Do You Need a Better Resume? The Answer Is Probably Yes!
Wondering how to write a resume? Think you're not landing as many interviews as you should be? Your resume can make or break your future job success before you even get a chance to interview. If you have a bad resume, you might never see the inside of a Hiring Manager's office. But we can help!
This Guidebook to Resume Writing Will Cover:
- Signs it's time for an update
- Why you don't need a resume objective
- How to create a unique resume
- Ways to fit your resume on one page
- Tips for digitally upgrading your existing resume
Here's our best advice from sifting through tens of thousands of resumes for digital, creative, and marketing professionals over the years. If you want to create a standout resume, this is the guide to read.
Don't have time to read all this now? Download a free PDF version to look over later:
Looking for some quick tips? Find these icons sprinkled throughout for skimmable lessons:
Look out for our friendly learning leaf. These tips include things like the reason why you should do something, history lessons, quick stats, and other quick tips that will help you discover the history of the resume.
The mouse icon indicates a practical tip that you can start using ASAP. Things like design recommendations, proofreading advice, or things to do during the creation of your resume.
If you're looking for inspiration, head here! These ideas will help make your resume stand out and show off different approaches to resume writing — from slightly unique to downright surprising.
Resume Writing 101: Three Signs It's Time for an Update
Do resumes still matter? Yes!
Your resume is a chronological history of the career you’re trying to present to a potential employer. This may or may not be adequately represented on your LinkedIn profile. Also, there’s a practical reason for a resume: applicant-tracking systems (ATS) use keywords from a resume to funnel good candidates to Recruiters. No resume means no chance of reaching these career professionals.
Resumes are great tools for showing off accomplishments in a professional bragging rights kind of way. If you create your resume properly (keep reading for our best tips), it’s going to display concrete results and showcase your talent properly in a format that Recruiters and Hiring Managers love.
What if you already have a tried-and-true resume you created on Windows XP — does it need an upgrade? Here's how to tell.
3 Signs It's Time for a Resume Update
1. It's Been a LONG Time
If you can’t remember the last time you updated the information on your resume or added projects to your portfolio, now’s the time. Is your last job position even listed? No = yikes. Freelance Writer's Access Writer Vince F. suggests "as a best practice, consider keeping a weekly journal of all projects and work-related activities that you perform. Being able to refer to this will make it easy for you to make necessary updates without having to rack your brain to remember all of your career highlights at once."
2. You Aren't Getting Job Interviews
Sending off the same resume to multiple job openings and not getting ANY interview requests? It might be that your resume isn't properly showing off your skills. Consider having a former colleague look over your resume and give you honest feedback. Or start from scratch and make a whole new version.
Side Note: It could be that your resume is fine, but your cover letters are weak. While there are many employers who don't specifically state that cover letters are necessary, it's not the case for all — many Hiring Managers still want them. When you're ready to work on your cover letter, check these tips out.
3. It's Too Long
Multiple-page resumes may seem like a great way to display your diversity of talent, but it’s actually better to show off your organizational and editorial abilities by keeping your resume concise. You want your potential employer to look through your entire portfolio and read your whole resume, not get bored halfway through. Think: greatest hits. So if your resume is five pages long, keep scrolling for tips on how to write a shorter version.
One more way to tell? If you believe any of these resume writing lies.
Have you decided you need an update? Congrats. Let's dive right in and create a great resume!
10 Quick Tips for a Better Resume
Looking for the biggest bang in a hurry? Here are some great ways to freshen up your resume, fast!
1. Switch Up Your Font
USA Today recommends switching the font of your resume to Helvetica, Arial, or Times New Roman — in other words, a font that's easy to read.
2. Save It with Your Name
Ready to attach your resume and send it into the world? Save it as "Regina Falange Resume" instead of just "resume" to help the Hiring Manager out and to make sure it won't get lost in a sea of other "resume" labeled resumes.
3. Remove Made-Up Words
You're not Shakespeare. Making your own words like "stratergy" will get you noticed, but not in a good way.
4. Save It as a PDF
They're easy to open and ensure your formatting won't get all wonky.
5. Include Your Portfolio
Make sure to include a live link to your online portfolio or at the very least your LinkedIn profile where someone can see examples of your past work.
6. Read It Out Loud
Steal this Copywriter trick. Reading your resume out loud helps you catch any spelling mistakes or misused words. "If you find yourself tripping over a sentence as you read it, chances are there’s a problem with your grammar or syntax," says ResumeTarget founder Amos Tayts.
7. Include Social Media Links
There's no need for your snail mail address anymore, but don't forget to include your professional social handles. Are you an amazing UI Designer that tweets daily tips and tricks? Place your Twitter handle next to your website URL and email address. Want more info on social media tips for job hunting? Read this.
8. Reduce Your Margins
Need more space without shrinking your font? Try reducing your top and bottom margins to 0.5″ and your side margins to 0.75″.
9. Include Numbers
Statistics speak volumes, and including numbers helps make sections of your resume pop.
Want 13 more quick tips? Head over to this blog.
