Your resume is often your first introduction to a new company, so it's important to make it great. No matter how good you think your resume is now, investing the time to make your resume better is worth it.
How do you know if it’s time to revamp your application materials? If you've been sending out your resume for a while and not getting much of a response, it’s time to create a new resume.
You should also give your resume a facelift if you've had the same job for several years. Since you never know when the opportunity of a lifetime will come along, it’s critical that you always have a current resume at the ready. Every year or two, you should take the time to make sure your work history section is up to date and that your skills section reflects your current skill set.
Wondering how to make your resume better? Here are seven steps you can take to improve your resume right now.
1. Reconsider Your Resume's Format
When considering how to improve your resume, take a look at the document’s format. You have a choice between three basic formats for your resume: chronological, functional, and hybrid. Which one is right for you will depend on your skill level and the type of job you want.
Though there can be some overlap between resume types, in general here are the characteristics and uses for each resume format:
- Chronological resumes list your employment history up front and your skills as a standalone section after. This all-purpose forumula is what most people use for their whole careers.
- Functional resumes put the emphasis on skills and accomplishments rather than work experience. These include a work history, but past jobs are mostly used to elaborate on the skills you think are most relevant to the job you're applying for. Functional resumes are more common at the executive/professional level, though they're getting more popular on the middle management tier.
- Hybrid resumes are functional on top with a chronological work history underneath. These have become popular with executives and specialist employees, such as engineers.
Nothing sinks a resume like typos and bad spelling or grammar so improve your resume with a thorough copyedit. Before printing your resume or making that PDF copy, thoroughly proofread the entire document for errors. Take your time with this, and don't send the document until you're sure it's flawless.
2. Improve Your Resume's Online Appeal
While you're trying to improve your resume, reconsidering the layout of information on your resume is critical. Give some thought to the way it looks to the person reading it, both online and in print.
Studies have shown that hiring managers spend an average of only six seconds looking at a resume on the first pass, and the visual impact your resume has goes a long way to determining whether it gets a second look.
Most resumes today are viewed on computer screens, so it pays to make a resume better for that kind of display. Things you can do to improve the display quality of your electronic resume include:
- Use simple fonts. Paper resumes can sometimes get away with flourishes and serifs, but you can improve your resume for digital display by making the fonts as simple as possible. Helvetica, Courier, and Arial are great for this.
- Remove all formatting. Microsoft Word is a common program for resume editing, but it has a tendency to over-format some documents. You can definitely edit your resume in Word, but formatting variables you can't see could interfere with how the document looks after it's been emailed. To clear all that formatting out, copy/paste your finished resume into Notepad or another TXT editor, and then copy/paste it back as plain text.
- Save the document at 100 percent magnification. After you've stripped the formatting, check to make sure your magnification levels are good before saving. Many people unknowingly edit documents at 150 or 200 percent magnification but saving it like this can cause your resume to pop up on the recruiter's screen as a jarringly oversized document that's hard to read.
- Create a PDF. When your size and formatting are normalized, try saving your resume as a PDF file. This essentially takes a snapshot of a document and goes a long way to preserving its visual elements. It's usually okay to send a PDF copy of your resume as a backup to your Word version, just in case.
- Test the format before sending it out. Before you send off what you hope is a visually appealing resume, email yourself a copy and open it as if you're the hiring manager. Pay attention to how it loads and what kind of impression it makes at first glance and fix any issues you find in the display properties before sending it out with your applications.
3. Improve a Resume's Look on Paper
Not every employer is fully computerized, and some still want to see a paper copy of your resume. You can make a resume better for print by moving a few elements around on the page to eliminate white space and tighten up the side and top margins.
Feed 24- or 32-pound paper into your printer before printing resumes. The extra heft of these heavier paper weights conveys a feeling of quality and reliability, which is just the note you want to strike. You can also opt for a very subtle off-white or cream color as the background for your print resume.
4. Thoroughly Proofread Your Resume
Nothing sinks a resume like typos and bad spelling or grammar so improve a resume with a thorough copyedit. Before printing your resume or making that PDF copy, thoroughly proofread the entire document for errors. Take your time with this, and don't send the document until you're sure it's flawless.
Double-check the way place and company names are spelled, even if you think you got it right. Look up commonly misused words like compliment/complement or affect/effect to be sure you're using them the right way.
While you're trying to improve a resume, reconsidering the layout of information on your resume is critical. Give some thought to the way it looks to the person reading it, both online and in print.
5. Make a Resume Better by Using Specifics
Use specifics wherever you can on a resume. As you review the document, be on the lookout for vague or subjective terms like "improved the quality of" or "took leadership role in."
Instead of general terms, aim to add quantifiable assertions, such as "increased sales by 12 percent" or "managed a team of 25 employees" to improve a resume.
6. Edit Your Work History
Many people pass through multiple jobs and careers over the course of their careers, but not all of it is relevant to the employer you're applying to. As a rule, your work history should only go back around 10 or 15 years, and it really is okay to leave minor and part-time jobs off entirely. This edit of your work history will improve your resume.
If you have a significant work history, or if you're getting back into a field you used to work in and want to include experience from 20 years ago, consider splitting your work history between sections titled "Recent" and "Relevant."
This can improve your resume by making it easier to scan and it helps your reviewer find the important information about you.
7. Close the Gaps
Gaps in employment are not the big deal they used to be, but it can still be a little jarring to see blank spots between jobs on your history. Improve your resume by accounting for those gaps on your resume with brief explanations like "self-employed" or "attended school," so your reviewer knows nothing was wrong during your hiatuses from the working world.
Need more help? Use LiveCareer's Resume Builder, which takes all the guesswork out of improving your resume!