1. Use the right order
You have three main types of resumes to choose from:
- Chronological: Focuses on professional experience, listed in reverse chronological order. Most resumes use this format.
- Functional: Emphasizes a large skills section over work history.
- Combination: Gives equal space to your skills and work experience sections.
Pick the resume format that lets you place your most relevant skills and accomplishments in prominent positions where the hiring manager will quickly notice them.
2. Don’t make it too long
Submit a one-page resume whenever possible so the hiring manager can quickly skim your qualifications and determine you’re hireable. Per professional resume standards, your resume length can reach 2–3 pages only when you have 10+ years of experience or if you’re submitting a federal resume or a CV.
3. Pick a readable font
The best fonts for a resume are easy to read. Here are a few fonts that follow resume formatting guidelines and clearly present your qualifications to hiring managers:
- Times New Roman
4. Choose the best font size
Resume font size matters. Set your font size anywhere between 10.5 and 12 — whatever size best fills the page.
5. Set your margins to the ideal width
The best size for resume margins is between ½” and 1”. Margins wider than an inch create too much blank space that makes your resume appear empty. Sub-½” margins spread out your information, making it hard to read.
6. Feature your name in a header
You’re the star of your resume, so don’t be shy when you format your name on your resume header. Write your name in extra-large, bold text, and then list your contact information in the same font size you use for the rest of your resume.
7. Write a catchy resume headline
Overcome stiff competition in the 2021 job market by writing a resume headline. The 1–2 line phrase succinctly sums up your qualifications to convince the hiring manager to continue reading your resume.
8. Highlight your skills in a resume intro
List your most relevant skills and accomplishments in a brief introduction under your headline. A resume introduction is 2–3 sentences or bullets filled with information that makes the hiring manager want to read all your resume sections.
9. List your professional accomplishments
Present your accomplishments in your resume’s work experience section. Organize your achievements in 2–4 bullets under each job title so employers can understand what you’re capable of doing for them if they hire you.
10. Use hard numbers
Don’t merely say you have skills and accomplishments on your resume. Instead, support them with hard numbers (percentages and dollar amounts) and specific examples that show the hiring manager why you’re qualified.
11. Emphasize your education
Put your highest degree title and school name in your resume’s education section. If you don’t have much work experience, you can also list relevant coursework on your resume.
12. Add your skills
List your hard and soft skills in a bulleted resume skills section. Include any language skills, computer skills, and certifications that could benefit your target employer.
13. Include other relevant information
If you have volunteer experience, extracurricular activities, or interests that are related to the job you want, add them to your resume. If possible, quantify the experience and hobbies you add with data to avoid having this additional information dismissed as resume fluff.
14. Don’t use pronouns
One important resume guideline is to omit pronouns. You shouldn’t say “I” in a resume for two reasons:
- Cutting straight to the verb is more concise, taking the hiring manager directly to your qualifications. So instead of saying “I optimized our file organization,” say “Optimized file organization.”
- Repeating “I” and “me” throughout your resume could read as bragging.
15. Do use action words
Use action verbs and powerful adjectives to describe your achievements. Replace a bland word like “made” with “innovated” and instantly boost your resume’s intensity.
16. Consider ATS
Applicant tracking software (ATS) that automatically filters applications based on preset resume keywords is gaining popularity among companies of all sizes. Include skills-based terms from the job ad on your resume to get it past the ATS to the hiring manager.
17. Don’t submit the same resume twice
Fine-tune your resume for every new job application you submit. Employers search for candidates who meet the specific requirements listed in the job descriptions, and if your resume has too much irrelevant information, it may be trashed.
Ensure your resume is mistake-free by proofreading. Your resume introduces you to employers, and a single mistake can give the first impression that you’re careless and unprofessional.
19. Ask a friend to proofread
After you’ve proofread your resume, ask someone else to look it over. When you’re crafting your resume, your brain automatically prioritizes meaning over small mistakes like typos and grammatical miscues. Someone who’s reading the information you’ve been agonizing over for the first time can catch minor errors you missed.
20. Save your resume as a PDF file
You should send the hiring manager a PDF resume because:
- PDF files are the easiest to open in most computer operating systems
- Saving your resume as a PDF file removes the visually jarring underlines that Word’s spellchecker places on terms it doesn’t recognize.
21. Include a cover letter
Write a cover letter that expands on the concise qualifications listed on your resume and attach it to your application. A cover letter’s paragraph format gives you more space to explain why you want the job, drop a company contact’s name, and show that you’ve researched the organization.
More writing guidelines
Our 21 resume guidelines for 2021 cover a wide range of general resume writing tips. Here are some more specific guides to help you further optimize your application:
Resume samples for 2021
Here’s an example that follows resume guidelines for college students:
Here are examples and templates that apply our resume recommendations and cover letter rules for any job hunter in 2021: