45 Resume Writing Tips

Picture your resume as a cinematic trailer for the blockbuster movie of your career. The scenes flashing across the screen must be magnetic enough to captivate the audience—the recruiters—enticing them to buy a ticket for the full show, the interview.

But the intrigue mustn’t stop at the trailer; the entire plot—the value you bring professionally—must be compelling enough to keep them engrossed, or they won’t invest in the sequel—hiring you. Much like a critic’s review, your resume is the public record of your professional credibility and trustworthiness.

Yet, in the ever-changing realm of resume standards, crafting that perfect trailer can feel as daunting as directing a Hollywood blockbuster.

Make a Blockbuster Resume

The best practices for structuring, writing, and refining a resume are as fluid and elusive as movie-making trends. This constant evolution triggers anxiety akin to pre-release jitters; the stakes are sky-high. Falter, and you risk empty theaters – missed job opportunities – ultimately leading to a box office flop of your professional aspirations.

That’s where our guide rushes to the rescue, like a superhero in the third act. Consider it your seasoned script doctor, arming you with over 45 research-driven resume writing tips and statistical insights to ensure your career’s trailer—your resume—doesn’t just attract attention but garners rave reviews.

Our guide is here to help you master the changing trends so your professional movie—your resume—continues to captivate, engage, and, above all, successfully secure the leading role in your dream job.

Action! Crafting a Box Office Hit: Essential Resume Writing Tips

Like every captivating movie begins with a compelling script, creating a job-winning resume starts with understanding the essentials. Whether it’s optimizing for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to get past the initial screening, or structuring your resume for maximum impact, let’s delve into the research-backed strategies that help craft a resume worthy of standing ovations.

Think of these resume-writing tips as your ‘screenwriting 101’. They ensure your career’s story shines brightly, holding the audience—your potential employers—spellbound from start to end. So, grab your director’s chair, and let’s begin our journey into creating a blockbuster resume.

Tailor Your Resume to the Job Description

Just as every movie has its unique storyline, so does every job opportunity, and so should your resume reflect the distinct narrative of your professional journey related to that unique storyline. A staggering 63% of recruiters want a resume tailored to the specific job opening, yet 54% of new job applicants fail to do so.

Here are a few tips:

  • Understand the Job Description: The first step in customizing your resume is thoroughly understanding the job description. Identify the key skills, experiences, and qualifications the employer seeks. Read the job posting carefully and highlight relevant experience and relevant qualifications sought by the hiring manager.

  • Highlight Relevant Skills and Experiences: Once you’ve identified what the employer is looking for, highlight these relevant skills and experiences in your resume. Make sure they are prominent and easy to find.

  • Use the Same Language: If the job description uses specific terminology or industry jargon, use the same language in your resume. This shows that you understand the industry and helps your resume get past the applicant tracking system (more about that soon).

Choose the Right Resume Format for Your Background

Just like the genre of movie, the format of your resume plays a crucial role in how effectively it presents your skills and experiences. Different resume ‘genres’ (resume formats) are suited to different career backgrounds and objectives. Choosing the right format can help highlight your strengths, downplay weaknesses, and make your resume more appealing to recruiters. Here are a few tips to help you choose the best resume format for your background:

Chronological Resume

This is the best-known resume format. It lists your work experience chronologically, starting with your most recent job. This reverse chronological format is best for those with a strong work history and linear career progression. However, a resume strictly developed in this format is not well-positioned to take full advantage of modern resume writing strategies.

The resume template in our Chronological Perfection Collection is a good example of a resume template in a chronological format — almost. While the experience section is developed in the reverse chronological style, it includes modern elements that ensure this resume meets modern resume writing best practices.

Chronological Perfection Resume Template Page 1
Chronological Perfection Resume Template Page 2

Functional Resume

This format emphasizes your skills and abilities over chronological work history. It’s particularly beneficial for those with gaps in their employment, career changers, or those new to the workforce. However, it’s worth noting that some hiring managers may find the functional resume format less straightforward or harder to follow. ATS has difficulty parsing them as it doesn’t provide a clear timeline of your work experience. Additionally, because this format is less common, it may raise questions about why you chose it, potentially drawing attention to employment gaps or frequent job changes you might prefer to downplay.

