How to Breathe Fresh Life Into Your Resume

An impressive resume can make all the difference when it comes to your job search. Of course, your unique experience and skill sets are a huge factor, but recruiters and hiring managers are inundated with hundreds of competitive resumes a day - so how can you hope to stand out? Don’t sweat it - there are some concrete ways to set yourself apart. Consider scrapping your old, out-dated template and use these tips to breathe fresh life into your resume.

Tip #1 - Design Matters

Not all of us are professional graphic designers (if you are - definitely use your resume to show off your design skills), but densely-packed, black font on a white page can be exhausting to look at day after day. Most resumes will be passed over if they fail to make a statement. Whether you’re in corporate services, fashion, or finance - a visually clean and interesting resume will make a recruiter pause to take a closer look. Microsoft Word offers free, professionally-designed templates to choose from. If you’re working without a template, try a two-column approach. Put your work experience in one column, and your credentials - hard skills, education, certifications, contact information - in the other. Take a look at example resumes online specific to your industry, and be bold in your approach. Pro tip: Avoid using headshots, complex designs that make it difficult to read, or anything so densely colorful that it won’t translate when printed to a black and white printer.

Tip #2 - Pair Down

You don’t need to put every internship, accolade, and college club on your resume. If you’re just starting out in your career, those details will help recruiters get a greater sense of your experience. But if you’ve been in the game 10+ years, your more recent experience is likely a more accurate reflection of where you want to be. If your resume looks packed to the brim, it takes extra work for a recruiter to scan through for the important stuff. Tidy up - try cutting content by 25%. This distraction-free resume will show off your focus, a clear career trajectory, and will be easier for recruiters to digest. Remember, resumes are just a jumping off point. Anything left off can serve as a great conversation starter in the interview!

Tip #3 -  Save it in Word and PDF

There is no one size fits all approach for this, as different employers will have different requests. PDF is preferred by some, because the formatting will not change no matter what computer it’s opened on. Whereas some recruiting firms prefer a Word document so they can add their firm’s letterhead before submitting you to a hiring manager. Anticipate this, and always have 2 versions on hand. It’s easier to make small edits to an existing resume, rather than recreating one in either format last minute. Use the PDF version to upload to LinkedIn, Indeed, or ZipRecruiter, and save the editable Word document for when it may be requested. Pro tip: When emailing a resume, always attach the file to your email, rather than inserting it as an image in the email body or sending a Google drive link.

Tip #4 - Add Digital Links

Do you have a personal website, professional portfolio, or a robust LinkedIn profile? Show it off! You can easily add these links to your resume so that recruiters can check out your stuff - and they will. Having a digital presence adds legitimacy to your resume, and LinkedIn is a great place to start! Add a profile picture, all your work experience, and a brief summary highlighting what you bring to the table. If you’re a writer or designer, link your online portfolio to your resume so employers can immediately get a sense of your aesthetic or writing style. Pro tip: Even though it’s not as pretty, use full url links so recruiters can copy/paste to their browser if the link function in PDF isn’t working properly.

Tip #5 - Proofread it, Twice!

The truth is, most recruiters will only spend 4-7 seconds looking at a resume - at first! Once they decide to bring you in for an interview, trust us they will read every word. If your formatting is inconsistent, or you use first person descriptors in one paragraph (“I was responsible for...”) and not in another (“Managed a team of...”) - they will notice and wonder if you’re as detail-oriented as you claim to be. Spend some extra time looking at the details and fine-tuning your formatting to be as neat and consistent as possible. Little spelling errors are also a huge red flag, calling into question your attentiveness and the level of care you bring to your work. At the end of the day, a resume should accurately reflect you, your style, your experience, and your work ethic. How much time you put in will be evident to those reading it.

When your resume sits in a pile and you’re failing to hear back from recruiters, it is easy to feel defeated or powerless in your job search. While you can’t control every part of the hiring process, you can control  your resume. Use these tips to reinvent that piece of paper and see what a difference it makes in your search. If you’re in need of more guidance, the recruiting experts at Career Group Companies know what makes a great resume and are here to help. Use your fresh resume to apply to one of our many job openings, and start the conversation.

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Founded in 1981 by Susan Levine, Career Group Companies was created to set a higher standard for recruiting. For over four decades, we’ve partnered with our valued candidates and clients to cultivate perfect career matches for administrative, creative, fashion, events, and executive professionals at top companies nationwide.

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