11 Tips for Writing a Resume to Land That Job

January 28, 2022

This post was inspired by a Twitter thread of mine, which you can find 👉here👈

“Worked on features for internal React app”

or

“Built feature in React app to reduce manual work by marketing team by 2 hours per day”

Which one of these hits better? Which one would make you want to read more? To offer this person an interview?

Hopefully you picked the second option! By writing a resume that shows off the impact you made in previous roles or school experience, your resume is more likely to get seen and you are more likely to secure an interview.

Recruiters and hiring managers take less than ten seconds to scan your resume. TEN seconds! What else can you do to get your resume noticed in those ten seconds (and ultimately, get you an interview and a new job)? Here are the top items I consider when I’m reviewing resumes and a few extra tips to help you get your resume seen and you an interview.

Tips & Tricks

1. Length <= 2 Pages

It’s very unlikely that your resume is the only one that recruiters and hiring managers are looking at. If they have 50 resumes to review to decide who to interview, how much time do you think they’ll spend on each one? Five minutes? Three minutes? One minute? It’s more likely less than 10 seconds. They won’t get to the third page and the fifth page, even if you have it. This means you’ll need to make the length of your resume less than two pages, if possible. Include experience that is relevant to the specific role you’re applying to. And summarize the rest, if necessary, to explain gaps, side projects, or less relevant roles.

2. Layout is clean and has white space

Given that recruiters and hiring managers only have a few seconds to scan your resume, you’ll want a clean layout that includes whitespace. Using the F-pattern or E-pattern in your layout will help readers scan your resume quickly and guide the reader through your experience.

When I was creating my current resume, I was essentially starting from scratch since my old resume was 10 years out of date. I wanted a simple and clean way to manage multiple versions of my resume without having to fiddle with a word processor too much. I found Novoresume to be very helpful (though, a paid subscription service).

Another option is to find a resume template and there are plenty of templates floating around the internet. If you use Canva, they have some free templates that look nice and you can download as a PDF.

3. No typos or grammatical errors

Creating a resume without typos and grammatical errors allows you to present yourself professionally up front. This is a quick and easy win as there are many tools to help you with this. Here are a few that I use for writing:

  • Spell and grammar check within your writing app (Word, VSCode, Google Docs, etc.)
  • Grammarly
  • Hemingway

4. Show your general location

Show your general location, but don’t share your home address.

As a hiring manager or recruiter, I need to know if I can hire you and the general location you live in is important for tax and legal purposes.

Sharing your home address also introduces two risks that not everyone needs. First, it can introduce some bias into the hiring process. There is (often) no need, especially now that so many roles are or can be remote, for you to reside in a large metropolitan area or even in the same state or country. Second, sharing your home address can pose security risks as your resume will postentially float around the internet and be downloaded by multiple people in the hiring process.

5. Tailored to the specific job description

Create different versions for each role you’re applying to and tweak accordingly. In my last job search, I was looking for developer advocate roles. My resume needed to be more tailored to that type of role, especially since my previous ten years of experience were running a business and technical consulting. Now, I needed to show how this experience translated into advocacy efforts.

I also needed to tailor it to each specific company I was applying to since each role at a given company was different from the others. Some had a focus on developer tools. Some were focused on APIs. One was focused more on social impact. And another was focused more on customer service. For each of these I had a different version where I customized the summary and added or removed experience sections as needed for that particular role and company.

Yes, it’s totally a pain in the butt to do this! But it pays off. Recruiters and hiring managers will be more likely to read it if the info presented is relevant to the job you’re applying to.

6. Show your impact

Your resume shouldn’t regurgitate your current or future job description. Use numbers, deltas over time, and quotes to show how you’ve made an impact in previous roles.

Remember the two statements above:

“Worked on features for internal React app”

“Create feature in React app to reduce manual work by marketing team by two hours per day”

Which one of these tells the reader how much impact you made? If you guesses the second one, you are correct. One could even go a step further and show how much money was saved per month or per year with this enhancement.

You can also show deltas over time like this:

“Grew the company Twitter account followers from zero to 10,000 over the course of six months”

When doing this, be sure to use specific numbers like 10,000 and not vague numbers like thousands. 10,000 is very different than 999,999! Include enough of these impact statements and the reader will know that you have valuable impact to offer them.

7. Show how your previous experience is relevant

If you’re not coming from tech, show how your previous experience is relevant. Hint: It’s always relevant in some way.

As I mentioned earlier, in my last job search I was applying to roles I’d never formally held but I had transferable experience. I had to show that to the reader.

If you’re coming straight out of school or changing careers altogether, you also have relevant experience. For instance, if you worked in nonprofits for a decade as a social media marketer and now you’re a newly minted full stack developer applying to a nonprofit or social benefit corporation role, your non-profit experience is transferable. Your experience working with other humans is transferable. Your experience working with social media tech and tools is transferable. Your experience measuring the effectiveness of campaigns is transferable. But you’ll need to present it that way in your resume.

8. Include a portfolio, GitHub account, or social media accounts

If you have one and it’s relevant to the role, share a portfolio, a GitHub account, or your social media accounts. This will be dependent on which type of role you’re applying to and where your experience is. If you work for a company where your work is all in proprietary codebases and you haven’t done much open source work, cleaning up your GitHub profile would be helpful even if you can’t share any code.

If the role you’re applying for expects you to use social media, it would be worth making sure yours reflects you and presents you well.

9. Get your resume reviewed

Get another set of eyes on your resume before sharing it. It’s often obvious when someone hasn’t done this because this is where some of the grammar and spelling errors will be caught.

Ask your reviewer to look at it with a specific lens. Maybe you want to make sure it shows your impact. Tell them this and ask them to review the experience section to make sure they understand the impact you had in each role. Maybe you want them to check the spelling and grammar. Ask them to look at this specifically. Ask someone to review your portfolio, GitHub account, or social accounts to make sure they represent your work and present you well.

10. Send a PDF

If you are sending your resume directly to recruiters or hiring managers, send it as a PDF. Don’t bother with Word and other formats as these mess with the formatting when they’re opened in other software and negates your hard work to look professional.

Instead, send a PDF. It will read the same way no matter where it’s viewed.

11. Start a brag book

Finally, not sure what to put on your resume? Forgot about what happened during that last project you knocked out of the park? Forget what your nice compliment your manager gave you at the beginning of the year? Did you win an award for your work? Start a brag book with your accomplishments. These can be used to add to your resume and the best part of a brag book is that you can also use it to remind you of how awesome you are on days when you’re not feeling particularly awesome.

Wrapping up

Now that you’ve seen a few tips and tricks to get your resume noticed, I’d love to see what some of yours are. Share in the comments or on this twitter thread so others can benefit!

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