The resume from our Pivot Collection is a great example of a functional resume. However, you’ll notice that, as with our chronological example, this isn’t a strict functional resume. The first page is functionally styled, but the resume template’s second page includes room for a work history listing.

Functional Resume Template Page 1
Functional Resume Template Page 2

Combination Resume

This format merges the best of both worlds, integrating elements of the chronological and functional formats. It allows you to showcase your skills and abilities while providing a detailed work history. This format is ideal for those with a robust work history and diverse skills.

Moreover, this hybrid format resume is particularly advantageous in the context of modern resume writing strategies. It allows for the inclusion of keywords throughout both the skills and work history sections, enhancing ATS compatibility. It also provides ample opportunity to demonstrate your achievements and results, making your resume more dynamic and engaging for recruiters. This format offers a comprehensive view of your professional profile, making it a powerful tool in your job search arsenal.

The resume template from our Exquisite Collection is an excellent example of the combination resume format. You may wonder about the two-column format of this resume’s first page. This format is very popular but often warned against because columns, if they are not designed properly, are not ATS compatible. However, the two-column resume formats offered by Distinctive Resume Templates have all been designed to avoid ATS incompatibilities and are ATS-friendly.

Combination Resume Template Page 1
Combination Resume Template Page 2

Remember, the goal is to choose a format that best showcases your unique skills, educational background, experiences, and career goals.

Ditch the Resume Objective but Clearly Focus Your Resume

In the evolving screenplay of resume writing, the traditional approach of opening with an ‘opening credits scene’—the resume objective statement—has fallen out of favor. In fact, including a career objective in a resume can have a negative impact of 29.6%. The reason for this industry shift is that these objective statements tend to zoom in on what the job seeker desires rather than showcasing the value they can deliver to the employer.

In place of this, modern resumes often begin with a resume summary. A resume summary, also known as a professional summary or summary of qualifications, provides a concise overview of your skills, experiences, and accomplishments relevant to the position you’re applying for. It’s essentially a brief, powerful statement at the top of your resume that tells the potential employer why you’re the right fit for the job.

Here are a few tips for writing an effective resume summary:

  • Tailor it to the Job: As just discussed, like the rest of your resume, your summary should be tailored to the job you’re applying for. Highlight the skills and experiences that are most relevant to the job description.

  • Keep it Concise: Your summary should briefly summarize your qualifications. While there are various formats you could choose for this section, in general, aim for 3-5 sentences. In other words, avoid going into too much detail. The rest of your resume will provide further information.

  • Focus on What You Can Offer: Unlike an objective statement that focuses on what you want, your summary should focus on what you can offer the employer. Highlight your key skills, experiences, and accomplishments that make you a strong candidate for the job.

You have endless options when it comes to how to style your resume summary, as shown by the three resume summary examples below. These come from our Healthcare Edge Resume, Businesswise Executive Resume, and Exceed Sophisticated Resume template collections.

Use Action Verbs and Quantifiable Achievements

Commence each ‘scene’ in your work experience act with a powerful action verb. Just as a gripping action sequence can capture the audience’s attention, using action verbs to start your resume bullet points can increase the chances of an interview by 140%.

  • Choose Strong Action Verbs: Instead of using common verbs like ‘did’ or ‘made,’ use strong action verbs like ‘achieved,’ ‘created,’ ‘increased,’ or ‘improved.’

  • Quantify Your Achievements: Wherever possible, quantify your achievements. For example, “increased sales by 20%” is more impactful than “improved sales.” Incorporating measurable results in your resume can significantly enhance its impact, offering a potential boost of 40% to your candidacy. Despite this substantial advantage, it’s surprising to note that 36% of resumes still lack this crucial element.

  • Show, Don’t Tell: Instead of merely stating that you possess a skill, demonstrate how you’ve used that skill to drive outcomes. For instance, rather than simply stating that you’re adept at project management, you could say, “Led a team to complete a complex project 10% ahead of schedule, resulting in a cost saving of 15%.”