Creating a Unique, Interesting Resume
Did you hear the one about the donut resume guy? That was an incredible example of a job-hunting truth: In today’s competitive job market, you can’t afford to submit a bland, lifeless resume. It’s important to stand out and it's all about creating a unique resume — just don’t put a picture of a unicorn on your resume. (We’ve seen it. It’s wrong.) There’s a decent chance your resume may not get more than a passing glance, unless it is different — in a good way.
How can you make yours stand out? It takes balance and a comprehensive knowledge of your audience. While the industry you are in does make a difference, even the most professional environment can appreciate a little oomph and pizzazz.
Need a more traditional look? Hoping for something a bit more conservative? Try a well-designed, creative layout.
Here are three places to get started:
- Canva: A free graphic design app that allows you to create an eye-catching resume you’ll love
- Creative Market: Home to a plethora of digital goodies including resume templates among other things
- Hire a Designer: Artisan knows tons of amazing Designers and could find you the right one to take your resume to the next level
Whether you're working with a template or sprucing up the ol' trusty, but rusty resume, try some of these tricks and techniques to make your resume feel fresh and unique.
Ways to Freshen Up a Boring Resume
- Try Color Blocking
This technique uses colors to evoke warmth or another emotional response. Adding blocks of color with information will help a boring resume stand out. You can even just color block your name at the top.
- Add an Image
You may decide to add your picture to the resume, or maybe an illustration. Use this carefully though, because it can come across as too ego-driven or a little weird. More conservative Recruiters may even be turned off by this approach. See what one of our Recruiters, Lauren Friesen, thinks about this idea. And if you decide to go for it, make sure your photo is a good one.
- Add an Infographic
Pop a graphical display onto your resume to illustrate a skill or experience. One word of caution: it's important to research the company you'll be applying to before adding too many squiggles or doodads. Conservative companies (think banking, law firms, etc.) might not appreciate it.
- Make White Space Your Friend
On the completely opposite end of the spectrum, you should make use of white space to declutter, make it easier to read, and draw the eye to important areas.
In general, the most important thing to consider when creating a resume for a specific job is to mimic the general approach of the employer — this will improve your chances of being noticed without being annoying.
Looking for more creative ideas? Check out our creative resume Pinterest board.
Resume Templates We Like
Need to see some good-looking resumes in action?
If you're looking for some inspiration, check out these three examples the recruiting team at Artisan loves. Feel free to steal these for yourself by downloading the PDFs.
*Please note: We do not represent these three talents (wink, wink).
Now, let's get into the nuts and bolts of resume writing.
The Resume Objective: You Don't Need One
Spoiler alert: you don't need a resume objective — it's an outdated concept.
The vast majority of personal objectives are seen as bland, generic, and a waste of space. It may not fall into the category of “bad” — but according to a study that asked more than 70 employers what they thought, resume objectives are now seen as a total waste of space.
Adding an objective is a space-waster, sure, but it also can hurt your chances of putting your best foot forward right off the bat because the top of your resume is the first place the eye is naturally drawn to. The top of your resume is a great place to put forth skills that show your fit for the role. The truth is a resume is about you, but it’s also about what the employer wants. And what they don’t want is a time-wasting generic objective at the top of your page. Trust us.
We promise that the Recruiter already knows your objective is to get an awesome job that pays the big bucks. Your best bet is to remove the objective and use the space for actual career accomplishments. Leading with your superhero skills will help make the case for why you should be hired.
Speaking of things you don't need...does your resume still say "references available upon request"? If it does, delete it right away — this, too, is no longer necessary. Employers assume you will provide references if you are asked. So, please delete references and any references to references.
What should you put at the top of your resume instead of an objective? Here are a few suggestions for using that space more wisely:
Creative Tips for the Top of Your Resume
- Create a Skills Summary
If there is something unique about your career (say you took time off to backpack through Europe or switched careers midway through life), this is the best place to explain it. Using two to three sentences only.
- Lead with a Brief Testimonial
Pop a brief testimonial up front from a previous employer! The best place to find fodder for testimonial snippets are within letters of recommendation written on your behalf. Or use one from your LinkedIn profile. Grab a compelling sentence and put that in place of your objective to infuse your resume with a more unique and human feel.
- Try a Handful of Bullets
Cover your key skills and professional characteristics. Or list your recent awards or upcoming speaking engagements.
- Spotlight Your Education
Why not place your education front and center? If you graduated with top honors (especially if you graduated from a prestigious university), letting a Hiring Manager know right away could push your resume to the top of the pile.
- Show Off Your Skills
Have a set of hot, in-demand skills like social media certifications, e-commerce experience, or proficiency in ALL of the Adobe CS products? If they're related and necessary to the job you're applying for, put them up top proudly.
The Page Debate: How Many Pages Should My Resume Be?
A simple non-answer to the length question: your resume should be whatever length it needs to be. It should cover everything relevant about your experience, education, and background. It should be concise and well written.
