14 Essential Tips for Writing a Rockstar Resume

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Your resume is your first line of defense on the quest for a new job. Before hitting send, you should do everything you can to make your resume stand out.

Even if your work experience is perfect, a subpar resume could sink your chances of getting a job interview. But if you combine relevant experience with an effective resume, you’ll sail right into the interview stage.

How to build a resume hiring managers will notice

If you want to impress recruiters on your quest for a job, follow these 14 essential tips on how to make a good resume.

1. Think of your resume as a marketing tool

It’s easy to think of your resume as a summary of your work experience. But a resume isn’t just about listing your professional history. Rather, it’s a strategic tool for marketing your individual brand.

Consider the perspective of a recruiter. The recruiter is seeking a candidate who fits a job description and can bring value to an organization. They don’t have time to delve into your resume and figure out who you are, so you need to connect the dots for them.

As you build a resume, think strategically. Consider what you’ve accomplished in the past and what you can offer in the future. Make sure your resume tells a clear story about who you are as a professional.

When it comes to the job hunt, you need to sell yourself as the best candidate for the role.

2. Tailor your resume to each new job

Along similar lines, you won’t have much luck sending off dozens of the same resume to lots of different employers. Instead of treating your resume like a form letter, tailor it to each new role.

“One of the most common resume mistakes … is creating one single resume and sending it out to every hiring company they can find,” said career expert Jason Hill, founder of Sound Advice. “I call this the ‘shotgun approach.’ Do not do this.”

Instead, research the company and read the job description closely. Figure out exactly what the organization is looking for, then reflect those qualifications in your resume.

While changing up your resume for every application is time-consuming, it’s well worth the effort. It might help to keep a master list of all your experiences to refer back to. That way, you can keep track of which experiences you’re including and which ones you’re leaving off depending on the job.

“Make a master resume (a huge list of every single accomplishment, skill, talent, etc. that you have) and select whatever is relevant to the one specific job you’re applying for,” said Hill.

3. Curate a sleek, uncluttered design

Another way to impress a recruiter right off the bat is with a sleek, easily digestible resume design. Don’t be afraid to cut out irrelevant experience for the sake of improving readability. White space can go a long way toward making a resume more appealing.

Use a simple font such as Times New Roman or Arial in 10-, 11-, or 12-point size. If you’re seeking a creative position, you could benefit from incorporating a unique design element into your resume. Otherwise, stick to a simple, elegant design.

“You have one minute or less to make a stellar first impression,” said Hill. “Utilize bullet points, short paragraphs, measurable achievements, and industry-specific keywords to stand out above the rest. If it’s important, it’s your responsibility to make sure the recruiter sees it.”

4. Offer a skills summary right off the bat

As you start to build a resume, consider adding a skills summary to the top. Make sure to reflect the job description when you describe your own areas of proficiency.

For instance, a company hiring a digital product designer might look for someone skilled in a program like Sketch or InVision. A recruiter looking for a marketer might seek someone familiar with Google Analytics and Google AdWords.

Review the job description as you build your skills summary. That way, this section can be both accurate and tailored to the job at hand.

5. Incorporate major keywords

Every recruiter is looking for specific keywords when they first look at a resume. In fact, this initial review might not even be done by a recruiter, but rather by a computer program.

“Resumes are rarely viewed by human eyes in the first round of the hiring process,” explained Niquenya Collins, president and CEO of Building Bridges Consulting. “Instead, a computerized Applicant Tracking System (ATS) takes the first crack at narrowing the hundreds of applications received by every job announcement.”

The ATS picks out keywords and phrases that match the job description. Without them, your application could get eliminated before it even reaches human resources.

6. Ditch the personal objective statement

Career counselors used to encourage applicants to include a personal objective statement at the top of their resume. It would say something about what kind of job and organization you’re seeking.

But the objective statement has largely fallen out of favor. For one thing, recruiters tend to care more about what they’re looking for than what you’re looking for.

Another important reason is that objective statements are often too generic to add much. Unless you’re able to make an impactful statement, it won’t improve your application. It’s better to leave it off.

7. Put your work experience before your education

Unless you just graduated from college, put your work experience before your education. If you’ve been in the workforce for a few years, recruiters don’t care so much about your educational accomplishments. They want to see your professional experience and skills.

If you’re worried about age discrimination, you can leave off your year of graduation. Most organizations want to see you have a relevant degree, but don’t care as much when you got it.

8. Highlight your accomplishments rather than your responsibilities

When you build a resume, you’ll provide a few bullet points under each job title. But don’t use this space to simply describe your responsibilities. Instead, focus on your achievements.

“Don’t just rewrite the job description for your previous jobs, I promise you it won’t make an impression,” said Eleni Cotsis, a hiring manager for AllTheRooms and freelance recruiter for New York-based startups. “Explain what you accomplished and why you did the job better than someone else would have in that same position.”

For example, consider these two statements for someone in account management:

  • Handled accounts for public relations firm.
  • Managed 10 accounts in excess of $5 million annually and came in under budget by 10 percent.

