The best resume practices to follow

Fun fact: The average person changes jobs around 12 times over the course of their career. Which means it doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, or how much you love your current role, chances are, at some point, you’re going to be looking for a new job.

And when you’re ready to start looking for the next opportunity, the most important tool at your disposal? Your resume.

Your resume is the single most important asset in your job search. It’s what separates you from the hundreds (or thousands!) of other applicants and shows potential employers that you’re the kind of person they need on their team.

But not all resumes are created equal! If you want your resume to help you land your dream job, you need to understand exactly what potential employers are looking for—and how to make sure your resume breaks through the clutter, grabs their attention, and gets you hired.

So how, exactly, do you do that?

Let’s take a look at some of the best resume practices to follow to ensure that your resume gets you the attention you deserve and the interviews you need to land your dream gig:

Best practices when writing your resume

best practice resume design

Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash.

Get to the point

When you’re writing your resume, you might be tempted to write a novel about all the awesome achievements in your career.

However, recruiters and hiring managers don’t have the time to read through six pages of your experience; they want you to get to the point, and fast.

To do this, use short bullet points to outline your experience, education, and skills. Avoid a lot of “fluff” or filler words. Keep your entire resume to one page.

The faster you get to the point of why you’re such a great employer, the faster potential employers will realize they want to talk to you—and the more interviews you’ll land as a result.

Use power words to help you stand out

As mentioned, most recruiters and hiring managers look at hundreds of resumes during a single week.

There’s only so many resumes that say “provided customer support” or “lead a team” that a person can read before they all start to bleed into one another. So, if you want your resume to break through the clutter and grab a recruiter’s attention, you need to choose words that help you stand out.

“Spearheaded” feels more attention-grabbing than “managed.” “Pioneered” has a more exciting ring to it then “started.” “Mentored” is a lot more inspirational than “taught.”

Potential employers see different versions of the same resume all day long, so if you want to stand out, you need to switch things up and use words that grab their attention.

Need some inspiration? Check out our article on 100 resume power words.

Say no to pronouns

Your grammar teacher might have taught you to always use complete sentences, but there are different rules when it comes to writing a resume.

Here’s a rule from resume writing 101—there’s no room for first-person pronouns on a resume. That means no “I,” no “my,” and no “me.”

So, instead of writing “I spearheaded a client outreach initiative that increased sales by 25% in Q1,” drop the “I” and simply write

“Spearheaded a client outreach initiative that increased sales by 25% in Q1.”

Instead of “received an award from my manager for boosting morale within my team,” use “received an award from management for boosting team morale.”

Bottom line: There is a time and a place for “I” statements—but your resume isn’t it.

Writing your resume is the first step to getting hired. But once you’ve written the content, you need to package it in a way that grabs hiring managers’ attention. Design a resume that gets you noticed with one of Canva’s resume templates, like the Blue Health Photo Resume, the Yellow Photographer Creative Resume, or the Light Cyan Dark Grey Academic Resume.

Best practices when designing your resume

best practice resume design

Photo by Mia Baker on Unsplash.

Make it scannable

Because recruiters have so many resumes to get through every day, they’re not going to sit down and read your resume from beginning to end. In fact, on average, recruiters only spend about six seconds on a resume. That’s not very much time—which is why you need to make sure they spend those six seconds looking at the most important details.

Designing your resume in a way that’s scannable ensures that recruiters will see all the key information on your resume (like previous companies and job titles) even if they don’t read every word of your resume.

Choose design elements that make scanning your resume a breeze. Design best practices to follow include:

This will ensure that potential employers will get the information they need during those first six seconds—and will increase the chances that they’ll keep on reading.

Related article: 20 best and worst fonts to use on your resume

Design with the employer in mind

There are no one-size-fits-all design rules for resumes; what works for one job or industry might be a complete flop in another—which is why it’s so important to design with the employer in mind.

For example, the perfect resume design for a creative director position at a cool, hip ad agency is going to look completely different from the best resume design for an attorney at a large corporate law firm.

Think about what kind of job, industry, and company you’re applying for—and then use that to drive your resume design decisions.

Think outside of the box

Again, if you want to land an interview, your resume needs to stand out—so when you’re designing your resume, think outside of the box and choose design elements that are going to help you break through the clutter and grab your dream employer’s attention.

Applying for a job in a creative industry, like design? Try using an unexpected resume format, like an infographic. Going after a job that calls for a more traditional resume? Incorporate small design details, like an unexpected pop of color, to help differentiate you from the sea of black and white your recruiter is used to seeing.

The point is, there are tons of ways you can design your resume that will help you stand out and increase your chances of landing an interview—so think outside of the box!

