As an executive search firm with decades of experience, we’ve seen our fair share of resumes—the good, the bad, and the “Wow, this candidate looks outstanding.” We know what it takes to catch the eye of hiring managers who may only scan for a few seconds before moving it to the top or bottom of the pile. But before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s talk bigger picture.

When it comes to job searching, it’s not just about finding a role you can do; it’s about finding a role that you want to do. Focus less on roles that don’t excite you, even if you’re skilled at them. As Staffing Advisors President Bob Corlett puts it, “Embrace your unique strengths—those rare skills you possess and how they meet specific business needs. When you find an organization that needs what you can offer, you’ll face less competition and find the work more rewarding.”

So, take a step back and consider what you really want out of your next career move. It takes a lot of work to find and start a new job. It’s worth your time to be deliberate and choosy. Once you’ve got that figured out, let’s make your resume shine. Here are some quick tips from our recruiting team.

Be Strategic With Content

This bears repeating: hiring managers and recruiters may only scan your resume for 3-5 seconds before moving on to the next. Make it easy for them to see why they’d want to interview you.

  • Include an executive summary at the top, especially for leadership positions, to quickly orient the reader to your background and skills. This is not an objective statement. Those aren’t useful.
  • Provide details about the scope and scale of your work. If you increased revenue or drove engagement, how much over what time for what size initiative?
  • Use numbers to quantify your accomplishments, but don’t inflate your resume with empty statistics. Every data point needs to be accurate and verifiable.
  • Focus on the tangible impacts you made in your roles. Highlight measurable growth and specific outcomes. How did your work benefit the organization, team, or larger community? What skills did you use to make that impact?
  • Emphasize leadership. Did you mentor someone or lead a project, team, or department? Did you propose innovative ideas? Did you start a new initiative or reinvigorate an existing one? How did you evolve the job over time?

Tailor Your Resume to the Type of Job You Are Looking For

  • Read job descriptions closely for the key requirements. Think about how your skills and experience align with what they are looking for. Make direct connections.
  • Research the type of organization or functional area you want to work in and use the language they use. For example, nonprofits often talk about results in terms of mission-impact, while revenue-driven organizations talk about results in dollars.
  • Follow the directions for submission exactly. If they ask for three writing samples and your salary requirements, include them. Don’t submit anything they didn’t ask for. If they have an optional documents section, use your judgment about the relative value of what you share.

Keep the Format and Style Simple

  • Choose a clean, professional format that prioritizes content over style, avoiding decorative elements. If you are looking for a design role, show your design skills in your portfolio. Keep the resume simple and easy to read.
  • Maintain consistent formatting throughout the document, using the same font, bullet points, and spacing. Don’t use a small font to make things fit.
  • Include links to your online profile or website to provide further context.
  • Ensure your resume is free of grammatical errors. Those are red flags for any job, and everyone is looking for them.
  • Avoid using passive phrases like “responsible for.” Use active verbs like “managed” or “led.”
  • List all jobs in chronological order with dates so the reader can quickly get a sense of your career progression. Gaps are totally fine, just be ready to talk about them. Here’s how.

Provide Context and Clarity

  • Provide a (very) brief description of each company you’ve worked for, including industry, size, and primary work.
  • If you list roles that weren’t full-time, clarify the nature of each (e.g., contract, part-time, fellowship, etc.).

Don’t Worry About Length

  • There’s no magic number of years to show in your experience. It will vary depending on your career level. If you have older or less relevant roles you think add value (this is more likely for early- or mid-career professionals), list them separately with less detail.
  • Don’t be constrained by the one-page resume myth—the length should reflect your experience level and the amount of context you need to provide. Be as concise as possible while including all relevant information. If you tend to be wordy, try using a generative AI model to make your writing more succinct. But be aware that AI can make your writing sound jargony. Here are some tips for using AI (ethically) to revamp your resume and job search.

Do a Five Second Check

  • Scan it for five seconds to see if key points stand out. If not, refine it.
  • Have someone else scan it for five seconds to see what they come away with.

Pay Attention What to Happens Next

For a step-by-step advice, including tips for developing a compelling career narrative and interview strategies that work, download the guide here. No email or sign-up required.