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IN MY THREE YEARS as a resume writer, I’ve developed a set of overarching standards I use with all client projects. Beyond these, I base my recommendations on each individual’s profession, their personal career story, and their target next job. After 150+ projects, I can confidently say that no two resumes are the same!

Here are 5 essential factors I apply to all resumes I write – these will set you up for success, giving your resume a great shot at rising to the top of the “talk to” stack:

1. Tailor Your Resume to the Job:

Think about this one in terms of each different job category you’re applying for (versus each separate application). Review the job description and identify key skills and qualifications the employer seeks. Then, be sure your resume highlights your relevant experiences and accomplishments.

(Pro tip: You can reverse engineer your LinkedIn profile to a specific job posting, and use that information to update your resume.)

2. Showcase Achievements, Not Just Duties:

You know what a list of responsibilities is? It’s a job description. While that’s necessary context, a great resume will focus on accomplishments and outcomes. How did your employer benefit from your contributions? Use specific examples. Quantify your achievements whenever possible (and it’s almost always possible). This provides concrete evidence of your abilities, which helps the hiring manager picture you on their team.

3. Skip Fancy Formatting, Focus on Readability:

Your resume’s appearance matters less than ensuring that its format is ATS compatible. To avoid upload hiccups, use a clean and easy-to-read format with clear headings and bullet points. Be consistent with fonts and formatting throughout the document (no more than 2 fonts). Avoid excessive graphics, photos, or decorative elements. One accent color is fine – blue is safe.

4. Include Relevant Keywords:

Many employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen resumes. To increase your chances of passing through ATS and reaching human eyes, include relevant keywords from the job description. These keywords should naturally fit into your resume’s content and showcase your qualifications. Again, you can back into the most important keywords in LinkedIn’s Jobs section, and add those to your resume (and your skills section of your profile).

5. Highlight Transferable Skills:

Skills like communication, problem-solving, supervision, leadership, and adaptability are valuable in almost any role. Again, use the job description as a guide to what skills are needed, and be sure your resume highlights those skills.

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