tips every time you update your resume to make sure you aren’t missing anything.