Let's see what some of our team members have to say:
Still unsure? A piece of advice Artisan Director of Operations Ellen Bird always gives talent, especially those who have been working for a while, is to “create a master version of your resume with all your information on jobs, gigs, pro bono work, etc. It may be several pages long, but then you cut out the irrelevant details based on the role you are applying to.”
This is a helpful trick for people who worked in a job using a wide range of skills. You don’t have to include every line of your job description on your resume (in fact, don’t do that — put a few things in your back pocket for your interview).
The Short Version: Five Ways to Create a Short Resume
Since shorter is harder and less is usually more, here are some tips for a shorter resume.
1. Write for a Skimmer
Share only the most important accomplishments from each job. You’re not telling your life history, just the high points. Make sure your text specifically addresses the job post qualifications and responsibilities. Those are the keywords most recruiters are looking for.
2. Highlight Your Skills
Each sentence should have action verbs and describe a specific job skill or accomplishment.
*Published an average of 10,000 words per week under client deadlines
*Conducted 20 cold calls daily
*Created and implemented multi-faceted marketing campaigns
*Closed sales in excess of $4 million with an average account size of $80,000
3. Edit, Edit, and Edit Again
Make sure to edit out every unnecessary word or phrase such as “duties included” or “references available upon request.” Try writing the resume and then putting it aside for a few hours. Then come back and cut every unnecessary word from the document. Save it. Then go to step five.
4. Less Is More
If you’re an experienced executive, it’s wise to write your resume in reverse chronological order from one to ten years. As time progresses, you will naturally drop jobs off. We’ve seen five-page resumes (and higher!) but truthfully, we usually don't care what you were doing in 1999. (Probably partying like it was…1999.)
5. Find a Friend
Engage a second set of eyes to review your resume, whether it’s your word-savvy niece, a proofreader friend, or a professional Recruiter. We guarantee they’ll probably find something you missed.
Going Online: Digitally Upgrading Your Resume
If your resume is feeling finished and doing its job — i.e., getting you interview requests — then it's time to make sure that resume is fully digitized. "We all want a resume that will jump out of the pile into the hands of HR managers," says Fast Company, "but how do you craft a resume that is tasteful yet aesthetic, impressive, yet not braggy? First and foremost...it’s about turning your resume into a sleek, interactive, and thoroughly digital resource."
Fast Company's Checklist for the Digital Resume
Making a digital resume doesn't require a Web Developer these days. Online tools for resume creation and formatting are becoming more and more popular. Google Docs, Etsy, and more are making pretty, functional, and digital resumes a snap to create.
Check out Glassdoor’s list of five of the best online resume tools available right now. Then use this Fast Company checklist to make sure you’re including the features that will take your upgraded resume to the next level:
Add the Right Keywords
Whether it’s a Hiring Manager or Recruiter scanning your resume, or an applicant tracking system, make sure you include relevant keywords that signal your expertise. Anish Majumdar, CEO of ResumeOrbit.com and Glassdoor contributor, suggests you “take a close look at the ‘Skills and Endorsements’ section of the most visible people in your niche — this is the ‘secret sauce’ of great keywords."
Another place to grab potential keywords? The job description for the position to which you are applying. You might need to get specific. Some basic software solutions can't tell the difference between an "MBA" and an "M.B.A." You need to be as specific as possible when you're crafting your resume. The only way to determine which spelling the employer is using is to look at the content of their job posting. If they ask for "MS Excel," your resume needs to say "MS Excel" — not "Microsoft Excel."
- Show Off Your Personal Brand
Don't forget to include nods to your personal brand on your resume. Use adjectives to create sharp sentences, suggests Majumdar. For example, for a Senior Marketing Executive Role, he suggests crafting something like, “Luxury Retail Marketing expert who can deploy cutting-edge strategies to generate awareness, double-digit profitability gains, and cross-channel cohesion.”
Make sure to include any professional social profiles you are using as well. Linking to your website/portfolio, LinkedIn, Twitter account, and/or Instagram gives a potential employer a glimpse into your broader professional experience and a peek at your personality. Just make sure your accounts are cleaned up for that job search first.
- Make It Clickable
Speaking of links...now that most resumes are sent and seen electronically first, make sure to focus on making yours interactive and easily clickable. "Especially focus on including creative work, such as published articles or an online portfolio," Fast Company suggests. LinkedIn can be an especially helpful link to include so potential interviewers can take a deeper look at your previous roles and skills.
- Make It Mobile Ready
Making your resume easier to read is a no-brainer — but did you stop to think that today's busy Recruiters will most likely be reviewing your resume on their phones at some point? When you’re choosing a layout, test the look on multiple devices. Does it look as fabulous on a tablet as it does on a desktop? If it doesn’t look great on mobile, don’t hit “send.”
Final Thoughts on Our Friend the Resume
Ask any professional job interviewer and they’ll tell you: what the world really needs is a new breed of job hunter who ditches traditionally accepted methods of resume writing in favor of approaches that actually match today’s hiring practices.
This isn’t to say that the resume is dead. It just serves to point out that many job seekers are using outdated methods that could actually be hurting their chances at finding work. Create a unique resume using these tips and we bet you’ll see an uptick in interest.