43+ Resume Tips and Tricks to Land Your Next Job in 2020
Haven’t updated your resume in a while?
We feel you!
There’s a lot that goes into crafting a resume, and unless you’re an expert, the whole process can be overwhelming.
Worry not, though. We’re here to help!
In this value-packed guide, we’re going to give you 43+ of the best resume tips & tricks. Follow these tips to the T, and you’re bound to land your next job.
If you have the time, we’d recommend reading the guide end-to-end. We didn’t include anything that’s “Optional.”
If you don't, that’s fine too! We divided the guide into 3 chapters, with the most important ones on top...
- Fundamental Tips - These resume tips are a game-changer. Whether you follow them or not can be the deciding factor in whether you’re getting hired.
- Essential Tips - These resume tips are very important, but not as important as the Fundamentals.
- Nice-to-Have Tips - These resume tips aren’t that ground-breaking, but they can still have an impact on your job-search.
Let’s get this started.
19+ Fundamental Resume Tips and Tricks
1) Use a Professional Email Address
No one wants to contact that guy with the tacky email from high school (We’re looking at you, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Create a professional email address for anything related to your job-search and career.
Any combination of [first name] and [last name] will do.
If you have a common name and the email is taken, consider using your initials (e.g. [FirstNameInitial][LastName]@gmail.com), or even buying your own custom domain name.
2) Double-Check Your Contact Information
Even the most confident writer is not safe from typos.
Make sure that all your contact information is accurate, both email and phone number.
After all, even if you’re the most qualified person in the world, it’s not going to matter much if the HR manager can’t contact you.
3) Include Phone Number and Country Code
It’s always a good idea to include your phone number in your resume.
Sure, in most cases, the HR manager will reach you on email. But what if the email gets lost, for whatever reason? Or worse - it goes to your spam section.
If you’re applying for a foreign job, you should also include a country code.
For example, if you’re from Denmark and you’re applying to another country, you’d want to include the country code (+45) in front of your number.
4) Mention Achievements Over Job Responsibilities
When listing your work experience, include achievements instead of responsibilities whenever possible.
Chances are, the HR manager already knows what your responsibilities were from your job title.
Fun fact: your responsibilities are probably literally the same as everyone else's in your profession.
Instead, to stand out, you want to include as many achievements as possible.
Here’s some achievement examples:
- Exceeded sales KPIs by 25% for 3+ months straight.
- Generated over $25,000 in sales in 1 month.
Compared to responsibilities:
- Generated leads through cold calling.
- Carried out sales operations and managed existing clients.
See the difference? The first example shows that you’re a high achiever. The second shows that you’re a sales manager.
In some fields, though, you might not have any real achievements. If you’re a server, for example, you can’t have “served 200+ people really well” as an achievement.
In that case, it’s totally OK to stick to responsibilities.
Not sure which achievements to mention? Check out our list of 40+ achievements for every field
5) Stick to Relevant Work Experience
Speaking of work experience, make sure you only include previous positions that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Make sure that all work experience entries are…
- Timely - Only mention your last 3-5 positions max. No one cares what job you did 15 years ago.
- Contextual - Applying for the role of a dentist? You don’t have to mention that one time you worked as a pre-school math teacher.
If you don’t have a lot of experience in the field (or no experience at all), though, you can include whatever you have. It’s better to have some experience rather than none.
6) Focus On Other Sections If You Have No Experience
What if you’re a student who’s never worked a day in their life?
The good news is that you don’t need work experience to have a good resume.
In fact, for entry-level jobs, the hiring manager doesn’t expect you to have any experience.
If you want to stand out with a no-experience resume, you can focus more on other sections, such as:
- Coursework - Want to show the HR manager that you have the right know-how, even though you don’t have experience? Mention any relevant courses you took in university.
- Extracurricular Activities - You’ve probably heard the famous college saying - “extracurricular activities are good for your resume.” Well, here’s some good news. It’s not just a rumour, they actually are! List your extracurricular activities just as you’d list your work experience, and you’re good to go.
