How to Write a Killer Resume That Gets You Hired

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Have you ever wanted something so bad you’re ready to give your all to get it? You think about it every single time and now you’re wondering; “what else must Simba do to become the Lion King?”

If you’re thinking of landing that dream job (like I expect you are), and not about landing that dream girl :), you’ve come to the right place page. And of course, first things first- you need a killer resume.

In a nutshell, your resume is a presentation of who you are, what you’ve done and what you can do for someone you’ve never met before on a little piece of paper. It is the first impression you cast to a prospective employer, and like people say, first impressions last longer.

So you have to get it right. Or else, they’ll say thank you, throw your resume in the trash bin, and never call you back. I’ve been there before, 🙁 .

bad resume in trash bin

Bad resumes are thrown in the trash

However, know that the main aim of your resume is to get you an interview. It’s really surprising how many people get this wrong. Your resume should present you in such a way that your employer will want to meet you. Yes. In. An. Interview.

A good, well-written resume is just the first step, allowing you to get your foot in the door. You can then better your chance when you shine at the interview and then secure the job. It’s a very important first step yet many people don’t pay much attention to it or update their resume as frequently as they should.

If you play your cards well, you’ll get the job eventually and hear the magical words: “You’re Hired!”

So, how does one write a killer resume? Let’s examine the main parts of a resume, and I’ll tell you how you should write them.

In this article

General Outlook and Layout

First of all, how does your resume look like? How should it look like?

how to write a killer resume

It’s sad but most resumes are eliminated after a single glance. If your resume doesn’t look pleasing to the eye in general, or contains some information inappropriately written, then trust me, it’s going into the bin.

How to avoid your resume being thrown in the bin at first glance

  • Use Professional Name & Email
  • Only add relevant details
  • Send in PDF format
  • Ensure overall readability

Use a professional name and email address

Your contact details.

Okay. It’s time to do away with [email protected]Seriously. This shows how unserious you are. And toss [email protected]com in the bin too.

If you want to gain and retain the interest of the hiring manager, use a good professional email address. An email address with your first name, followed by your last name is okay. [email protected] (if your name is Ayaz Malik) or AyazMalik @ayazmalik.com is alright.

The best practice is to have your name at the top, (in bold, mind you), then followed by your email address. And don’t put it in the footer, or someplace where no one will easily notice it, you’ll only be making things harder for yourself.

Your resume shouldn’t look like this:

wrong heading for resume

Add only relevant details.

You don’t need to add every little detail about yourself unless it’s necessary. Oftentimes, your email address and your telephone number is sufficient. The rest will just use up valuable space.

Don’t add a picture, unless you’re applying as an actress or for a modeling position. 🙂

You can also add a brief description of yourself, tailored towards the job description, if you like. Here’s a good example:

killer resume

Send in a PDF format

Don’t submit your resumes as Word documents, seriously, who does that?

That practice has become obsolete, as Microsoft Word usually look different on different platforms. All that hard work arranging stuff and making everything eye-pleasing gone down the drain. You don’t want that.

Instead, compose your resume with a Microsoft Word, and then save it as a PDF file.

Here, let me show you how to save as PDF in Microsoft Word:

  1. Click the Microsoft Office Button
  2. Point to the arrow next to Save As
  3. And then click PDF or XPS.

save doc to pdf

Ensure overall readability 

Don’t forget. Your resume, at a glance, should stand out from the rest. You can add a little color or make some certain sections bold, just make sure it has a really simple and pleasing look at a glance.

Most employers don’t have time to read everything in your resume, so they make a quick scan (yes scan) and decide the ones they want. So, ensure your resume has a simple, easy to understand layout, and is veeery readable.

You can check out and download any of these Resume Templates in Word format to get a good idea.

Sweet eh? Yes!

Objective Statement or Summary?

Always start your resume with an objective statement or a summary.

The objective statement in a resume is a short, targeted statement that distinctly outlines your career direction and at the same time shows that you’re exactly the kind of person that should be hired.

