9 Little Resume Upgrades That Make a Big First Impression

Most stressed-out college seniors will find themselves in the career services office this semester receiving platitudes that apply to the multitudes:
  • You don’t want to be a round peg in a square hole.
  • Make sure to include “Leadership” as one of your skills. Of course being the captain of an intermural wallyball team counts!
  • Never miss a career fair, even if it’s for engineers and you’re going to be an elementary school teacher. You never know…

{Not helpful.}

But the career services department does have one very valuable service offering: resume writing and editing. If you are still a university student, I encourage you to take advantage of this *free* (included in your low price of $30,000 per year!) benefit.

But perhaps your college days are behind you and you’re ready for your next professional challenge. I’m here to help. Over the years, I’ve created dozens of resumes, and audited even more…


Here are the 9 simple resume changes that will upgrade your resume from stale to stellar.

1. Spell out your acronyms. Not all hiring managers know what you know. This is particularly when your resume is read by a HR manager or filtered by a computer. Take the extra effort to spell out your terms/acronyms. You don’t want hiring managers to have to google what you’re talking about in your resume (because they won’t). There are a few exceptions to this rule for common  acronyms like states, degrees, or common certifications.


2. Cherish your space. I recommend that resumes be one side of one 8.5″ x 11″ page. No one wants to read 14 bullet points about a job you held for 6 months. Space on a resume is very valuable. Make sure each word is vital to giving the best representation of you and your skills. Example, you’d want to write “Created content calendars for clients’ social media accounts” not “Created content calendars for clients’ Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram social media accounts.”
3. Check your verb tense.  This is the most common mistake I see on resumes. Your current position should have present tense verbs like create,  organize, and manage.  Former positions need past-tense verbs: created, organized, and managed. If you only have time to fix one thing on your resume, this is the one.
4. Delete your “personal objective.” Of course your objective is to get the job your applying for. Don’t waste valuable space (see tip #2) to state the obvious.
5. Employ better verbs. Nothing is more boring than to read a resume where all the applicant does is “create” or “manage” or — worst of all — “help.” Seize a thesaurus, and empower your verbs to advertise on your behalf.
6. Keep some privacy. Since most resumes are submitted online, and you, like many job seekers, might make yours accessible through your online portfolio or Google docs, consider your personal privacy. I never include my street address on resumes. City and state is sufficient (and safer!).
7. Match the employer’s language as appropriate. When applying to a job, it’s worth the extra effort to pull language from the job description into your resume and cover letter. For example, you might have “responsible for managing projects across departments and on time” as a bullet point on your resume, but if the job post says, “skilled at leading time-sensitive projects across different business units” it’s worthwhile to make your resume match their keywords. Note: don’t go overboard here. Make sure what’s on your resume is true and genuine.
8. Leave some white space. White/blank space on your resume allows the reader’s eye to rest, and creates a natural hierarchy for the different sections. You can have a compelling, one page resume that isn’t crammed for space. Again, cherish your space as you edit.
9. Adhere to outline best practices. In school, you probably learned that an outline shouldn’t have a A without a B, or a 1 without a 2. Same goes for your resume. If you have a section with only one point, consider combining it into another section. Example: if you are a member of only one professional organization, consider combining the “Membership” section with the list of conferences you’ve recently attended and calling the new section “Industry Engagement.” Or if you only have your current work experience, consider combining it with your volunteer experience into a “Experience” section.

These 9 tips will enable you to create an engaging resume that is your best first impression.


Need more resume help? Email me for more information about my resume writing, editing, and designing services.