Use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Friendly Format

In the digital era of filmmaking, your resume script must captivate not just human producers but also the discerning eyes of the industry’s film editors’ – Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Nearly 100% of third-party recruiting firms, roughly 98% of Fortune 500 companies, and a growing number of smaller companies use ATS software to screen resumes.

These systems act as ‘film editors’, managing actors (applicants) throughout the casting process, including filtering and ranking scripts; thus becoming an essential audition you need to ace in your job hunt. While job seekers may feel jittery about these seemingly impassive ‘editors’, a whopping 94% of recruiters report that ATS has brought a positive spin to hiring. So, like it or not, these ‘film editors’ aren’t leaving the casting room anytime soon.

An ATS-friendly format ensures your resume is easily readable by these systems, increasing your chances of making it to the recruiter’s desk. Here are some tips to make your resume ATS-friendly:

Optimize Your Resume with Keywords

Beyond using an ‘industry-standard script format’—an ATS-friendly format—sprinkling your resume with the right keywords is critical for passing the scrutiny of these systems. ATS often rank resumes based on their relevance to the job description, determined by the presence of specific keywords. On average, candidates miss 49% of relevant keywords on their resumes when applying for a position. So, ensuring your resume is rich with the right keywords can be a game-changer in landing the role you want.

Here’s how to optimize your resume with keywords:

  • Identify Relevant Keywords: The first step in optimizing your resume with keywords is to identify the relevant keywords in the job description. These could be specific skills, experiences, or qualifications.

  • Include Keywords Throughout Your Resume: Once you’ve identified the relevant keywords, include them throughout your resume. However, make sure to use them naturally and in context. Keyword stuffing can harm your chances of getting an interview.

  • Use Variations of Keywords: Some ATS recognize variations of keywords. For example, if the job description includes the keyword’ project management,’ the ATS might also recognize ‘project manager’ or ‘managing projects.’

The example resume templates below include a resume template for AI professionals (from our Brainlink Collection) and another versatile resume format template (from our Authentic Elements Collection) for a diverse range of industries.

All of our resume templates are designed with real-world uses in mind and to make it easy for you to incorporate all the most important keywords in your resume. These two examples show just two of the many possibilities available.

Emphasize Transferable Skills

In a constantly evolving casting landscape, ‘versatile acting skills’—transferable skills—are gaining immense importance. These are skills adaptable across a myriad of roles and industries, akin to the versatility in acting genres—like problem-solving, communication, and leadership skills. Highlight these skills in your resume to show your versatility. After all, the more roles you can play convincingly, the more appealing you are to a wider range of casting directors (recruiters).

Including a ‘Key Skills’ section of 15 to 20 words in your resume can increase the likelihood of being invited for an interview.

  • Identify Your Transferable Skills: Think about the skills you’ve gained throughout your career that can be applied to different jobs and industries. These could be soft skills like communication and problem-solving or hard skills like proficiency in certain software.

  • Highlight Your Transferable Skills: Once you’ve identified your transferable skills, highlight them in your resume. You can include them in your skills section or weave them into your work experience section.

  • Provide Evidence of Your Transferable Skills: It’s important to provide evidence of your transferable skills. For each skill, provide an example of how you’ve used that skill to achieve results.

The best resume templates will include ample space for you to include your key skills in your resume. Our bartender resume template from the Barcraft Collection and IT resume template from the Technical Pursuits Collection are great examples of this.

Strike the Right Balance: Be Succinct But Comprehensive

The ‘running time’ and ‘plot structure’ of your resume—the length and organization of your resume content—can greatly influence its box office success. The ideal length for a resume is between 475 and 600 words (approximately two pages), but the majority (77%) of resumes do not meet this length. The average length of a resume is 489 words, while the median length is slightly shorter at 369 words.

  • Keep It Concise But Comprehensive: While it’s important to keep your resume concise, it should also be comprehensive. Include all the necessary information, but avoid including irrelevant details or “fluff.” In fact, 51% of all resumes include “fluff” in the form of irrelevant keywords, cliches, and pronouns.

  • Consider Your Experience Level: The length of your resume should also depend on your experience level. 77% of employers say experienced candidates should submit a resume over one page. In fact, for management roles, recruiters are almost 3X more likely to prefer candidates with a two-page resume.

  • Avoid Excessively Long Resumes: While longer resumes are preferred for some professions, excessively long resumes can harm your chances. In the business sector, resumes exceeding 600 words can decrease a candidate’s hireability by 72%. Moreover, 17% of hiring managers say they won’t even look at a resume longer than two pages.

More of the Basics: Resume Content Tips

The ‘storyline’ of your resume—the content—is arguably its Oscar-winning aspect. It’s what tells recruiters about your skills, experiences, and qualifications. However, understanding how these recruiters actually read and interpret resumes can guide you in crafting a blockbuster resume that grips their attention and secures you the ultimate screen test—an interview.

Here’s the truth: Recruiters spend very little time on each resume. Research has shown 40% of hiring managers self-report that they spend less than 60 seconds on a resume, and 25% spend less than 30 seconds. However, an eye-tracking study showed that, in reality, recruiters spend an average of only 7.4 seconds on a resume.

With that in mind, there are certain things you should include in your resume and certain things you should avoid.

  • Avoid Lies and Exaggerations: Honesty is crucial when it comes to your resume. 85% of hiring managers say they’ve caught people lying on their resumes, and 90% say this is a reason for immediate disqualification

  • Avoid Typos and Grammatical Errors: Typos and grammatical errors can make you seem unprofessional and careless. In fact, 77% of hiring managers say they will immediately disqualify a candidate if their resume includes obvious typos or grammatical errors.

  • First Impressions Matter: Choose the proper format for your resume. The first few seconds a recruiter spends looking at your resume are crucial. Make sure your resume is well-structured and easy to read, and that the most important information is easy to find.

Advanced Resume Strategies: Be the Star in a Sea of Extras

Once you’ve nailed the fundamentals, it’s time to bring your resume script to the next level with advanced techniques. These methods transcend the standard resume writing tips, offering distinctive ways to spotlight your talents and experiences, and leave a lasting impression on recruiters.

From showcasing your unique character traits and harnessing the power of narrative to maintaining a professional and visually appealing resume format, these advanced techniques will help your resume take center stage, standing out in the sea of extras in a competitive job market.

Showcase Your Unique Value Proposition

Just as the elusive ‘star power’ or the sought-after ‘X-factor’ defines an actor’s appeal, your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is what sets you apart from other job candidates. It’s a concise statement that encapsulates your unique skills, experiences, and attributes. Include your UVP in your resume summary to immediately grab the recruiter’s attention.

  • Identify Your Unique Value Proposition: What makes you unique? What can you offer that other candidates can’t? These are the questions you should answer when identifying your UVP.

  • Communicate Your UVP Effectively: Once you’ve identified your UVP, communicate it effectively in your resume. Make sure it’s one of the first things recruiters see when they look at your resume.

  • Support Your UVP with Evidence: Your UVP is a bold claim. Support it with evidence. This could be in the form of quantifiable achievements, specific projects you’ve completed, or unique experiences you’ve had.

All Distinctive Resume Templates have been designed to make it easy for you to prominently promote your UVP. The modern classic resume in the Folio Modern Classic Collection is one example. Another example is the entertainment industry resume template from our Entertainment Edge Collection.

Leverage the Power of Storytelling

Remember, every great film captures hearts before minds, and so should your resume. Storytelling can make your resume more engaging and memorable.

Instead of just listing your responsibilities and achievements, weave them into a compelling narrative that translates your career information into emotion. Our brains are wired for stories, so reading a resume written in this format helps the reader’s brain easily make sense of and understand the information. This can help hiring managers visualize your potential impact on their organization.

  • Create a Career Narrative: Your career narrative is the story of your professional journey. It should highlight your growth, achievements, and the value you’ve brought to your previous roles.

    The marketing resume template from our Marketing Edge Collection shows an example of how Distinctive Resume Templates make it easy to tell your career story. The templates themselves even include prompts to show you what to include and where to include it.