- Projects - Done some interesting projects in your free time? Maybe you grew an instagram page to thousands of followers. Or, you worked on a part-time startup in uni? Whichever the case, you can add it to your resume.
Want to learn how to write a convincing student resume? Be sure to check out our no-experience resume guide!
7) Be Super Specific - Add Numbers, Data, and Experiences When Possible
Everything you write in your resume should be very specific.
Back every claim with specific experiences, numbers, or data.
What do we mean by that? Well, compare these 2 examples:
- Results-oriented sales manager with 5+ years of experience in the fin-tech industry. Driven over $500,000 worth of enterprise software sales at Company X. Deep knowledge of multiple CRM tools, including SalesForce, PipeDrive, HubSpot CRM, and more.
- Sales manager looking for the next step in their career. Previous experience involves doing sales for several software companies. Deep knowledge of CRM software.
See the difference between the two examples?
The first is very specific, mentioning numbers, data, experiences, etc.
The second, on the other hand, is very generic. The only thing you learn from it is that the candidate does sales.
8) Gap In Your Resume? Explain What Happened
A gap in your resume can be a huge red flag - but only if you don’t address it.
The hiring manager is going to assume the worst by default. So, it’s a good idea to be direct and insert 2-3 sentences acknowledging the gap and explaining what happened.
To do this, just make a small note under your latest work experience entry:
Jan 2016 - Jun 2017
*Quit due to medical reasons in 2017, looking to rejoin the workforce.
- Responsibility #1
- Responsibility #2
- Responsibility #3
Need more tips & tricks on how to get your career back on track? Check out our complete guide to getting back to work after a long period of unemployment!
9) Mention Promotions and Career Progression
Recently got promoted? Congrats!
Make sure to mention that in your resume.
- Dates Worked
- Promotion Explanation (can be an achievement)
- Dates Worked
10) Use Active Language
The way you present your achievements can amplify their significance, or downplay their worth.
Compare these 2 examples:
- Spearheaded company X’s content marketing operations.
- Responsible for content marketing at company X.
The first example makes you seem more in-charge, like what you did had a huge impact.
The second, on the other hand, sounds super plan, as if you straight up said “I did content marketing.”
You should use action words to make your achievements sound a LOT more significant.
Some of our favorite action words include:
Not sure which action words you want to use? Check out our complete list of 340+ best action verbs for your resume.
11) Tailor Your Resume to Job Ad
Imagine 2 resumes:
- The first describes THE person you’re looking for. They possess all the relevant skills and experiences, and they’re accurately listed in the resume.
- The second MIGHT be the person you’re looking for, but you’re just not sure. They seem to have some relevant experience, but not others.
Which one would you pick? Exactly!
So, how do you make YOUR resume look like the first example?
By tailoring it to the job ad!
How? Well, let’s look at the following job ad:
We’ve highlighted some of the essential skills in blue above.
Now, to tailor your resume to these requirements, all you’d have to do is mention in your resume that you:
“Have 5+ years of experience in online marketing.”
- You can mention this in your resume summary.
“Have experience with social media marketing.”
- This can go in either the “Skills” or “Work Experience” section
“Have a B.A. in marketing or business.”
- This, of course, belongs in the education section.
“Have experience in managing $20,000+ monthly ad budget on Facebook.”
- You can mention this in either Work Experience or Resume Summary
If your resume mentions all the essential job requirements, there’s no reason for the hiring manager NOT to call you back!
12) Create a Convincing Cover Letter
Do you want to get an interview in just about every job you apply to?
Well, that’s going to require a bit more effort than usual: you’re going to have to create a killer cover letter.
For most job-seekers, the cover letter is an after-thought.
They put 100% of their focus on the resume, and re-use the same cover letter for every position they apply for.
Here’s the thing, though: a cover letter is as important as a resume. In a lot of cases, it can even be the deciding factor on whether you get called in for an interview or not.
So, want to know how to write a good cover letter? Here’s what it should include:
- Your Contact Information.