Designing an attention-grabbing resume is a must to getting noticed—and getting hired. But there’s no need to start from scratch! Get the resume design you need to land your dream job with one of Canva’s resume templates, like the Dark Infographic and Timeline Photo Resume, the Pastel Pink and Blue Modern Resume, or the Yellow Blue Simple Pattern Preschool Teacher Resume.

Best practices when editing your resume

best practice resume design

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash.

Check for the correct tenses

When you’re editing your resume, you want to make sure that all of your experience is written in the correct tense. If you’re writing about a past position or educational experience, use the past tense. If you’re writing about your current role, use the present tense.

It seems like common sense, but using an incorrect tense when describing past or current experience is a common mistake people make when writing their resumes—so before you finish the editing process, make sure you check your tenses.

Take a break—then do one more round of edits

Once you’re done editing your resume, you’re going to want to send it off as quickly as possible. But just because you’ve edited your resume doesn’t necessarily mean it's mistake-free! It can be easy for small mistakes to slip through the cracks—so before you send off your resume to potential employers, put it away for a day or two and then take one more look before you send out your resume.

When you’ve been editing your resume for hours (or days!) on end, everything can start to feel like a blur. Taking a break for a few days and then looking at your resume with a fresh pair of eyes can help you spot any mistakes you might have missed—and make sure that when you do send out your resume, it’s free of any mistakes, typos, or errors.

Use a resume editor

As the old saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know—so even if you go through your resume with a fine-toothed comb, if you don’t know what mistakes to look out for, you won’t catch them.

That’s why using a resume editor—either in the form of an editing tool or a professional editor—is so helpful. Understanding grammar, formatting, and style issues are what resume editors do best. So using a professional editor and/or professional editing tool to edit your resume ensures that you’re getting a professional level edit—and that any potential issues you weren’t even aware were mistakes get fixed before you start sending your resume out to potential employers.

If you have it in your budget, hiring a professional resume editor is the best way to ensure your resume is perfect before you start sending it out to potential employers—but, if not, professional editing tools like Grammarly or ProWritingAid are the next best thing.

Editing your resume is a breeze when you have the right editor—and the right design. Get started with one of Canva’s resume templates, like the Minimal Multimedia Artist Resume, the White Minimalist Photo College Resume, or the Blue and Brick Red Geometric Modern Resume.

Best practices when sending out your resume

best practice resume design

Image via Medium.

Send as a PDF

It doesn’t matter what program you use to write and design your resume (like Word, Photoshop, or Canva) before you send it out, you need to save it as a PDF.

A PDF creates a static image of your document that will retain the original style and formatting—no matter how or where a potential employer views it. If you send your resume in another format (like a Word doc), there’s a risk that the style and formatting could look different on their computer—and there’s no way for you to control what that “different” might be.

When you send your resume, you want to know for sure that your potential employer is seeing exactly what you see—so make sure to always, always, always send your resume as a PDF attachment.

Include your name in your resume file title

Most recruiters, HR teams, and hiring managers have hundreds of resumes flooding their inboxes every week. That’s a lot to resume files to keep track of—and if you want to make sure yours doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, you need to make sure to name your files accordingly.

When you’re saving your resume as a PDF, make sure to include your name in the file title (like First name_Last name_Resume.pdf). This will make it easy for a recruiter to search through their files and find your resume if and when they’re ready to bring you in for an interview. If you use a general file name (like resume123.pdf), there’s no way for a hiring manager to find your resume when they need it—and you’ll lose out on the interview (and, potentially, the job) as a result.

Send your resume to a real person

Sending your resume through a company’s job portal is a crapshoot; there’s no way of knowing if anyone ever even sees your resume, let alone if it gets in front of the right person.

That’s why you should, whenever possible, send your resume to a real person.

Finding the hiring manager in charge of the role you’re applying to—and then sending your resume directly to that person—is a much better way to make sure your resume gets the attention it deserves.

If you’re not sure who the hiring manager is, it’s time to do a little detective work. If you know who the role reports to (for example, are you applying for a Marketing Coordinator position that reports directly to the Marketing Manager), track down that person on LinkedIn, find their contact information (using a tool like Hunter), and send over your resume.

If it’s not clear from the job description who the role will be reporting to, look for someone in Human Resources or Recruiting; even if you don’t send it to the right person, at least you’re sending it to someone tied to hiring—and, if they’re impressed with your resume, they can point you in the right direction.

The point is, sending your resume to a real, live person is going to give you a far better chance of landing an interview (and a job) than applying through a portal or website—so, whenever possible, send your resume to a person.

Before you send out your resume to potential employers, make sure you have the design you need to take your career to the next level with one of Canva’s resume templates, like the White and Coral Icons Infographic Resume, the Black and White Bordered Modern Resume, or the Pink Dark Blue Icons Infographic Resume.

Your secret weapon for stunning design