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Blog>Guides>Resume Cheat Sheet and Tips for Job Applicants in 2021

Resume Cheat Sheet and Tips for Job Applicants in 2021

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  • Make a great first impression on paper
  • Highlight the details of your qualifications without overwhelming recruiters
  • Avoid common resume mistakes that could land your resume in a literal or virtual trash bin


Imagine you send your resume to a recruiter in response to an ad for your dream job. They have dozens, or even hundreds, of resumes in front of them, each submitted by an eager would-be-candidate vying for the same position. The recruiter has mere seconds to give each resume a first glance to determine whether it deserves review in greater detail and, potentially, forwarded to the hiring manager. In fact, on average, recruiters spend less than 10 seconds on your resume.

As they glance at your resume, they will process:

  • Whether the layout is inviting, clean, and easy to read
  • Whether your contact information is obvious
  • Whether you have the education, experience, and job-related skills they’re seeking
  • Whether anything presented on your resume is jarring or off-putting

Whether you are a recent graduate or a seasoned professional, if you are job hunting, you need the best ammunition available — and that ammo includes a great resume. This article covers resume tips that may resonate with prospective employers.

Tips for the Overall Layout of Your Resume

Your resume format matters. The first thing the recruiter will do is weed out the resumes that are messy, disorganized, and hard to read. A sloppy resume sends a signal that the applicant is disheveled, slovenly, or simply doesn’t care. A common assumption from a recruiter is that people who want to do an excellent job at work will want to do an excellent job producing a readable resume.

Second, if it’s too difficult to find the important words and phrases that show you’re qualified and a suitable candidate for the job, the recruiter will assume you’re unqualified for the position, passing on your resume to go to the next. Employers simply don’t have the time to go on a treasure hunt for your qualifications.

The bottom line is this: Layout and presentation matter. These tips will help you nail this part of the resume creation process:

  1. Use plenty of white space so that the reader’s eye can leap through the resume to find keywords that show your suitability for the position.
  2. Keep sections short and simple — try to keep each section down to one or two sentences and a few bulleted points.
  3. Use bullets to draw the reader’s eye to key points and achievements.

How and Where to Present Your Contact Information

If you pique the hiring manager’s interest with your resume, the last thing you want to do is make it difficult for them to contact you via email or phone or to review your social media profile. Incorporate these best practices so that contacting you is easy for the recruiting team:

  • Put your name, phone number, email address, and relevant social media pages in a prominent place at the top of your resume. Don’t put this vital information in the header but make it part of the body of the document. In some document views, headers and footers will not show up, and you don’t want to make it difficult for the recruiter to find this information. Alignment can be flush left, flush right, or center, whichever you prefer.
  • Increase the font size of your name. If your resume exceeds one page, put your name at the top of each page.
  • Using a mobile phone number as the primary form of contact is preferable. This gives the hiring manager the choice of reaching out to you via call or text.
  • Your email address, LinkedIn or other relevant social media profiles, and links to other online resources (e.g., a portfolio) should be live. If you use social media icons, make sure they link to your page.
  • Use your school (.edu) email address if applicable. This includes if you are a recent graduate of a well-regarded school or if you can leverage your alma mater for networking.

Adding a Summary Section

Some job seekers will benefit from adding a summary section at the top of their resume just after their contact information and above the body of the resume. If you have a good solid history of working in the same field as the job you’re applying for, write a summary statement so that you can succinctly show the expanse of your career and experience.

If you don’t have an extensive work record to explain, skip this section. You’ll want to focus more on your skills and educational background in the resume's body. The summary statement will take up valuable resume real estate without the benefit of making you more competitive for the position.

A good summary statement will touch on the prospective employer’s needs and will relay:

  • Pertinent highlights of your work history
  • Skills germane to the job
  • Accomplishments relevant to the employer’s goals or bottom line

Tips for Presenting Your Work Experience

The work experience section of your resume should not only set forth what you did in previous jobs but, as importantly, it should plainly explain the ways you excelled. It should also show why your experience is pertinent to the position you’re now seeking.

Use action verbs that show the accomplishments you achieved and why a prospective employer should care. For example, did you make or save your employer money? Did you behave in a way that was positive for the company and its culture? Did you improve a process, handle a crisis, or meet a particular challenge with flair and ingenuity?

Try to limit your employment history to the last 15 years. Going back over 20 years could cause resistance from recruiters or human resources staff charged with reviewing resumes.

Presenting Your Education in the Best Way

When composing a section on education, be sure to list where you received your degree or training. If you just graduated or are out of school only a few years, include any accolades, such as graduating with honors or awards received. For certain fields — like finance and law, for example — GPA and class rank matter. If yours are high, list them.

If you hold certifications or have taken classes relevant to the job you’re seeking, list those as well. If they’re important in your field or enhance your competitive advantage, think about creating a separate “Certification & Training” section.

If you graduated 15 or 20 years ago and excluded your older work experience, omit the dates of graduation from your resume.

Key Job Skills to Include

As you are penning your resume, keep in mind the skills and accomplishments you want to emphasize and the best way to present them. Use keywords — work-related nouns that describe both hard and soft skills and qualifications — that resume-reviewing professionals might look for. Use action verbs when discussing your achievements. And, when possible, combine keywords and action verbs to create searchable phrases that applicant tracking systems and employers look for.

Scan job postings in your field for common buzzwords and phrases. Note words and job titles used in the “Qualifications and Responsibilities” sections of the job description and incorporate them organically into your resume.

Some examples of soft skill keyword phrases you might find in your research include:

  • Team-oriented
  • Teamwork
  • Detail-oriented
  • Customer service
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Leadership
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Networking
  • Creative problem-solving

Things Not to Include on Your Resume

Resume writing changes like any other discipline, and what may have worked in the past can work against you today. An example of this is the objective statement. Once a regular part of most resumes, today’s best career advice is to omit this section.

You should also omit irrelevant information or facts that should remain private, including:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your driver’s license number
  • The high school you attended if you are a college or trade school graduate
  • Dates you were involved in school extracurricular activities
  • Dates of involvement in civic or professional organizations unless relevant to your qualifications
  • Any reference to references — if the employer is interested, they will ask for them

Proofread your resume several times before submitting it with any job application. Pay particular attention to correcting:

  • Grammatical errors
  • Inconsistencies in formatting, including use of capitalization and punctuation
  • Overuse of keywords (aka stacking)

Put Your Resume to Use on Joblist

Once you have created the best resume possible, let Joblist get to work finding you the right job. We humanize the job search process by bringing job listings from around the web together in one place, to give you the best possible results for your unique set of preferences.

Ready to take part in a truly personalized and always free job-hunting experience? Sign up for Joblist today.

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