The second statement is a lot better than the first because it focuses on an accomplishment. The first merely describes a duty — it doesn’t say whether the applicant was successful or not.

Plus, it quantifies the achievement, thereby making it more concrete. By providing data, you’ll leave a stronger impression than you would with a vague statement.

“Think of the mark you left on each company,” Cotsis advised. “What specific, measurable results were accomplished because you were in that position and not somebody else?”

Remember, past performance indicates future performance. By highlighting past areas of success, you’ll show the recruiter you’re similarly successful in the future.

9. Use proactive action verbs

Beyond quantifying your areas of success, also aim to use proactive action verbs. Some effective verbs for resumes include:

  • Developed
  • Implemented
  • Directed
  • Supervised
  • Created
  • Invented
  • Facilitated
  • Supplied
  • Initiated
  • Streamlined
  • Provided
  • Solved
  • Guided
  • Trained
  • Taught
  • Tracked
  • Conducted

Power verbs like these put you in the driver’s seat. If you start a bullet point with “responsible for,” you’re not saying much about what you did in the role.

As you build your resume, remember to sell yourself. If the resume could be about anyone with a similar work history, you need to rework the language to sound more proactive and unique.

10. Organize your experiences in reverse chronological order

As you put together your work experiences, order them from most to least recent. Again, recruiters are likely reviewing a lot of resumes. They want to see your career progression easily.

If your work is in reverse chronological order, they’ll be able to see the timeline right away. But you don’t have to include every job you’ve ever had in your life. Once you’ve been out of college for a few years, you probably don’t need to include that summer you sold slushies at the beach.

If you have any major employment gaps, you may want to provide a brief explanation. For instance, you could indicate the company closed or laid off a hundred workers. Or you could write you traveled internationally or went on parental leave. That way, a recruiter will understand the gap instead of seeing it as a red flag.

11. Limit your resume to one page

You may have heard the warning not to exceed one page for your resume. For most people, this old rule of thumb holds true. You should be able to communicate everything you need to say on a single page.

Of course, there may be some situations where it makes sense to exceed a page. For instance, you may need additional bandwidth if you’re applying for upper management or a professorship at a college.

But otherwise, you’ll likely be better off sticking to one page. If you’re emailing your resume, try saving it as a PDF first. That way, the recruiter will see the right page length and formatting.

12. Proofread several times

When you build a resume, you must be very detail-oriented. First, you must ensure a consistent design. Be intentional about margins, font, font size, and spacing.

Second, double check your spelling, punctuation, and word choice. And make sure your dates of employment are correct.

“Clean formatting and no typos are huge for me,” said Stephanie Prause, a corporate communications professional who works with college students on their resumes. “I almost immediately write off candidates who fail on these two items.”

A resume contains a lot of specific information. Before sending it off to an organization, check everything for accuracy.

13. Ask for advice

It can also be helpful to seek out another pair of eyes. Ask a friend or coworker to look over your resume.

When you stare at a document for a long time, sometimes you can no longer see its strengths and weaknesses. Gaining a fresh and objective perspective can help you identify areas for improvement.

14. Ramp up your LinkedIn profile

Beyond your resume, many recruiters check out your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is also a useful tool for reaching out to your network and discovering job opportunities.

So don’t forget to build your LinkedIn profile with as much care as you do your resume. Use the same principles on LinkedIn as you do in your resume.

Use action verbs and highlight your accomplishments. You can also add testimonials from past employers or coworkers.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile and resume are consistent with each other. You wouldn’t want a recruiter to ask why your LinkedIn profile tells a different story than your resume.

Go beyond the resume and make networking a priority

While your resume is an essential tool in the job hunt, networking should also be a priority. According to LinkedIn, 85 percent of all jobs get filled through networking.

You have a much better shot of getting an interview thanks to a personal or professional connection. Even with an outstanding resume, it’s tough to get noticed when you apply through a huge, anonymous job site like Monster.

Rely on your professional and college network to make industry contacts, and make sure you have an outstanding, up-to-date resume to share when you find jobs of interest.

By following these tips on how to make a good resume, you’ll be one step closer to scoring an interview for your dream job. For more on career development, learn how to find the right job in 10 steps.

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1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student Loan RefinanceFixed rates from 3.999% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.480% APR to 7.524% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.480% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.17% (2.72%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.50%-8.69% (3.50% – 8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Average savings based on 18,113 actual customers who refinanced their federal and private student loans through our Education Refinance Loan between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. The calculation is derived by averaging the monthly savings of Education Refinance Loan customers whose payments decreased after refinancing, which is calculated by taking the monthly student loan payments prior to refinancing minus the monthly student loan payments after refinancing. The borrower’s savings might vary based on the interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of the loans they are seeking to refinance. The borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if their monthly payments are lower.
2.57% – 5.87%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.80% – 6.38%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 7.52%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 7.99%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.57% – 6.65%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.72% – 8.17%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.