How to Write a Resume that Leads to Interviews and Lands You a Job

At Job Seekers Network, we have studied current best practices for how to write a resume in today’s job market. Our resume writing training will further guide you through the process of creating a resume that represents you well. We've talked to local and national recruiters and professional resume writers, as well as thousands of our own job seekers in the Austin market. We’ve consolidated our research into the following recommendations for how to write a great resume.

When you know your audience, stay on target and get organized , you will have a plan to follow for creating your best resume – an important marketing tool to support your overall job search strategy.

Writing a resume

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Job interview

Know Your Audience

We’ve found that the first step to writing a great resume is understanding who (or what) will be reading it. You’ll have a competitive edge when you know how to write a resume that appeals to both human recruiters and computerized screeners, such as Applicant Tracking Systems.

More than 90% of Fortune 500 companies, as well as Indeed and Glassdoor, use Applicant Tracking Systems, otherwise known as ATS. These automated systems transfer your resume into a database, capturing only text, whitespace and basic characters. Understanding how ATS works can keep your resume out of the digital dumpster. Some of these actually compare your resume to the job description, which is why it is critical to optimize your resume to match the job you are applying for. From there, recruiters see the ones the ATS has matched instead of sifting through every application.

Studies show that recruiters take an average of 6 seconds to decide if your resume is a match for the position. If they can't quickly spot your recent job titles including your start and end dates, they won't take the time to dig any further. Remember, you are writing to catch the recruiter’s eye just long enough for them to decide to give you a call. Chances are they will never read the entire document. That’s why the top third of your resume is the most important part of your resume.

Stay on Target

A resume that lacks a clear target – or one that shoots for too many targets – isn’t likely to get results. A targeted resume is a must in today's competitive environment, because recruiters don’t have the time to figure out how and where you fit in. Consider the job description of the position you are applying for, then include a list that matches your skills with the experience needed to do the job. You don’t need to include all your skills, just the ones relevant to that particular job. Use the same language you find in the job description, especially with technical positions.

Keep in mind that you will be tailoring your resume for each type of job you are applying for. Instead of thinking of your resume as one finalized document, remember that your resume is constantly evolving and can be updated at any time.

Darts hitting a bullseye
Organization boxes

Get Organized

Job Seekers Network recommends leaving off your physical street address but including your city, state and zip code. You may be eligible for opportunities in other locations that weren’t possible before so many work-from-home and remote work options became available. Also, be sure to include your customized LinkedIn profile web address. Job Seekers Network offers guidance on best practices for LinkedIn through our weekly meetings.

Just below your contact information, start with the title used in the job posting, instead of the word “Summary.” Listing Objectives on your resume is considered very outdated; instead, share your personal brand statement and focus on what the company’s needs are.

Highlighting your achievements will make you stand out from the crowd. Job Seekers Network recommends adding a “Select Accomplishments” section to highlight the three most relevant accomplishments that prove you can do the job listed in the job description, particularly if you are making a career transition and want to demonstrate how your background matches with your new goal. Write these out clearly showing less about what you did and more about the results or impact you made.

As you describe your past experience, focus on accomplishments. We use the C-A-R acronym for Challenge, Action, Result to help you write your job descriptions in a more results-oriented way. Instead of telling hiring managers that you are a team player and detail oriented, show how you’ve demonstrated these skills throughout your work history.

You’ll want to list the employer, job title, and employment dates in this section. It should also be tailored so that you are highlighting the experiences that are relevant to your job target. Descriptions do not need to be all inclusive. If you have recent work experience directly related to your target, you can skip the “select accomplishments” section and go directly to the experience section.

You should include an “Education & Training” and probably a “Professional & Community Service” section on your resume. These sections are standard practice, but we don’t recommend adding dates on your education, particularly if it ages you.

Woman working on her resume

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Magnifying glass on a resume

Format for Readability

The good news is that things have gotten a lot simpler than the days of complex Microsoft Word formatting. You don't need graphic design skills either. Colors, charts, logos, and fancy borders may have helped your resume shine in the past, but now recruiters want just to see the basics.

Having an attractively formatted printed resume is nice, but it's not as important as making sure your resume works well with Applicant Tracking systems. Clear headings and plenty of whitespace – the space you see between lines and in the margins – also makes it easy for recruiters’ eyes to land on the information they need most. One recruiter we talked to put it this way, “Give us whitespace, whitespace, and more whitespace!”

Speaking of visual appeal, a font size of 12 points makes your resume comfortable to read on a mobile device. Choose a san serif font like Calibri or Arial.

For overall length, general guidelines recommend two pages if you have 10 or more years of experience. Keep it to 1 page if you are a recent grad or still early in your career. If your document is too long, look for sections to delete instead of making the font size smaller.

More Resume Help

Now that you know what’s trending in resumes, you’ll probably want to make some changes. Job Seekers Network’s Resume Review Process offers step-by-step guidance for developing and editing your resume, followed by scheduling a review session with a resume coach. We have developed a video series called “Resumes That Get Results,” which provides more detailed instructions for implementing these changes. Get connected and start attending our programs to take advantage of these great resources.

Writing a resume is just one of the first steps in finding a job. Job Seeker Network has a proven job search process that has helped more than 10,000 job seekers find a better fitting job faster.

We can help you through the entire process:

Step 1. Identify your life calling & job target that fits your design – how to find your calling, how to find your career passion

Step 2. Establish support & plan for a productive search – how to find a job more easily and quickly

Step 3. Determine your brand & compelling story – how to brand yourself, how to tell your story in an interview

Step 4. Customize your resume & LinkedIn profile – how to build a LinkedIn profile

Step 5. Find targeted employers – who’s hiring near you

Step 6. Build & empower your network – how to network for a job, how to network on LinkedIn

Step 7. Ace the interview – how to interview well

Step 8. Get a better fitting job fast – how to negotiate salary and manage your career

Job Seekers Network provides comprehensive job search programs and services, as well as emotional and spiritual support to the unemployed and underemployed. Through these efforts, we have helped thousands of people in Greater Austin find better fitting jobs faster. We hope you will join us for our next Monday meeting.

The JSN resume review, LinkedIn training, marketing plan training and other services were so helpful and would have cost hundreds to purchase from a career coach.

Nick JSN Alumni

Get connected to JSN. Redo your resume according to JSN’s recommendations and get a JSN coach review. Don't be afraid to change up your resume. It has to appropriately speak to each role that you are applying for.

Christina JSN Alumni