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19 Resume Tips to Make a Killer Impression

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Let’s be real — writing a resume or cover letter can be a daunting task. You want to know how to land your dream job, and an outstanding application is the first step. If you’re looking for the top resume writing secrets, you’ve come to the right place!

Keep reading to discover how to make a great impression with your resume and cover letter, beginning with the resume.

Killer Resume Tips

1. Select Powerful Words

Hiring managers are responsible for looking over a multitude of resumes. To stand out from the crowd, focus on utilizing powerful words and an active voice. Mix up your sentence structure and vocabulary to keep the reader interested.

2. Use Quantifiable Descriptions

Highlight quantifiable examples to explain how you’ve utilized your skills and experience from other positions. On average, a recruiter scans a resume for six seconds before deciding whether to move on. Strive to be concise and impactful with the information you include.

3. Choose a Professional Font and Format

Your font style and size should always be professional and easy to read. Keep the font between 10 to 12 points and margins between 0.5 and 1 inches on all four sides of the page. Examples of popular fonts for professionals include:

  • Arial
  • Times New Roman
  • Calibri
  • Tahoma
  • Georgia

Your resume should fit on a single page without excessive white space. Use your cover letter to discuss information that is relevant but couldn’t fit on the resume.

4. Keep Your Experience Relevant

List your experience in reverse chronological order. Include only the most recent relevant work and schooling. It’s better to focus on two positions comprehensively and show how you excelled than to address every job you’ve ever held.

Draw attention to your crowning achievements by including the critical points at the top of each section. That first bullet should encourage the employer to continue reading. Always remember to be honest — lying on your resume is grounds for termination with the potential for legal recourse.

5. Avoid Offering Personal Info

It’s illegal for businesses to ask you certain questions during the hiring process. This helps protects you from discrimination or hiring bias. Therefore, you should not willingly volunteer this information on your resume. Avoid writing about your marital status, ethnicity, religion, politics or parental duties.

6. List Your Skills Wisely

The skills that you list on your resume should be relevant to the position you’re applying for. Skip listing skills that are obvious or that don’t apply to the job. Make sure to have the required skills from the job description listed clearly on your resume.

7. Include Links to Professional Social Profiles

Link to your professional social media profiles. This will allow you to share information with a potential employer without using up precious resume space. Utilize career profiles, like LinkedIn, to include a career snapshot or objective statement.

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Remarkable Cover Letter Tips

By now, you should be ready to move on to the cover letter. Here’s how to make yours shine:

1. Make It Personal

Personalize your cover letter. It should include the hiring manager’s name, the name of the company and the name of the position. This shows that you’ve put time and effort into creating a customized cover letter.

2. Start and Finish Strong

Your opening sentence should grab the reader’s attention and encourage them to take a closer look. Crafting something original will help your cover letter stand out. Just as importantly, you must finish on a strong note. Conclude with a polite but firm call to action and express your excitement for the opportunity.

Typically, your cover letter will be about two to three paragraphs long. However, feel free to move away from the traditional format if you’re applying to a creative company and want to show an innovative spirit.

3. Act Natural and Be Yourself

Try to find the balance between being overly formal and too casual. Your writing should come across as natural rather than stiff or awkward. To learn how it sounds to another person, use Google Translate to play back your paper.

Limit the number of adverbs and adjectives you use to ensure your intentions are perceived as genuine rather than exaggerated.

4. Brag Away

Cover letters offer a first impression before the interview. This is your chance to brag away and explain why you’re the right person for the job. Showcase your intellect, personality and attitude.

Outstanding Resume and Cover Letter Tips

Finally, you’re ready to dig into the “fit and finish” details to make sure both your resume and cover letter are the best they can be:

1. Proofread and Edit Your Drafts

After completing your application, be sure to proofread and edit your work. Ask a friend to read what you’ve written to see if you’ve explained yourself clearly. Would they want to hire you? Continue to update and edit your work to ensure each rendition fits the company you are applying to.

2. Use a Template as a Guide

The best resume and cover letter tip is to use a template as a guide. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Modify the templates to fit your needs and get creative if you want to make changes. Remember to change your keywords and descriptions to adapt to each job description.

3. Prioritize Experience Over Education

Experience should be highlighted and listed before education. Education is still an important component of the resume, and you should highlight honors or relevant coursework if applicable. Suppose your prior professional experience is limited. If that’s the case, then point out activities from volunteer work or clubs that may be worthwhile.

Most recruiters want to know that you have a degree, but they’re more focused on what skills and experiences set you apart from other graduates.

4. Prepare for Questions

Read through your resume and cover letter and imagine what questions you’d have. Do you have time gaps between jobs? Have you taken a lot of short-term positions, or did you move around from jobs frequently?

Think over how you would like to answer these questions to remain confident and comfortable if they have follow-up questions on your application.

5. Save as a PDF

Save your resume and cover letter as PDFs to ensure your formatting remains impeccable. Also, remember to save the documents as your name and the project type. Pro tip: Keep a master list of all of your job descriptions and important dates to use when updating your resume.

6. Utilize the Job Description

Use keywords from the job description to optimize your cover letter and resume to beat the applicant tracking system (ATS) used by many companies. By pulling the keywords directly from the company’s text, you affirm that you are the right person for the position.

7. Learn About the Company

Do your research before beginning to write. By learning more about the company, you ensure that your work stands out from other applicants. You can use the tone and language that corresponds to the company’s website. Doing research also helps prepare you for the interview.

8. Update Your Contact Info

Interested employers need a way to communicate with you. Make sure your contact information is up-to-date before applying. Choose an email and phone number that is professional-sounding but not linked to a previous work position. Only include your address if it works in your favor. Otherwise, it’s not necessary.

The First Step to Landing That Dream Job

These 19 killer cover letter and resume tips will help you make a great first impression. Remember to follow the instructions for each company’s unique application process. You may need to adjust your writing to meet their expectations. When in doubt, look to industry examples for guidance on how to craft your application to fit a specific position.

With these resume writing tips, you have an actionable toolkit to help you land that interview — and score the job. 

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Author: Alyssa Abel

Alyssa Abel is a college, career and education writer with a special interest in student mental health, study abroad and learning. Her work appears regularly on education sites like HerCampus, Teaching Channel and CollegeXpress, among others. Follow her on Twitter @alyssaabelblog or read more on her website, Syllabusy.