effective resume

How to Write an Effective Resume

Whether you’re starting a new career, looking to switch careers, or just honing your skills to make yourself more hirable, you’ll find yourself handing out resumes. And the question of what makes a memorable resume has long been a puzzle for applicants. Some recruiters prefer education at the top, some at the bottom. Some people just want the basics, others a bit of flair. Ultimately, you have to do your best and hope the person reading your resume agrees. Still, there are some basic tips for format and content that you can use to make sure you have an effective resume that stands out from the others — in a good way, of course!

Effective Resume

Your Name

The top of the page or a sidebar is a great place to put your contact information! Here’s what you definitely need to include:

  • Email address
  • City, state
  • Phone number

And here’s some extra information you can add to make yourself stand out:

  • Link to your website
  • Link to your LinkedIn or other social media
  • Personal statement
  • Headshot


  • You definitely want to use bullet points on your resume. This format is easy-to-scan and easy to understand (both very important when the person who’ll be reading your resume is an hiring manager with a pile of other resumes in their queue). On average, recruiters will spend a mere six seconds on your resume, and bullet points are a great way to get your point across fast.
  • Use an easy-to-read font. If they have to work hard to decipher the words on your resume, they won’t. And if they do bother going over an entire page typed out in Wingdings, they probably won’t take you seriously as a job candidate.
  • Download and send the document as a PDF. You don’t know what computer the person reading your resume will be using, and thus what formatting will translate when they open it. If you save and send as a PDF, you can be sure all the hard work you’ve put in to make sure your resume is perfect won’t go to waste.
  • Cater design to your industry. Are you looking for a job in graphic design? Your resume is prime space to showcase your skills, so creativity is often encouraged. For other industries, you don’t need to highlight your proficiency in crafting layouts, and adding too much extra color and formatting can distract and have the opposite effect — making you seem less suited for the job.
  • Make sure spelling and grammar are correct. This may seem obvious, but it nevertheless warrants a mention. Don’t trust that you wrote everything perfectly the first time — everyone makes mistakes on first drafts. Having mistakes on your final draft, though, can be a red flag to recruiters. So edit, edit, edit!


  • Be concise. Remember that point about needing to be skimmable? The same applies here. Hiring managers have a lot of resumes to go through, so you want to be sure your main points can be conveyed with just a glance.
  • Talk about what you accomplished, not what your role was. Anyone can look up a job description — the person reading your resume doesn’t need to be told that as an advertiser, your role included making advertising campaigns. But if, as an advertiser, you crafted a print and digital campaign for a major company that resulted in markedly increased revenue? Definitely.
  • Be specific. In the above example, you’d want to mention the name of the campaign, what it consisted of, and how much revenue increased.
  • Include your interests. People like people who show personality. Including that you play cello in an orchestra or do improv theatre in your spare time lets the person reading know you’ve got a full, interesting personality and will be a welcome addition to your potential teammates.
  • Use keywords. Make a note of what industry words recruiters want to see on applicants’ resumes — not overused and vague clichés — and work them in. This is especially important as more and more companies use software that can scan for these words to cut down the number of resumes recruiters see. An easy way to fit these on the page is to add a skills section!

Examples of an effective resume by industry

Want even more career help, from a worksheet to help you craft an effective resume and beyond?

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