Whether you’re currently on the job hunt or not, making the effort to write and update your resume every few months (most studies suggest every six months) is a great way to ensure you’re tracking your career progression and keeping your most pertinent skills modern and relevant… but are you following the most common resume rules?
Here, we looked to our network of career coaches and human relations professionals to get their non-negotiable rules that you should always follow when writing your resume. These tips will ensure your career experience has the best chance of making it to the top of the pile—every single time.
Stick to one page.
“Some of the best ever resume I have seen were all on one-page, with lots of white space and mostly with bullet points,” says Dr. Paul Symonds, founder of Symonds Training & Research, a digital personal development resource in The U.K. “I have seen resumes that have been between 10 and 30 pages and they were completely inappropriate and gave the impression of someone trying to over-explain and over-emphasis their skills.”
A resume should never be more than one page in length so that a recruiter can quickly and easily scan it. “This means you need to sell yourself and your skills in a few words as possible,” adds Shawna Newman, MBA, a career coach and founder of several online businesses. “So, if you wore several hats at a previous job, then you need to pick the most important and relevant skills to list on your resume instead of detailing each little thing and project you did at the company.”
Don’t forget to use keywords to get past the ATS systems
“Marketing 101 is knowing your target audience and their pain points. There is no better way to show that you know your audience than speaking their language,” explains Sarah Johnson, founder of the Briefcase Coach. The key to a great modern resume is borrowing language and keywords from the job descriptions for your documents. These days, modern recruiters are looking for keywords and terms to match against quite specific job requirements—many of which actually use AI-powered applicant tracking software (ATS) to bulk scan resumes before they even make it to human eyes.
If you’re worried about ticking off all the top keywords without sounding like your resume is cold or too stuffy, you might want to consider seeking a professional lens. Resume writing services like TopResume are a great option if you want to ensure you’re getting it right. You’ll be matched with a relevant HR professional and copywriter based on your field and the two of you will collaborate to ensure your career experience is cohesive and includes just enough keywords to ensure you get past an applicant tracking software in place.
Use a clear, easy-to-read font
Font plays a very important role in ensuring your resume looks clean and professional. “You should use a basic, clean font like Arial or Times New Roman and keep your font size between 10 and 12 points,” says Jennifer Willy, lead editor at Etia, a digital education platform in Vancouver, Canada. “Selecting a clear, readable font will help make your resume appear more professional!”
Consistency is key here—whether you choose Arial or Times New Roman, try to stick no more than two font styles, and use them consistently throughout your resume. Willy also recommends using subheadings every single time—not only will it make your resume look more organized, but it will also make it easier for recruiters to scan for the most pertinent information.