- Hiring manager’s contact information.
- Opening paragraph - Brief introduction to your career, 1-2 top achievements and intent (why you’re applying for this company or position)
- The body - Go through your experiences and achievements in more detail. Explain how your background is relevant for the position they’re hiring for.
- Closing paragraph - Summarize your main points, and include a call to action (“if you’re interested, I’d love to chat!”)
There’s a LOT more to creating a good cover letter than what we just covered. Check out our complete guide to cover letters for a more detailed walkthrough on how to make one!
13) Keep Your Resume 1-2 Pages at Most
An ideal resume length is 1 page.
Nope, no excuses. 95%+ of job-seekers don’t need to go past the one-page limit.
After all, HR managers receive over 1,000+ resumes for each open position. They don’t have the time to read your autobiography.
There are some exclusions to the one-page rule, though. You can go up to 2 pages if:
- You’re applying for a job in academia. In which case, it’s OK to go up to even 3 pages.
- If you’re an experienced executive with a decade’s worth of work experience.
Want to learn more? Check out the guide on how long should a resume be!
14) Use a Reverse-Chronological Resume Format
Part of creating an effective resume is choosing the right format to tell your story.
If you ask just about any career expert (including us), they’d recommend you to stick with the reverse-chronological format.
That means starting off every resume section with your latest experience, and working your way down to the earliest.
In some rare cases (if you have a career gap, for example), you might want to go for a different resume format, such as the Functional Resume or a Combination Resume. If you want to learn more, check out our guide to resume formats.
15) Include White Space
White space refers to the space in your resume between all the sections and paragraphs of text.
When formatting your resume, you should keep some space in between your sections so that it’s easier for the HR manager to skim your resume.
Here’s some basic layout info you should keep in mind when it comes to white space:
- Margins - aim for 1-inch margin on all four sides of your resume to maximize white space.
- Line spacing - go for 1.0 or 1.15 line spacing between text and double lines after subheadings.
- Bullet points - limit up to 6 points within each section.
Not sure if you’ve got your resume layout right? Check out our guide!
16) Use the Right Resume Font
You want your resume to be easy to read, right?
But at the same time, you also want it to stand out.
That means that you should pick the right font, and the right font size.
Here’s what we recommend:
- Best resume fonts: Ubuntu, Robot, Overpass
- Best resume font size: 11-12pt for normal text, 14-16pt for section titles and headers
Check out our full guide on best resume font, size, and format for more info and practical examples.
17) Make Your Resume ATS-Friendly
ATS is an applicant tracking system that many businesses use to screen resumes.
The way this works is, the ATS scans your resume to see if you mention the right keywords, and if you don’t, it automatically discards your application.
So, how do you make sure that a robot doesn’t reject your resume that worked so hard on?
Well, it’s 2 things:
- Pick a Tried-and-Tested Format - Here’s the thing: if the ATS can’t scan your resume, it will automatically discard it. So, you want to use a resume that’s built with ATS in mind. We might be biased, but we’d recommend trying out Novorésumé. We build our resume with with ATS in mind, making it scannable by applicant tracking systems world-wide.
- Sprinkle the Right Keywords - Just as we explained in the “Tailor Your Resume” tip, go through the job ad and figure out what keywords the ATS could be looking for. Then, sprinkle them all around your resume. Head over here if you want to learn more about ATS & keywords.
18) Don’t Lie On Your Resume
This one’s pretty obvious, but we thought we’d mention it anyway:
Don’t lie on your resume. Ever.
You’re going to be found out sooner or later and it’s going to cost you your job, or even your career.
It’s just not worth it.
19) Use an Online Resume Builder
Ever used Word editing tools to build your resume?
Then you probably know what we mean when we say that it’s a total pain.
You spend hours perfecting your resume, and then you make a single, small layout change, and BAM! The whole resume gets messed up.
Want to save yourself from all that hassle?
Use an online resume builder!
All you have to do is pick your favorite resume template, and start filling it in.
Whether you’re a recent graduate, or a professional with a decade of work experience, we have the right format for you!
13+ Essential Resume Tips and Tricks
20) Include Your Job Title In Resume
Your professional title should be the job title you’re applying for word-for-word.
Applying for a job as an advertising account executive?
Make sure to include the position name in your resume (below your name) as it’s written in the job ad.
Ditch the buzzwords - no hiring manager likes those.
- Software Developer
- Code Monkey Ninja Samurai Hero
21) Name Your Resume Correctly
Once you’re done optimizing your resume and you’re ready to send it in, make sure the PDF version has the right name.
The ideal format is FullName - Resume.
- John Doe - Resume.pdf
- John Resume - Final Final Final Version Fixed
22) Use Correct Subheadings
You’ll want your resume section subheadings to be accurate and easy to find.
So, to help the HR manager reading your resume, try to keep things simple.
- Resume Summary
- Work Experience
- Background Information
- Career History
- Groups Part Of
Bonus Points - this can also help Applicant Tracking Systems read your resume. They recognize “Work Experience,” but not “Work History.”
23) Include Only Relevant Social Media
Wondering if you should include social media links in your resume?
As a rule of thumb, you should only mention the ones that are relevant to your profession and career.
Here’s a brief overview of what you might include:
- LinkedIn - If your LinkedIn is updated, you can mention it for most professions.
- Stack Overflow / GitHub - If you’re a software engineer.
- Medium -Are you a freelance writer or blogger? Include your Medium.
- Quora - Are you an influencer in your field? Mention your Quora account (as long as you have a decent number of answers).
- Website/Blog - Do you have an online presence? Maybe a personal blog that positions you as an expert? If so, make sure to mention it.
24) Include Resume Objective or Summary
The hiring manager looks at your resume for 5-6 seconds max to decide if they’re going to read the rest or not.
Want to catch their attention in a snap?
Use a resume objective or summary.
Both of these sections act as an introduction to your resume, and are used to show that you’re qualified for the job from the get-go (before the HR gets to read the rest of your resume).
So, what’s what?
Both of these sections go in your resume header, right under your contact information section.
A resume objective is mainly for students, or professionals switching their careers. An objective is a 3-4 sentence snapshot of your professional goals and aspirations.
A resume summary is a 3-4 sentence summary of your resume. You use this instead of a resume objective if you’ve previously worked as the position you’re applying for.
Resume Objective Example:
- Multilingual customer service representative looking to provide Company X provide stellar customer experience. Strong communication skills, fluent in English, German, and French. Basic knowledge of CRM systems.
Resume Summary Example:
- Proactive UX designer with 5 years of experience in delivering enjoyable web and mobile products within the FinTech industry. Designed UI/UX and other marketing materials for 6 apps and 3 games at Company X, 2 of which were features in the App store. Skilled with Sketch and Adobe Creative Studio.
25) Don’t Use Personal Pronouns (“I”, “Me”)
Once you put your name at the top of your resume, it’s already implied that everything you mention in your resume applies to you.
So, there is no need to unnecessarily repeat “I did…” in your resume countless times.
- Managed data entry integrity within the applicant tracking system, ensuring timely entry and visibility of recruitment activity within ATS/CRM technologies.
- I managed data entry integrity within the applicant tracking system. I ensured timely entry, and I worked on the visibility of recruitment activity within the ATS/CRM technologies.
26) Consider Optional Resume Sections
Still have extra space to fill within your resume and want to show off your other important qualifications?
You can include some of the following optional sections to help your resume stand out:
- Hobbies and interests - While this is not a game-changer, they can really help show YOU are as an individual.
- Volunteering experience - If you try to help others in your free time, while expecting nothing in return, chances are that you’re the type of employee who’s in it for more than just the money. This can be a huge plus for the HR manager.
- Certifications and awards - Do you have any relevant certifications and awards in your field? As long as it’s relevant, feel free to include it.
- Publications - Are you a freelance writer or a distinguished author? You can include your published works (online, academic journal, etc.) here.