Storytelling in Your Marketing Resume Example
  • Use the STAR Method: The STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is a useful tool for creating compelling career narratives. For each bullet point in your work experience section, describe the Situation you were in, the Task you were given, the Action you took, and the Result of your action.

    The STAR format resume template from our Elite STAR Collection will walk you step-by-step through creating a resume that uses the STAR storytelling technique.

STAR Technique Resume Example
  • Show Your Personality: Your career narrative is a chance to show your personality. While it’s important to remain professional, don’t be afraid to show a bit of who you are. This can make your resume more memorable and help you connect with recruiters on a personal level.

Use a Professional and Eye-Appealing Resume Layout

Remember, even the greatest story can get lost in poor presentation. A cluttered resume can be off-putting to recruiters.

To ensure your resume is as readable as a blockbuster script, use a professional and clean resume layout with plenty of white space to make it easy to read.

Stick to a consistent font and format throughout your resume. An eye-tracking study showed that the top-scoring resumes exhibited well-defined sections and headers, straightforward job descriptions and job titles throughout, a concentrated emphasis on the first page, and clean fonts.

  • Choose a Simple, Professional Font: Your resume font should be easy to read and professional. Avoid using especially fancy or decorative fonts. Some good options include Calibri and Cambria.

  • Use White Space Effectively: White space can make your resume easier to read by breaking up the text and guiding the reader’s eye. Use white space to separate different sections of your resume and highlight important information.

  • Keep Your Formatting Consistent: Consistency is key in resume formatting. If you bold one job title, bold all of them. If you use bullet points in one section, use them in all sections. Of course, using a resume template is the ideal way to ensure your resume design is professional and consistent.

The Future of Resumes: Staying Ahead of the Curve

As the landscape of the world of work evolves, so must the scriptwriting techniques for an impactful resume. Staying ahead of the curve involves understanding and adapting to these changes, ensuring that your resume not only meets current standards but is also prepared for future trends.

This section explores the future of resumes, from incorporating digital elements and emphasizing transferable skills, to using technical skills and staying current with industry trends such as AI. These forward-thinking resume writing tips will help you future-proof your resume and maintain a competitive edge in the ever-changing job market.

Incorporate Digital Elements

As the ‘casting landscape’ of the job market evolves, so do resumes. Consider incorporating digital elements into your resume, such as links to your online portfolio, LinkedIn profile, or personal website. Resumes that include a link to a LinkedIn profile have a 71% higher chance of getting an interview, but only 48% of resumes include them.

  • Include Links to Your Online Presence: If you have a professional online presence, include links to it in your resume. This could be your LinkedIn profile, a professional blog, or online portfolio.

  • Use a Professional Email Address: Your contact information, including your email address, should reflect your professionalism. An unprofessional email address can be a deal breaker for 35% of employers. Opt for an email address that incorporates your name or initials, and avoid using nicknames or numbers that could be perceived as unprofessional.

  • Be Mindful of Your Online Reputation: Before you include links to your online presence in your resume, make sure your online reputation is clean and professional. Recruiters will likely look you up online, so make sure what they find supports your job application.

Stay Current with Industry Trends

You must keep your resume script up to date, echoing the latest industry trends.This shows employers that you’re proactive and committed to continuous learning.

Include relevant information about courses, certifications, or professional development activities in your education or skills section. In addition to the standard sections, 66% of job seekers choose to include extra sections in their resume, with languages (31%), certificates (27%), and additional activities (21%) being the most common additions.

  • Stay Informed About Your Industry: Regularly read industry news, attend webinars and conferences, and participate in professional networks to stay informed about the latest trends in your industry.

  • Update Your Resume Regularly: Don’t wait until you’re looking for a job to update your resume. Regularly add new skills, experiences, and achievements to your resume.

  • Show Your Commitment to Continuous Learning: Employers value candidates who are committed to continuous learning. Show this commitment by including any courses, certifications, or professional development activities you’ve completed.

The legal resume template from our Barristers Collection is just one of many Distinctive Resume Templates with space for continuing education and other credentials.

