Top 16 Resume Tips (That Actually Work!) For 2016

UPDATE: Check out the 18 Resume Tips That Will Get You Hired In 2018

This year's job market has evolved so much in a short amount of time! While many best practices and trends for resume writing in 2015 still hold true today, there are a handful of things you should know before diving head first into a job search.

This won't be the first article that discusses the importance of personal branding for job seekers; however, it is key to every aspect of your job search from resume writing to networking.

 Top 16 Resume Tips (That Actually Work!) For 2016 | Off The Clock Resumes


1. The Evolution Of The Objective Statement

Objectives, typically beginning with “Seeking a position…” have been outdated for years (and yet they still show up on modern resumes...). They are self-serving and offer no value to employers whatsoever. In 2015, job seekers were encouraged to craft Career Summaries highlighting their most valuable skills and experiences.

Introducing the Branding Statement: a brief (shorter than the Career Summary, but more valuable than an Objective Statement) paragraph summary identifying your overall profession, your career goals and how they relate to this position, the value you offer employers, and what differentiates you from other candidates with similar skills and years of experience.

Not sure how to get started? This Branding Statement Cheat Sheet should help!

Branding Statement Cheat Sheet


2. Write Your Resume For Your Reader

Employers and recruiters spend only seconds scanning over your resume before deciding whether they want to keep reading or not. If in first glance your resume looks like a bore to read, that's it. If your resume looks like a "laundry-list" rather than a marketing tool, fix it fast.

There are several ways to make your resume more interesting to read. Use all caps for your headings and give them some conservative color (we'll cover this more below). Alternate between brief paragraph summaries and bullet lists that highlight your accomplishments, major contributions, or examples of your skills.


3. Mirror Keywords From Job Descriptions

Do you know what happens (most of the time) when you upload your resume to an online application? Employer software, Applicant Tracking software, dissects your resume content and categorizes it by contact information, experience, education, and so on. Hiring managers then perform keywords searches to find which resumes best match their needs.

When you find a job you want, take advantage of the job description! Study it and identify the keywords employers will be using to narrow down candidates and APPROPRIATELY integrate them into your resume.


4. Don't Just List Your Skills

While an easy-to-scan section listing your skills is a great way to make your resume easier for employers to find (previously discussed) and easier to read, this simply isn't enough anymore. Describing how you applied these skills and the results that followed in your Experience section is more effective and far more impressive.

Remember what I said about keywords? Let's say you have great project management skills. You list it in your Areas of Expertise section. Then you list a bullet point under your most recent position that states, "Managed projects for high-profile client with success in producing deliverables three months prior to deadline and under budget." This is a killer resume writing tactic that you should use for every skill you claim.


5. Cover Letters Are Not Dead, Just Different

Going the extra mile with a cover letter shows employers that you are serious about the position you are applying for. A personalized cover letter complements your resume by introducing yourself, highlighting key information on your resume, and expressing a genuine interest in solving the company's immediate problem.

But who really reads a letter anymore? You probably haven't even needed to print your resume in the last few years. Your cover letter is most effective not as an attachment or separate document but as an email or body of text that you can copy and paste into the appropriate field. Consider formatting your cover "letters" without the typical date, company address, enclosure, etc. Have it available for any situation, even a LinkedIn private message (We'll address this in a minute.).


6. "Scan-ability" Over Detail

There are so many reasons why resumes over two pages are thrown out. Hiring managers don’t have the time or make the time to read every word you write and need to find valuable information quickly. Focusing on your value proposition, or what you will contribute to the company, will win over the number of job positions held over the years.

It's important that you answer key questions that hiring managers will have quickly or your resume will be skipped over. A great formatting trick that will help achieve this is to use bold font to bring attention to certain phrases.


For Example:

  • Conceptualized and executed innovative employee engagement program which slashed turnover rates by over 60% within first year.

... versus...

  • Conceptualized and executed innovative employee engagement program which slashed turnover rates by over 60% within first year.


7.      Keep It Simple

Similar to the previous trend, summarizing your background and only focusing on your most recent successes is more effective than a wordy and lengthy resume. Even if you have over 10 years of experience, consider condensing this information and only highlighting your last 10-15 years of experience.

Avoid repetition and irrelevance by summarizing basic responsibilities that are implied with your job title and keeping your most valuable information concise. Make sure your statements are long enough to offer value, concise enough to get the point across quickly, and use common terminology rather than industry jargon. A Human Resources Manager may be looking at your resume before your supervisor.