- Projects - Working on a side project can really show off your passion for your field. Hiring managers love employees who do cool work in their free time.
27) Tailor Your Skills to The Job Position
When scanning your resume, one of the most important things hiring managers look for is whether you have the right skills or not.
They’re not looking for just any skills, either. They’re looking for the skills that are going to help you excel at the job you’re applying for.
So, you need to tailor your skills section for each position you apply for.
You can usually figure out which ones are worth mentioning by scanning the job ad.
As a given, make sure you don’t mention anything that’s not directly related to your job.
For example, no one cares about your Photoshop design skills if you’re applying to work as a cashier.
Not sure which skills you can include? Check out our comprehensive list of 150+ must-have skills for any resume.
28) Cut the Fluff
Fluff is way more common than you’d think.
A lot of university students and fresh graduates often fill up their skills section with buzzwords like:
- Critical thinking
But if you take a step back and think about it, those skills don’t mean anything. You know it, we know it, the HR manager knows it.
Without providing an example, they’re just a waste of space.
Just about everyone is good at “communication” - it doesn’t mean anything without experience to back it up.
So, go through your resume again, and think about this: does everything I say provide clear value?
If the answer is “No,” we’d recommend cutting it and replacing it with something more interesting.
Don’t have much experience? Struggling to fill in your resume? Check out our guide to making a no-experience resume.
29) Proofread With a Tool Like Grammarly
You can’t afford to have any typos on your resume.
There’s nothing more ironic than someone claiming to have an “eye for detail” with a bunch of spelling mistakes in their resume.
So, to be positive that your resume is typo-free, you can use a tool like Grammarly when you’re going over your final edits.
While Microsoft Word and Google Docs do a decent job of detecting errors, it’s always a good idea to have a backup spelling tool just in case.
30) Be Consistent With Section Formatting
Be consistent with your section formatting so that your overall resume is easy on the eyes.
This includes things like:
- Font size.
- Line spacing.
- Bold text.
31) Include Volunteering Experience
You can’t go wrong with volunteering experience.
It’ll make you stand out regardless of your job position or industry.
If the volunteering experience is somehow related to your career and has some transferable skills, you can even include it in your work experience
Here’s what that might look like:
Volunteer Camp Instructor
FireTech Summer Camps
06/2018 - 09/2018
- Coding games with Java
- Python and electronics with Minecraft
- Teen coding with Python
32) Include Irrelevant Jobs if You Have No Other Experience
As a general rule, when applying for a job, you only list work experience that’s relevant for the position.
But what if you have none?
In that case, it’s totally OK to mention ANY work experience you might have, even if it’s not relevant for the job you’re applying for.
Look at it this way: the recruiter is more likely to hire someone that's worked A job, rather than a person that's never worked a day in their life.
11+ Nice-to-Have Resume Tips and Tricks
33) Include Languages and Proficiency
Most companies are international nowadays, and being bilingual is a great way to gain a competitive advantage.
Even if knowing a foreign language isn’t necessary for the job you’re applying for, it might come in handy at some point in the future.
When listing languages, you should always include your skill level:
Oh, and it goes without saying that you shouldn’t lie about your skill levels.
Trust us, you don’t want to end up in a situation where the interviewer is a native Spanish speaker, and you exaggerated your “Proficient Spanish.”
34) Don’t Include “Reference Available Upon Request”
This is another common mistake many people still make.
Having a whole section dedicated to that one phrase is just a waste of space.
Hiring managers know they can always request your list of references - so what’s the point of mentioning it?
35) Don’t Include a Photo (If You’re From the US and UK)
There’s a lot of confusion around photos on resumes.
Some people always use a photo on their resume.
Others believe it’s a strict no-no.
So, which one is it?
It depends on your location.
There are strict anti-discrimination labor laws in some countries, namely:
- United Kingdom
- United States
If you’re from one of those countries, don’t include a photo on your resume.
Obviously, there are some exceptions to the rule - such as, if you’re applying for a modelling job.
If you’re from anywhere else in the world, though, you can include a photo.
