12 Resume Best Practices from a Career Advisor
12 Resume Best Practices from a Career Advisor: How to Make Your Resume Stand Out in 2024
In the ever-changing and competitive career advancement landscape, your resume can be a powerful marketing tool that can propel you toward new opportunities and possibilities. Whether you're a recent graduate navigating the job market for the first time, contemplating a career change, or aiming for that coveted promotion, the art of resume writing is a skill worth mastering.
Below are some tips for resume best practices that can transform your professional narrative into a compelling story - from simple formatting to customization, optimizing keywords, upskilling, and more.
Emphasize your skills and accomplishments
Before you delve into crafting or updating your resume, keep in mind that the focus of resumes has shifted significantly towards highlighting specific skills and quantifiable achievements. With the growing trend towards hiring based on skills, HR managers look for resumes that showcase candidates' abilities and achievements rather than just their past work experience.
"One mistake job candidates make is not including measurable results on their resume," said Cynthia Grande, Career Advisor and Outreach Manager for Office of Advanced Professional Education and Development (OAPED), within UC San Extended Studies. "For example, did you lead a group of people, save an employer money, or hit a target? You want employers to see how you handle tasks and can enhance their business."
She also suggests writing a career objective statement at the top of your resume that focuses on your value/experience and skill sets. If you're a first-time job seeker, you can even include school projects if you do not have work experience.
Tailor your resume for each job opening
When writing a resume, customization is key. To make your resume stand out, tailor your skills and achievements to match each job description. For example, if the job opening lists skills first, put your skills on your resume first. It's important to research the company and role to understand which skills are most valued and reflect those on your resume.
"The employer wants to see that you took the time to read through the job description," Grande said. "Remember, it's not about having a long list of skills, but about presenting the right skills in a way that demonstrates your suitability for the specific role you are applying for."
Use keywords for SEO optimization
In 2024, it's more crucial than ever to use SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on your resume. That's because many companies employ Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to sift through and prioritize resumes using specific keywords. These keywords typically represent the most pertinent skills and experiences for the job. To successfully navigate these filters, integrate relevant keywords from the job description into your resume. This strategy increases the chances of your resume being noticed and selected for further review.
"Structuring your resume to meet the requirements of an Applicant Tracking System gives you the best chance of having it reach an actual human," Grande said. "For example, if you're applying for a project management position and your resume does not have keywords for that career, you will get screened out."
Keep the format simple
Grande said the biggest challenge job seekers have with their resume is formatting. She said keeping it clean and simple is the best way to go. For example, she said a Word document is preferable over a PDF. Resumes for mid-level executives and seasoned professionals can be up to two pages, while those with less experience should have a one-page resume. It's important to include strong action verbs in your resume, but also keep it clear and concise. And, don't forget to check and double-check for grammar and spelling errors.
"If an HR hiring manager looks at a resume and it has dates all over the place or can't be read easily, they skip it," Grande added." If you don't have a lot of work experience, you can include volunteer experiences."
Meanwhile, she recommends skipping hobbies and interests on your resume.
In today's dynamic and competitive job market, upskilling has become critical in crafting a compelling resume. With technological advancements and evolving industry demands, staying relevant and adaptable is crucial for professional growth. Demonstrating a commitment to ongoing learning through upskilling not only showcases a candidate's initiative, but also highlights the ability to thrive in a rapidly changing work environment.
Incorporating newly acquired skills and certifications on a resume not only enhances your qualifications but also shows employers that you are proactive, resourceful, and ready to contribute to the company's success. Investing in upskilling not only gives your resume an extra boost but also positions you as a valuable asset in today's job market.
For many industries, such as tech or sales, certifications are more valued than formal degrees, Grande said. She speaks from experience. Grande, a five-year career counselor, earned a certificate through the UC San Diego Extended Studies Career Advising Program.
"I gained a lot of insight from this course," she said. "It has helped me in my career. Continued education and upskilling show initiative and growth."
