How to Improve Your Resume in 9 Steps: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated 25 May 2023

An effective resume can be essential to becoming successful in your job search or career development. It can highlight your skills, qualifications, experience and achievements, emphasising the factors that make you valuable to a company. Understanding how to improve your resume might help you create a more effective one, increasing your chances of earning a new role. In this article, we explain the steps you may use to improve your resume.

How to improve your resume in 9 steps

Here's a guide showing you how to improve your resume:

1. Use a reverse-chronological format

Most employers and applicant tracking systems prefer a reverse-chronological format that presents your information in an easy-to-understand timeline. As you list your work history and education history, start with your most recent position or qualification at the top, followed by the rest of your positions subsequently. This format helps the recruiting manager determine your most recent experience and qualifications.

2. Highlight your relevant qualifications

Your resume aims to show that you're the best candidate for the job. Review the job description to understand the role. Determine how your qualifications align with the job and organise your resume in a way that best highlights these qualifications. Ensure the experience and education sections on your resume align with the requirements for the open role. Make sure to only include relevant information. For example, if you're applying for a teacher position, it's important to include any roles in education you've held in the work experience section of your resume.

Related: 11 Steps for Applying for a Job Online Successfully

3. Include recent experience

When reviewing the experience section of your resume, make sure to only include jobs and education from the last 15 years. Including only your recent positions lets hiring managers know that you currently have the skills and abilities you learnt and practised in your recent roles. This shows that you have up-to-date knowledge and skills, which can be essential considering the rapid progression of many industries. For a recruiting manager, recent experience and training might indicate you're more prepared and consequently need less training and resources.

4. Quantify your achievements

Sell yourself as a job candidate by including numbers and figures to quantify your achievements. Consider what you did in your previous positions and what you accomplished. Instead of listing a general job duty, provide greater detail with numbers and percentages. For example, you can say you, increased sales by 30 per cent in under three months. Not only does this tell the recruiting manager you increased sales for your team, but it also explains the extent to which you did this and in what time frame. Having this information might help a recruiting manager better understand your unique abilities.

Related: How to List Achievements on Your Resume (With Examples and Tips)

5. Optimise your resume for digital devices

It's possible for your resume to be viewed on various devices. Some employers review your resume on a computer, mobile device or tablet. While you may have a hard copy of your resume, it's important to optimise it for different devices, as well. To check how compatible it is with different devices, you might open it on as many devices as you have at your disposal. You can consider adjusting spacing, borders and text to ensure compatibility. Make sure the resume you submit is responsive and readable across many digital formats.

6. Understand your formatting

There are three main types of resume formats. Understanding each format might help you determine which suits your experience and skills best. Here's a brief description of each format:

  • Chronological resume: This type of resume lists your work history first, focusing on emphasising your experience. It often best suits a professional who has significant experience for the role they're applying to.

  • Functional resume: This type of resume lists your skills first, focusing on emphasising your abilities. It often best suits a person changing careers or someone with minimal experience in the role they're applying to.

  • Combination resume: This type of resume lists either your skills or work history first, but focuses on emphasising both sections. It often best suits a person who has significant experience but believes highlighting specific skills might still be of benefit to their resume.

Related: Resume Format Guide (With Examples)

7. Keep it concise

Keep your resume clear and concise. Review the document to remove unnecessary or complicated words, graphics and any other elements that you don't believe add meaningful value. Make sure everything you include promotes you as a candidate and emphasises your abilities. Removing clutter can help you present a clean resume to the recruiting manager that only includes the most essential information. This can be beneficial because it allows a recruiting manager to find important details easily, making a favourable impression.

8. Use the same style as your cover letter

Make your resume match the style of your cover letter and vice versa to achieve continuity. For example, use the same fonts and colour schemes for both documents. In addition, if you're printing hard copies of your documents, use the same type of paper for both. Matching your resume to your cover letter ensures a cohesive job application, which can display your attention to detail, a skill considered favourable for many job positions.

9. Include a powerful professional summary statement

The professional summary on your resume acts as the introduction. It's the first statement a recruiting manager is likely to read, which makes it essential to ensure it's well-written, impressive and influential. Creating a powerful professional summary can aid you in getting the recruiter's attention early on your resume. It outlines your unique and relevant qualifications, skills and experience, providing a quick way for a recruiting manager to determine these before reviewing the rest of your resume.


  • How to Write a Resume Employers Will Notice

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Tips for improving your resume

Here are some additional tips for you to consider when improving your resume:

Adapt your resume for each application

Each job advertisement is likely to include individual requirements for skills, experience, certifications and qualifications. Many of them could be very similar if you're searching for one job position in particular, but it's still important to determine the requirements an advertisement mentions specifically and address them where possible. This allows a recruiting manager to determine quickly if you're an ideal fit for the position.

Another benefit to adapting your resume to each job application is the ability to personalise it for each company. You can research the company you're applying to and align your skills and experience to suit their business aims and objectives.

Stay organised

Look for ways to create a more organised and cohesive resume. You might do this by grouping your separate resume sections together and helping them to be distinct by using bold subheadings. You can also use a font for your subheadings that's different from the font you used for your body content. This helps differentiate your resume sections, which can improve its overall readability. You can also achieve an organised document by ensuring you keep a specific order for your sections, determined by which qualities you wish to emphasise most.

Proofread your resume

Ensure an error-free resume by reviewing it before you complete your job application. Read it over and correct any spelling and grammar errors. You can also use a spell check tool to identify any errors. You might request feedback on your resume from someone you trust. This is a good way to determine and fix any errors you could have missed in the initial proofread. Not only does an error-free document show that you're educated, but it also shows your professionalism and attention to detail.

Use keywords from the job description

Read the job description and note any keywords or phrases. Consider how they match your qualifications and use them throughout your own resume. Ensure you're including them naturally throughout the content of your resume. Since many employers use an applicant tracking system, using keywords can help it detect your resume and help it get in the hands of the recruiting manager. In addition, the use of these keywords and phrases emphasises your relevant qualifications and experience to the recruiting manager.

Use a contemporary font

Consider using a modern font throughout your resume. Modern fonts can help your resume feel less dated. Avoid using fonts that are too fancy and make it difficult to read. For options on which font to use, you can search for modern resume fonts online. There are various choices to help you create a contemporary, professional appearance for your resume.

Related: 8 Best Resume Fonts: How to Choose Type and Style

Use action words

Action words work to highlight your strengths on your resume. They express an action to highlight your skills, experiences and accomplishments. Using powerful action verbs can help set your resume apart from other candidates because they're specific and unique. They can make a significant impact on how a recruiting manager interprets your document. Here are some powerful action words you might consider including in your resume:

  • contributed

  • diversified

  • ignited

  • authorised

  • guided

  • mentored

  • executed

  • navigated

  • produced

  • consulted

  • conveyed

  • persuaded

  • accelerated

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