8. Focus On Achievements Rather Than Duties

Although duties and responsibilities list what you’re capable of doing, using action words and accomplishments to share how your contributions benefited the company will produce more positive results. Achievements can include statistics from performance reports or awards presented for excellence or leadership.

Identify your highest numerical accomplishments first and evaluate whether they offer the most relevant value to the position. Sure, you may have saved the company thousands because of your budgeting skills; but if the opportunity is more interested in your leadership abilities, you should describe the open-door policy you implemented and training manual you developed instead.


9. Storytelling

Sometimes your job may not offer opportunities to track and share quantitative accomplishments. Describe how you may have made a difference in other ways using the storytelling method of resume writing. Start with cause and effect, or what you did and what resulted.

You can also implement storytelling into your quantitative achievements. Instead of stating that you reached your monthly sales quota consistency for the last few months, tell a story with “Exceeded weekly sales goals by aiming to call and contact 8-10 new leads a day which maximized quarterly profits by 75%.”


10. Learn And Embrace Visual Branding

How you present yourself to employers and recruiters is key to accelerating your job search. Visual branding is what ties together your resume, LinkedIn profile, and any other marketing materials you are using (personal "business" cards, portfolio, other social profiles... Yes, we'll discuss shortly.)

Adding color to your section headings on your resume and matching that color with your profile photo outfit may sound silly, but it's an effective tactic to make you consistent and memorable.


11. Leverage Social Media Appropriately

Having a LinkedIn profile is becoming more and more popular. In addition to LinkedIn,  your personal social profiles can highly support your resume if optimized as marketing tools and indicated on your resume. Take a close look at your Facebook Wall and Twitter Feed, clear out the inappropriate and unprofessional content, change your security settings so you can post publicly, start posting industry related news and updates, and start engaging your ideal company.


12. Use LinkedIn Like A Personal Website & Portfolio

LinkedIn profiles typically will appear higher in Google search results than personal websites where your name is the domain name. Crazy, right? In other words, if a recruiter or employer wants to look you up online they will find your professional LinkedIn profile first. Just make sure your LinkedIn profile is public first.

So what should your LinkedIn profile look like? Have a professional headshot (not an obvious selfie), a captivating and keyword-filled Professional Headline, a strategic Career Summary that tells your story and highlights your value, and appropriate detail within your Experience section. Don't forget to develop your Skills section (you can add up to 30 skills) and ask your coworkers and classmates to endorse your skills.

Take it a step further by adding multimedia and boosting your profile to reflect an online portfolio. You can create a video cover letter and link it to your Career Summary. You can create a slideshow version of your college thesis or capstone project and link it to your Education section using Slideshare. You can link to blog posts or notable mentions on your company business page under each job description too. Get creative!


13. Get Graphic With Your Resume

Alternative resume designs such as infographics and graphic resumes are increasingly more popular for all fields and career levels. These resumes should never be used to upload for an online application (Applicant Tracking software can't decipher that your icon represents a skill), but they complement your resume and stand out.

Graphic resumes should never include a photo of you unless you are applying for a modeling or acting job. Why? Employers and recruiters will toss them out before risking being accused of discrimination. Instead, use your graphic resume or infographic to highlight your creativity, boost your social media profiles, and stand out at a networking event or interview. 


14. Take Your Resume To Networking Events

Local networking events are becoming more casual and offer great opportunities to learn more about yourself. Gaining confidence in networking will improve your interview skills, help you identify the value you offer and what differentiates you from others, and expands your personal brand's reach. 

Depending on the networking event, you should have copies of your resume (Your graphic resume would be best in this situation!) or a handful of personal "business" card with consistent visual branding and a custom URL to your LinkedIn profile.


15.  Customized Resume For Each Position or Industry

As in 2015, we can't express enough the importance of tailoring your resume for each opportunity. From your Branding Statement to your Professional Experience sections, your resume should always speak to the needs of that specific employer.

Away with the generic resume that you hand out to every potential employer. Hiring managers can tell the difference between a cookie-cutter resume and one that shows genuine interest.


16. Get Professional Help

I'm not talking about just hiring a Certified Professional Resume Writer. If you can't identify your career goals or evaluate your strengths to effectively write your resume, seek out a career coach or staffing and recruiting professional for some help.

This is your career and, in many cases, your contentment and fulfillment at risk. There is no harm in asking for help in putting your best foot, or resume, forward and accelerating your job search.