36) Feeling Stumped? Get Inspired by Resume Examples
Have doubts about your resume design or layout?
Check out some of our job-winning resume examples.
We made sure to cover samples for several different fields, including business, computer science, and more!
37) Read Your Resume Out Loud
While it may sound awkward, reading your resume out loud is the best way to spot any awkward phrases or spelling mistakes.
Sure, Grammarly is useful, but it often misses a lot of really obvious mistakes (which the HR manager probably won’t!).
This is going to be monotonous, yes. But it’s the best way to proofread your resume and it also beats any spell checking tools out there.
38) Clean Up Your Online Presence
The recruiter LOVES your resume.
They’re about to call you in for an interview, but before that, they decide to check up on your online presence.
The first thing that pops up when they Google your name is your Facebook page, with very embarrassing photos from your last night out.
Not really that appropriate for a Senior Banker.
Want to avoid such awkward situations? Make sure your online presence is working FOR you, not against you:
- Change your Facebook Privacy setting to “Friends” to make sure random people can’t see your profile.
- Clean up your Twitter account, make sure you’re not posting anything too scandalous.
- Google your name and see if you can find anything off. You can ask Google to remove any private sensitive information.
Do you have a LinkedIn profile? You should! It shows the recruiter that you’re serious about your career.
Make sure to optimize your LinkedIn profile so that it complements your resume!
39) Consider Putting Education First
The most important sections of your resume should come first.
Are you a student with very limited work experience?
Consider putting your education section on top of your work experience.
This places a lot more focus on your education career, as opposed to any irrelevant jobs you might have worked.
Of course, if you have worked a job in your field, you’d always want to put work experience on top.
40) Add Your Courses In the Education Section
If your education section is your biggest selling point, then you might want to also add any relevant courses you’ve taken.
As usual, relevance is key here. Applying for a job in finance? The recruiter doesn’t care about the social media course you took in your freshman year.
B.A. in Accounting and Finance
- Advanced financial statistics
- Econometrics II
- Advanced accounting II
B.A. in Accounting and Finance
- Media communication
- Digital and social media
- Communication research
41) Use DocSend to Track Your Resume
Ever wondered what happens after you send in your application?
Did the HR even read your resume, or did it fall through the cracks?
Well, with a tool like DocSend, you can know for sure whether someone look at your resume or not.
The way this works is, you upload your resume on DocSend, and it gives you a link you can use.
Whenever someone opens your link and looks at your resume, you’ll get a notification.
This way, you can know for sure if you can expect a call for an interview (the HR looked at your resume for 60+ seconds), or you’re just not qualified (HR closed the resume within 5 seconds of opening it).
And to put the cherry on top, you’ll know if the HR manager missed your resume (you won’t get the notification within a week), so you can just send them a quick reminder!
- Unfortunately, this method only works if you’re applying for a job through e-mail and not through an online application.
42) Use Colors to Stand Out
The color scheme you use in your resume is an important part of its design.
Ideally, you should strike the right balance of creativity and professionalism.
If you’re applying for a job in a more conservative industry (e.g. finances, banking), a standard black and white theme is fine.
But if you’re applying to work in a creative startup as a web designer or a developer, you can get more creative.
After all, HR managers get a TON of resumes every day, and most of them look exactly the same.
Whenever you can afford to stand out with your resume, you should!
43) Consider Using a Professional Template
If you’re looking to create a new resume but don’t want to go through the painstaking process of creating one from scratch - consider using a professional template.
There’s a lot of pre-built online resume templates that can have you up and running with a fully customized resume in a matter of minutes.
There’s a lot of variety as well. You can pick a design that works perfectly for your industry or field.
Want to give it a try? Check out some of our top resume templates!
And that's a wrap!
There are a ton of resume tips & tricks on the web, and in this guide, we covered all the essential stuff.
So, we hope you enjoyed the guide and are a lot more confident with your resume skills!
Looking for more actionable advice? Check out our career blog for industry-leading career tips and tricks!