3 Resume Tips for Competitive Job Seekers

Jeff Cuellar



In one of the most competitive job markets in the world, your best weapon is a well-written resume. It can help you annihilate the competition like a modern day Genghis Khan (minus the whole “lamentation of their women” thing). But too many people today have resumes as dull as a butter knife, which won’t get you far in today’s cutthroat job atmosphere.

While resume writing is a very broad topic with different strategies, this article follows a general, but effective approach of creating a core resume, customising it for your desired job.


Start With a Core Resume

Building a core resume means including all of your employment details – skills, accomplishments, education, certifications, work history, etc. in a “master” resume that can be tailored to meet specific job applications. Yes, it’s time consuming, but once you create a well of information to draw from, drafting customised resumes for each job will be easier.

Depending on the type of resume you’re sending out, some of the information listed won’t be included. But having the following details listed in your core resume saves you the time and hassle of having to re-write anything:

  • Personal details: Include your name, date of birth, address, phone number, and email address.
  • Objective line: Write a simple, but broad career objective in one sentence (Example: I want to continue my professional development and grow with a dynamic and innovative company).
  • Summary statement: Write a two to three sentence paragraph that outlines your professional qualifications, competencies, and interpersonal skills.
  • Employment history: Include the company name, location, your position, how many years you worked there, your duties, and any notable achievements in chronological order (last job to first). It’s important to write your duties and achievements succinctly in a bullet list. Your bullet list should be in order of importance (first bullet = most important/ last bullet = least important).
  • Education: From the highest to the lowest educational certification, list your course of study, the educational institution, how long you studied there, and any academic achievements you earned.
  • Interests: List all the hobbies you have, giving special importance to anything “job-related”.
  • References: List all references you have. If a prospective employer asks for references, you’ll be ready to provide them instead of making last minute calls or emails to old bosses/co-workers.

So what shouldn’t you include in your core resume? Editor Ryan Ong lists a few in his previous article, which includes leaving out ideological information, confidential information from your previous company, and photos other than your own headshot (so you avoid embarrassing instances like this jobseeker).


If you’re not customising your resume for every job application, it’s OK. The HR staff won’t mind having extra paper for their break-room paper basketball competitions.


Customise For the Job You Want

It’s temptingly easy to send either your core resume, or a half-hearted customisation attempt to job postings that list a few of the duties and requirements you’re familiar with. This shortcut only ensures one thing – HR managers and recruiters will cast down your resume into the pits of hell, John Milton style. In other words, don’t do it.

It’s not enough to match 50% of the listed duties and requirements an employer is looking for. They’re not looking for someone who can do 50% of the work – they’re looking for employees who fit their organisation’s needs completely. Here are a few resume customisation tips that can help you become the perfect candidate for the job:

  • Get intelligence: Whether the job posting is vague or well written, you should call the contact/company to ask what skills they value in an employee. Use this information to amend and strengthen your resume’s focus e.g. If the company wants a customer friendly employee, highlight your customer service skills, relationship management skills, etc.
  • Use keywords: The job advertisement is a great source of customisation material for your resume. Pay close attention to the keywords used in the advertisement (the job title, job description headlines, qualifications, keyword phrases, etc.) and adopt them into your resume smartly. This helps your odds of getting past HR screening and automated resume screening software used by some companies.
  • Be selective: Apply only for jobs that reflect your strengths and experience. If you’ve got 2 years of experience as a marketing executive, but the employer is looking for a director with 10 years of experience, you’re wasting your time. On the other hand, if your skills and experience match 75%+ of what the employer is looking for, think of relevant job experiences that can satisfy that remaining 25%.
  • Revise your objective: You must use the same job title you’re applying for in your resume’s “objective” line. This eliminates any chance of your resume being trashed because the screener didn’t recognise the job title you were applying for.
  • Revise your summary statement: Your core summary statement should be optimised with the info presented above. Think of it as an elevator pitch selling yourself to your prospective employer, but with added emphasis on your soft sills and admirable personal traits.


I’m going to destroy these other job seekers with my customised, well-polished “resume”.


Polish Your Resume Before Sending It

After resume customisation, you’re probably thinking you’ve got the buster sword of resumes. You feel confident that you’ll get a call from the employer asking you to join the board of directors and use the company Porsche to get to work. But if you take another look at your resume and notice the formatting resembles an Escher painting and there are typos everywhere – chances are your resume is in Trash Bin folder heaven.

Yes, a simple typo can prevent you from landing that job you worked so hard to apply for. So don’t let your efforts go to waste – go over your resume once more and check the following:

  • Use the MS Word spelling & grammar check tool to correct any immediate errors that appear.
  • Ensure all employment information is accurate (dates, location, etc.).
  • Check fonts sizes for consistency (10 – 12 points for all of your content).
  • Refrain from underlining words and using non-standard bullets for your resume (this can confuse resume scanning software).
  • Stick to using one font style throughout your resume (Times New Roman, Arial, Cambria are good options).
  • Be grammar consistent e.g. Adding a period to the end of each bullet point, accurate hyphen use, etc.
  • Ensure that all of your paragraphs and headings are consistently aligned with each other.
  • Ensure spacing is normal e.g. Spacing after periods, line spacing, paragraph spacing.
  • Avoid using different colour schemes for your resume and stick to black and white.
  • Ensure you’ve got a header with your name and page number (just in case your resume gets mixed up by the employer after printing).

Here’s a comprehensive proofreading checklist you can use to double check your work. It’s also recommended to have a friend (preferably one who didn’t fail English) to go over your resume a second time to catch any errors you missed.

Additionally, you can also invest in having a professional resume proofreading service go over and polish your resume if you want added peace of mind.                                                       


Image Credits:
marcovdz, Graelabartel1990Pomjo07

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Jeff Cuellar

I'm known by many titles: copywriter, published author, literary connoisseur, ex- U.S. Army intelligence analyst, and Champion of Capua.