So you’re applying for jobs, and you pull out the resume you threw together a few years ago. You take a few minutes to add your current job and update your address, and you send it off. It looks good, right? Look again. Components of a strong resume have changed significantly in the last several years. Consider these four tips.

#1: Get rid of the objective.

You submitted your resume for a marketing executive position, and your objective says you’re looking for a “rewarding career in marketing” or something similar. Guess what; they know that already. You applied to be a marketing executive. Many recruiters and hiring managers read just what they can see on their screen. If that only includes your name, contact info, and an objective, they won’t be interested in you.

#2: Put your key qualifications at the top instead.

Ok, you got rid of the objective; now what? The top of the resume should still have your full (legal) name and contact info, but the next section should highlight your key skills. Title it however you want: Key Qualifications, Summary of Qualifications, Key Skills, etc. Then, in a bullet list, include 5-8 things that prove you’re the BEST person for the job. Hint: read the job listing closely. What are they looking for? Include those things that you excel at. Keep in mind – you probably will need to update this list for each job you apply for. Whenever possible, also include specific achievements with the skill.

#3: Do NOT use a template.

Why not? Everyone uses one, and that means your resume will look like everyone else’s. Instead, create a unique design that is your own. It will stand out, and it will allow you to customize however you need to. Now use that SAME design to write your cover letter and references page. They should all match! (Also note I say references page – as in, it’s a separate page from your resume. Do NOT put your references on your resume.)

#4: Clean it up, and be concise.

Less is more. Unless you’ve been working in your industry for 25 years, your resume should fit on ONE page (two at the absolute most). If you’re under 30, it certainly shouldn’t be longer than a page. Check for these things:

  • Start each bullet with an action verb (present tense for current jobs and past tense for past jobs).
  • If you have even a year of college under your belt, don’t include high school stuff – none of it.
  • Never use personal pronouns (I, we, etc.) or the word “resume” on your resume.
  • Never write full sentences. The bullet items should be short phrases, and they shouldn’t have periods at the end.
  • Set your line spacing to zero before and after (it’s in the paragraph group on the layout tab in Microsoft Word), and use proper block style.
  • Get rid of intensifiers and filler words. Not sure what that means? Check out this post.
  • Clean up the appearance: remove hyperlinks, DON’T use abbreviations in addresses (e.g. St should be Street, N should be North, etc.), and DON’T use abbreviations in dates (e.g. Mar. should be March).

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