Quickly. If you’re just starting out at your career and you don’t have much job experience, MAKE SURE you add an objective statement at the top, after your contact. Write something like this:

A position as an account executive with a consumer products firm.

However, if you have a few years of experience under your belt, a summary is more appropriate, or a snapshot of your accomplishments. This sounds about right:

Account executive with a track record of improving business and proven skills in sales

However,

  • Don’t write long-winded prose. Make it short, concise and to the point. It should be a maximum of three (short) sentences long, filled with about 50 words.
  • Your objective statement should talk about your current position, field of experience and why you should be hired over others.
  • Don’t be too vague or ambiguous. Be specific and exact.
  • Don’t use buzzwords, cliches or hackneyed phrases. Be unique and ensure you stand out from the rest.
  • And one more thing- you can’t submit the same objective statement for every job application; there’s no one size fits all. You have to tailor each statement for all job applications.

So, instead of writing something like this:

To obtain a job within my chosen field that will challenge me and allow me to use my education, skills and past experiences in a way that is mutually beneficial to both myself and my employer and allow for future growth and advancement.

Or

Hi, I’m Joe Jobseeker and I really want a job in a company where I make a ton of money doing as little as possible. Oh, and a corner office. A company car would be nice too. While we’re at it, let’s talk benefits, retirement…and the company vacation policy.

Okay, I went a bit overboard with that second example, I know 🙂 but you get the idea, right?

So instead, write something like this:

Experienced and accomplished political campaign manager with ten years of experience looking to leverage extensive background in a crisis management departmental organization and mass communication into an entry-level HR assistant position with Pacific 2.1 Technologies.

Objective Statement vs Summary
Most people are confused if they should use an objective statement or a summary. This was explained earlier, but subtly. So when should you use an objective statement?

  • When you’re just entering the workforce
  • When you’re re-entering the workforce after an extended absence
  • When you’re changing careers

Otherwise, write a summary. Simple.

This video will be of help as well. Just read through and get the whole idea.

Education and Qualifications

Now, it’s time to tell your prospective manager what educational qualifications or skills you have, that makes you the best candidate for the job.

This section should be concise, brief and relevant.  Your employers probably have tons of resumes to go through so keep your words short and to the point.

  • List your professional qualifications (if any), then your degree and the name of the educational institution, in reverse chronological order.
  • Don’t clutter this area. There should be 3 items at max, and if you have more than three, just list the recent three.
  • Better still, put the best first (and this is very important). If you have a degree from a top institution, put it first before any other one.
  • Don’t just list the name of your school and the degree or qualification you go there. Go further. Say something about what you achieved there.
  • Those little things you take for granted are usually important to hiring managers. (It has to be relevant with the job position too, though).

See this very good example:

killer resume

Ramit didn’t just say he went to Stanford. He mentioned the knowledge he gained there that helps him stand a head taller than other applicants.

Work Experience

This is where you tell your employer what you’ve done in the past, your achievements, that warrants you the job.

This is where you should focus most of your energy. It is where most hiring managers look at the most. This is where men are separated from the boys.

Speak about what you bring to the table and what you can add to make things better for your employer. This is where you sell yourself.

  • List and describe your past/current roles in a certain position somewhere.
  • Add what you actually did in your position and your achievements as well.
  • Put down what you’ve accomplished by stating the measurable impact of your effort in that position.
  • Ninety per cent of people write this section in a task-based format, highlighting things they did with loads of buzzwords – that’s a lot of waffle with negative value.
  • Also. Avoid buzzwords.
  • There’s ALWAYS a purpose and value to what you’re doing, no matter how redundant or menial it may seem. It all lies in how you express it.

You must prove that you’re the man for the job not only because you’re fastidious but also because you deliver measurable results and are worth investing in.

Instead of saying “I did A, B and C for Project X”, write “I did Task A,B and C for Project X which led to 25% customer growth and $1.5 million increase in profit. You will easily agree that the second suggestion is more impressive and convincing than the first.