Include Other Experience on Your Resume

Leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Just as it is in movie-making, in the modern job market, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming an increasingly valuable tool for job seekers. While the personal touch and customization in a resume remain paramount, AI can provide significant assistance in optimizing your resume for specific roles and ensuring it is error-free.

It’s a very important tip to note that AI should not be used to create a one-size-fits-all master resume, but rather as a tool to tailor your resume to individual job announcements and to ensure it includes all the most important keywords. AI is a game-changer for the job search process, and learning to leverage it is essential for professionals in today’s digital age.

  • Use AI for Keyword Optimization: AI tools can help you identify the most important keywords in a job description and ensure they are included in your resume. This can increase your resume’s relevance and improve its chances of getting past ATS.

  • Use AI for Proofreading: AI-powered proofreading tools can help you catch and correct grammatical errors, typos, and awkward phrasing in your resume. This can help you present a polished, professional image to employers.

  • Use AI for Resume Tailoring: Some AI tools can help you tailor your resume to individual job announcements. They can analyze a job description and suggest changes to your resume to better match the requirements of the job.

Plot Development Beyond Your Resume: Unveiling the Significance of a Cover Letter and Supporting Scripts

Just like in the world of movie-making, when you have fine-tuned and perfected your resume, it’s now crucial to shift your attention toward the supporting documents that can enhance your application. Among these, the cover letter takes on a role similar to that of a pivotal scene in a film. Despite the fact that 74% of hiring managers admit to not reading them thoroughly, cover letters are frequently required in job applications, with 55%-65% of medium-sized to fast-growing startups expecting them.

Beyond the cover letter, there are other documents that can further enhance your job application:

  • Resume Addendum: A resume addendum can be used to provide additional information that doesn’t fit within the standard one to two-page resume. This could include details about projects, publications, or technical skills.

  • Professional Biography: A professional biography is a narrative version of your career history. It can be used on your LinkedIn profile, personal website, or as part of a portfolio.

  • References Sheet: A references sheet is a separate document that lists your professional references. It should only be provided when requested by the employer.

Each of these documents serves a unique purpose and can help provide a more comprehensive picture of your professional qualifications, skills, and experiences. Distinctive Resume Templates are each part of a collection in which you can find coordinating documents. Just a few examples:

Cover Letter Template

Engineering Cover Letter Template

Resume Addendum Template

Teacher Resume Addendum Template

Biography Template

Biography Template for Sales Professionals

References Sheet Template

C-Suite References Template

The Grand Finale: Mastering the Blockbuster Craft of Resume Writing

Creating a magnetic resume is akin to producing a blockbuster film—it’s an intricate blend of art and science. It demands the right mix of showcasing your talents and experiences, outsmarting the ATS, and customizing to the specific role requirements.

By heeding these extensive resume writing tips, you can script a resume that not only dodges the cutting room floor but also captivates the critics (recruiters), ushering you toward the starring role in your dream job.

In light of the fact that 78% of casting agents (recruiters) confess a poor script (poor resume) as the primary reason for not calling you for the screen test (interview), the significance of investing your creative energy into crafting a riveting resume cannot be overstressed. It’s not a choice; it’s a box office necessity.

Moreover, as the audition landscape continues to evolve, staying updated on the latest trends and employing cutting-edge tools like AI can give your career story a competitive box office edge. Every aspect of your resume plays a pivotal role in your professional casting success, from the script format and narrative to using keywords and additional documents akin to behind-the-scenes footage (like cover letters).

In conclusion, mastering the blockbuster art and science of resume writing is an ongoing series. With each submission, you learn, adapt, and refine your story, bringing you one scene closer to bagging that leading role in your dream job.

About the Author: Michelle Dumas

Michelle Dumas is the founder and CEO of Distinctive Career Services, one of the internet's longest-standing and most respected professional resume writing firms. Michelle is a 6X certified and 7X award-winning resume writer and career consultant. Michelle designed and created all of the templates in the Distinctive Resume Templates Collections found at https://www.distinctiveresumetemplates.com

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