8 Tips for Writing a Resume

employer reviewing a resume

Writing a resume for a creative role? Here’s what you need to know.

Attention creative professionals: The standard resume is alive and well. While some job seekers are getting creative and exploring infographic and video resumes, be aware that most employers still expect to receive a traditional resume too.

Here are eight tips for writing a resume that’s clear, concise and compelling:

Create customized content 

Some applicants view job hunting strictly as a numbers game. They blast the same cookie-cutter resume and cover letter to every employer with an open creative position. Bad move. Targeting your pitch to individual employers is a much better strategy. Thoroughly research the company or agency online, follow them on social media and tap members of your network for additional insights. Once you have a sense of the role and organization, play up your professional skills, experience and achievements most relevant to that particular opportunity. While you don’t need to start from scratch every time, a little resume tailoring can make a big impact.

Keep it simple when writing a resume

Steer clear of convoluted jargon, flowery prose and distracting graphics, fonts or colors that can make your resume difficult to read. Instead, let your portfolio showcase your creativity. When crafting your resume, use clear section headings and bullet points for easy navigation. In addition, don’t muddle your message by cluttering your resume with extraneous personal information that has no connection to your career. It’s great that you love mountain biking and home renovation shows, but referencing those interests won’t likely help you secure a job interview.

What’s the best resume font? Check out these resume font recommendations.

Key in on keywords 

Who’ll review your resume first? The hiring manager? Someone in human resources? Well, it might not even be a human. Employers often use software to scan resumes for keywords. How can you boost your odds of making the initial cut? Use the job ad as your guide, weaving in keywords wherever possible (as long as the terms accurately describe your abilities, of course).

Sum it up

Consider leading with a professional summary rather than an objective statement. Employers often skip over the objective statement because they’ve read so many that are generic or self-focused. A carefully crafted summary highlighting your most impressive and pertinent qualifications at the top of the page can quickly convey why you warrant further consideration. It’s also a good place to incorporate keywords.

Find out how to refresh your resume in 30 minutes or less.

Show, don’t tell 

Hard numbers — not hollow self-praise — will help you stand out and prove your worth. Employers seek candidates who emphasize results — not just responsibilities. While some candidates brag about how “successful,” “hard working” and “efficient” they are in their roles, these claims only pack a punch when they’re backed up with specifics. Whether you’re a designer or copywriter, quantify your contributions to the bottom line. Thinking in terms of metrics spotlights your value and results-oriented outlook.

Never fudge facts

The practice of resume padding isn’t new, but it remains a really horrible idea. Most companies conduct reference or background checks, and just one “white lie” can cause employers to question your integrity. Stretching dates of employment or inflating a former job title isn’t worth the risk. The creative and marketing world is surprisingly small; protect your reputation by keeping it real.

Make no mention of money 

Never include your salary requirements unless an employer specifically requests that information in the job ad. (This rarely happens.) Referencing money in your resume can come across as presumptuous. Wait until you’ve landed an interview and the employer has expressed interest in making a job offer before you consider broaching the sensitive subject of salary.

Learn what you can earn. Check out our Salary Center.

Proofread, proofread, proofread 

A designer buddy of mine once asked me to proofread his resume. When he saw I flagged a few typos, he laughed and said, “See, I’m not a word person.” OK, dude, but your job does require attention to detail, right? Time-strapped hiring managers are far less likely to interview careless candidates. Guard against goofs by running spell-check, but also slowly proofread your resume both on screen and on paper. Asking a friend for editing assistance (and then being open to the feedback) won’t hurt either.

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Editor's note: This post has been updated. It was originally published in August 2013.