In fact, Extended Studies offers numerous courses and certificate programs for those who want to enhance their careers or even switch careers -- from arts to languages, creative writing, business, healthcare, engineering, data sciences, life sciences, basic sciences, and more. In total, Extended Studies provides 100 different certificates.
Most individuals navigate multiple careers throughout their lives, and even those with a single career must periodically update their skills. That's why
certificates play a pivotal role in career advancement, and it's something you can highlight on your resume.
High school graduates can even opt for certificates in business, programming, or digital arts to kickstart their careers while contemplating future degrees. Extended Studies programs assist high school students in identifying career paths or acquiring valuable skills, like the Problem Solve Like an Expert program in collaboration with the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, which teaches basic programming skills. Even participating in a program like this before entering college or a career will most certainly make your resume stand out.
Update or create a LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is incredibly important for anyone looking for a job. Grande suggests including a shortened LinkedIn profile link on your resume, and not a hyperlink, which throws off ATS systems. A robust LinkedIn profile can showcase key projects you have worked on or led. And remember, always keep your LinkedIn profile relevant and professional, because odds are if you're applying for a job, employers will review your LinkedIn, as well as other social media channels, Grande said.
Use AI tools cautiously
If you have access to AI tools to craft your resume, Grande said it's OK to use them, but be responsible. For example, you can ask ChatGTP to help expand a sentence or bullet point for you but don't ask it to create a full resume. Remember to keep it simple yet customized for each job opening.
Grande said the majority of the students she has advised have gained great employment opportunities through networking. Including referrals on your resume can help you land an initial interview.
“For example, if you include the name of an employee from the organization you are applying to on the application, your resume will be moved to the top,” she said.
Have your resume up to date
Grande suggests researching the job market for various industries to keep your resume relevant and current. There are a lot of free job market tools available, such as LinkedIn Career Explorer, and more locally to UC San Diego, the San Diego Workforce Partnership has amazing tools for college students, such as personality and skill profiles, as well as on-demand jobs in the market.
"Job market research will prepare you to create a stellar resume," she said.
Create an elevator pitch
When crafting your resume, it's a good idea to also create an elevator pitch to go with it, which is a great conversation starter when networking. An effective elevator pitch for your resume not only conveys your professional strengths and aspirations but can also align with the specific job or industry you are targeting. It can also engage potential employers, networking contacts, or recruiters by highlighting an overview of your qualifications, making it an invaluable component in positioning yourself strategically in the competitive job market.
"Having an elevator pitch will help you with your intentions on what you want to do,” Grande said. “When you're always intentional, it helps you in your job."
Meet with a career advisor for tips on building a good resume
If you're still stuck on crafting a resume for 2024, it may be a good idea to meet with a career advisor, who can point you in the right direction. Even if you're feeling confident in your resume, you can still have an advisor review it to make sure you are on point.
"The goal of a resume and cover letter is to be invited to an interview. It's like marketing materials," Grande said. "A career advisor can look at your resume to make sure you are successfully highlighting your skills and what value you can bring to employers."
Job seekers can also take a resume workshop to understand what employers are looking for.
- Do not include color on a resume
- Avoid too many links
- Avoid using online templates
- Do not include your photo
- Avoid too many font styles
- Minimize acronyms
"There's another trend I don't recommend on TikTok where people do a TikTok video resume that includes an elevator pitch. They are clever but not the most professional," Grande said.
Grande said job seekers send out at least 100 to 200 resumes when applying for employment, with the average interview rate being 2% - 5% for applying online. Crafting a compelling resume is an art that can significantly increase your chances of scoring that interview and impacting your career trajectory.
Following the above best practices will not only capture the attention of potential employers but will also set you apart in a sea of applicants. Finding your dream job could be as simple as crafting a few carefully chosen words. Your new and improved resume will not only open doors but also lay the foundation for your professional success.