Fern Selesnick Consulting
Creative Career Services for Challenging Times
21 Tips for 21st Century Resumes
1. Learn about “Applicant Tracking Systems” or “ATS” (software that screens resumes submitted to websites). Understanding ATS and online applications can determine whether or not your resume is read.
2. Some things never change! Correct all errors in spelling, and punctuation and don’t rely solely on spell check. It doesn’t catch everything.
3. Learn about today’s resume styles. We recommend "skills based resumes" that highlight your strengths and qualifications.
4. Use 1” margins and easy to read, conservative fonts: (Calibri, Arial, Verdana, or Tahoma in 10, 11, or 12 pt font).
5. Keep it simple. Aim for minimal use of bold, bullets, italics, and underlining; avoid symbols, tables, text boxes and templates, photos, and colors.
6. Don’t exceed 2 pages - fill at least 1/3 of page 2.
7. Customize your resume for each job by inserting “key words” found in job postings.
8. Include your cell phone, and if possible, your LinkedIn address.
9. In addition to listing your jobs and education, organize your resume with additional sections such as “Summary”, “Qualifications” and “Accomplishments” to help employers and recruiters quickly identify your relevant skills. Whenever possible, show what you achieved on the job. Include promotions, awards, and if applicable, use numbers to demonstrate results.
10. Limit your “Work Experience” (history of your jobs) to the last ten or fifteen years, listed in reverse chronology with start and end dates included. Consider a brief (2-3 line), undated "Additional Experience" section to list important qualifications that aren't part of your more recent experience-include the employer, years there, job title and summary of what you did.
11. Don’t show gaps in employment; use temporary or part-time jobs, education, internships, volunteer work, caring for children, elders, or other loved ones to fill the gaps.
12. Place recent education (last 10 years) early in your resume and include dates and honors; however, unless you are in academia, place older education last without dates or awards.
13. Omit irrelevant details (hobbies, months, references, why you left).
14. Avoid the first person (“I did”, “my”, etc.). Today’s resumes are business documents.
15. When submitting your resume, always follow employers’ application instructions, especially when applying online.
16. When applying to websites, read instructions to see which resume formats are permitted by the ATS in use – these systems can be picky!
17. Consider using “plain text” documents when applying through websites. Plain text always works with websites!
18. Remember that applicant tracking systems search for employers’ names before looking for your job titles, so list the employer first – it makes a difference.
19. Applicant tracking systems also look for the words “WORK EXPERIENCE” – that’s an important phrase to use!
20. Use PDF files for emails (only use on websites if requested).
21. Print resumes on resume paper (white, cream, tan, light gray).
Remember: The purpose of a resume is to get interviews. When that happens, you know your resume works!