10 Ways to Improve Your Resume 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Your resume is often a first impression for potential employers. Make it a good one with these tips.

[Featured image] A person with curly hair and glasses works on a resume on a pink laptop computer.

Whether you are creating a resume for your first job or applying for a role in a new company or industry,  your resume often creates the first impression an employer has of you, your skills, and your potential. Make that first impression a winning one with a few enhancements and priority updates.

10 winning resume updates

Use these 10 tips to highlight your credentials, qualifications, experience, and accomplishments in one document. 

1. Select the best template for your skills, experience, and goals. 

While you can build a strong resume on a blank document, consider using a template from a graphic design tool like Canva to build your resume, giving it a more eye-catching appearance. 

When choosing the design and layout, think about the following:

  • The role you’re applying for, and the job description. For example, a graphic designer might choose a bold, colorful template, while someone in accounting or finance might prefer a more traditional or corporate layout.

  • The aspects of your professional history that are the most relevant

  • Besides your name and contact information, the sections you'll need include education, previous employment and professional experience, tools you are trained to use, technical skills, certifications and courses you’ve completed, awards you’ve received, and hobbies and interests. 

  • How to position these sections within the template in the most advantageous way

2. Add skills or areas of expertise near or below your name. 

Summarize who you are as a professional before providing all of the details. This section can take up two or three lines on your resume and should include your area of expertise, such as “design thinking specialist” or “investigative journalist,” and a list of your most relevant skills.  

For each job you apply to, think about which skills the employer would most likely hire you for, and include those. You can often determine what's most important to the potential employer by examining the job listing. Try to keep your skills list specific and quantifiable, for example, "Agile project management" or "Python programming."

Read more: What Skills Should I Include on My Resume?

3. Include a robust and compelling objective.

In addition to conveying confidence in your abilities, this section can demonstrate to employers that you are intentional about your career and the application you are submitting. 

A resume objective can expand what you include in your area of expertise section by listing your professional goals and what you’d like to contribute to the company to which you’re applying. 

4. Display your online presence. 

Near your name and contact information, list any online accounts you have that can showcase your interests, passions, or previous work. The list could include social media, an online portfolio, or your website. 

Be sure to remove anything from your online accounts that you don’t want a potential employer to view. Post content that may be relevant to the job you’re applying for or that is your original work. 

Read more: How to Use LinkedIn - A Guide to Online Networking

5. Use relevant keywords.

One of the most important things to get your resume seen is to use keywords optimized for the applicant tracking systems (ATS) that recruiters and employers use to find prospective employees. An ATS allows recruiters to process hundreds of resumes for relevant keywords and narrow down the pool of applicants they’ll invite to an interview.  

Find the best keywords by:

  • Reviewing the job listing for keywords 

  • Googling “[industry] keywords” and making a list of the most relevant ones

  • Using a free ATS to scan your resume for opportunities to optimize your keywords

Using industry-specific terms and jargon also demonstrates your familiarity with your new field.

Read more: Resume Keywords: How to Find the Right Words to Beat the ATS

6. Use action verbs.

In conjunction with your ATS keyword research, use action verbs, such as “managed,” “implemented,” or “developed,” to describe the tasks you performed or projects you completed in previous roles. Action verbs are a great way to specify your experience and emphasize your technical skills.

Here’s an example a cybersecurity analyst might use: “Implemented a backup system to add a layer of security company data.”

7. Quantify your accomplishments in previous roles.

Include a sentence with your job scope and a bullet list of accomplishment items under each job. Try to be specific and use concrete metrics that demonstrate the impact of your accomplishments. If you boosted social media engagement in your last marketing job, for example, include the percentage of that increase.

A formula for resume success

Use this formula when highlighting your professional accomplishments: "[Action verb] [X] to [Y], resulting in [Z]." Here’s an example a social media marketer might use: “Designed visual content to improve brand awareness, resulting in a 30-percent increase in Facebook conversion.”


8. Include a section for hobbies and interests.

This section can show more of your personality and abilities you did not list in other areas of the resume. Your hobbies and interests can be great conversation starters and position you as a well-rounded employee with versatile skills.

If you're looking for your first job and don't yet have much professional experience, you might turn to your extracurricular activities as a way to highlight key job skills, like problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, or teamwork.

9. Get ahead of concerns. 

At the same time that you include details about your professional history and career objectives that employers will find attractive, remain mindful of potential red flags on your resume and address them. 

Red flags might include short job durations and gaps in employment in your job experience section. For gaps in your employment history lasting longer than six months, consider including what you did during that time. Caregiving, travel, volunteer work, and independent projects are all opportunities to highlight related, transferrable skills.  

Read more: How to Get a Job with No Experience: A Job Seeker’s Guide

10. Eliminate clutter. 

Once you have most of the sections filled in, scan the resume for unnecessary details that you can remove. These might include:

  • Job experience from long ago, particularly if it’s not relevant to the position you’re applying for

  • Graduation dates

  • Details from your hobbies and interests section that are the least relevant

  • Buzzwords like “self-starter” and “hard worker”

Typically, your resume should fit on a single page, unless you have more than 10 to 15 years of related professional experience.

Next steps 

As you continue along your career path, treat your resume as an evolving document that you regularly update as you gain experience, skills, and other qualifications. Looking for new skills to add to your resume? Consider a Professional Certificate in data analysis, project management, cybersecurity, or IT support, designed to get you job-ready in as little as three months.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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