I’m not saying that you should make up numbers or fake things that you didn’t do, just make sure that whatever you do is quantifiable. Surely, you’re more aware of what task you’re doing now and what impact you’re making, eh?

If you’re proficient in one application or the other, don’t just list something generic and ambiguous, tell the hiring manager what feat you’ve achieved with it. It’ll even be better if it’s measurable.

If you’re a power point guru, don’t write “Research and prepare presentations for clients.” This is task-based, and won’t get you anywhere. Instead, write “produced succinct marketing materials and clear explanations of complex products to target client audience”. There’s this is clearer and more poignant.

Furthermore, ensure that you have some sort of stability here. It won’t do you good if it says on your resume that you’ve had 8 jobs in the past two years. That means it won’t be long before you leave your next job.

If you have done lots of job in a short period of time, remove some of these jobs. You can remove the non-relevant ones first and then those that seem less important.

Here’s another very good example. Let’s say you’re applying for the post of a Digital Director, and you’re planning to have this section be like this:

killer resume

Don’t.

This is just a clutter of everything thrown into one place and doesn’t really make sense. The Hiring Manager will probably get bored after reading the first 2 lines. He might also throw the resume in a bin after a cursory glance.

This is because the resume is not targeted towards the Digital Director position. This is what you should put there, or something like it:

killer resume

Now this is better. It’s sharp, smart and to the point.  It says a lot about you without using much space.

Skills and achievements

Okay. So this is where you tell the employer what other skill you have or things you’ve achieved, that puts you in a good standing.

  • List things you’ve achieved that you’re proud of and give you the right reputation. Like an Olympic medal or an uncommon feat.
  • Make sure what you put down to boost your current work experience and showcase your individuality.
  • Avoid buzzwords. Again. They’re ubiquitous and really annoying.

And don’t forget to leave some space for portfolios and “references available upon request,” it’s quite important. Also, ensure you have 2 references you’ve worked in a professional capacity on ground for this.

Here’s how you shouldn’t write this section:

skills-bad

And here’s a compact well-written skills section:

skills-corrected

Remember Ramit Sethi, the Stanford guy? He has this video with lots of insights about crafting a killer resume.

Takeaway Tips

Lastly. Here are some takeaway tips on writing a killer resume.

Readability

I’m stressing this again. Your resume should be very readable.

The design, font size, spacing and arrangement of content should be aimed at improving its readability. Avoid disorganised sections, inconsistent spacing, and margins that are squeezed too tight! You might tell yourself, this is a minor thing, but it’s really important because it’s a representation of your professional self and must be perfect.

Subconsciously it shows how meticulous you are and how much attention you pay into crafting a professional summary of YOURSELF. If you show that you can’t present yourself in a decent manner, how would you be a good ambassador of your company?

One should be able to glance at your resume and be interested in reading it. A sharp, neat and concise resume, crafted specifically for the job position, is what hiring managers are looking for.

Be compact.

Ensure your resume at maximum is 2 pages long, with normal margins and a legible font size. If it extends more than two pages, then it better be worth it.

Don’t beat about the bush

Go straight to the point, don’t mince words, as every one of it counts. There must be a reason for every word you write, which should be to put you in a better position for the job. Else, it shouldn’t be there.

employment statistics

Revise, edit and reiterate
You can’t write your resume and get it right the first time. There’s a lot of revising and editing to make it perfect for the job.

A good practice is to flesh out all your thoughts and ideas in one go, section by section, before rephrasing and cutting it down bit by bit into what’s relevant and what’s important to add. You’ll get there after a few tries.

Also ask a third party (friend, family member or acquaintance) to help you check for errors. It won’t do if you get disqualified because of a typo.

Finally, throw in a cover letter as well.

Always write a cover letter unless the advertisement tells you not to. Cover letters and resumes go hand in hand. They’re the second most important job hunting tool. They’re about what you can do in relation to the company’s goals and objectives.

Here are some really useful cover letter templates for you to get the point clearer.

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