Tips for a Modern Resume
Nov 29, 2021
9 min read

Want to know how to write a modern resume? Resumes might look much the same as they did back in the day, but there are a few key differences. Most notably, modern resumes should be optimised for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and formatted to a contemporary style. Find out how to make your resume human and AI friendly with this handy guide.

What is a Resume?

Let’s start with the basics. A resume is a short document detailing your career and experience history, offered to employers during the job application process. It tells employers exactly what you’ve accomplished over your career and how this new role might slot into your career trajectory. It also offers insight into one’s hobbies and interests, and any hard or soft skills they think might be transferable.

Back in the day, a resume was a typed out, physical document that would be handed in to a hiring manager, often accompanied by a short cover letter pinned to the front. Nowadays, resumes are almost exclusively sent online. 

How to Write a Modern Resume

To ensure your resume is in line with contemporary trends, you’ll want to look out for a few key must-haves – that might not be mentioned in your school textbook!

Include a bio/ career summary

Always include a short 2-3 sentence summary at the top of your resume, tailored for the role you are applying for. Try to open with a compelling hook, to keep them reading, before briefly introducing yourself and why you are suitable for the role. 

Search Engine Optimization 

Believe it or not, you should be mindful of SEO even on your resume. This is because before it is ever seen by a human eye, it will most likely have been pre-vetted by an Applicant Tracking System. This clever software will scan your resume, pull out key information and figure out whether your experience and skills pass the necessary minimum requirements to be considered for the role. 

If the job specifies that it needs someone proficient in C++, the ATS will most likely scan and reject any resume that doesn’t include the term “C++” anywhere on the page. This is sometimes even the case for soft skills, such as “communication”. For this reason, an effective modern resume should always include as many keywords and required skills from the job description as possible, somewhere on the page. 

It is pretty widely expected that you should have a LinkedIn and including a link to your personal profile somewhere on your resume is standard practice. This helps employers vet you further, do their research and find out more details about you and your employment history. 

Other relevant social media channels to include could be: professional profiles, brand accounts you manage, portfolios, blogs or relevant “topic” based pages that you run (such as a Facebook coding community group). Never include links to personal profiles. 

How Should a Resume Look?

Font

During the 2000s, fonts such as Times New Roman were ubiquitous on resumes. Nowadays, that font has gone out of fashion, and good riddance! For a good resume, it’s very important that you stick to a professional serif font, but opting for Calibri or Garamond are widely considered the best options nowadays, since they are smart and highly legible, without looking archaic or dull.

ATS-friendly formatting

What does this mean for formatting? Well, it’s very important that you don’t confuse the software by making your resume difficult to read for a machine. Think of those CAPTCHA tests you do when submitting an online form. Computers really struggle to read words that are layered over images or drawn in wacky ways. This is why, though nice to make your resume look interesting, it is important that you keep graphics and visual design on a resume to a minimum. 

Modern design

Despite everything we just said, a human will eventually see your resume, and it’s important to be remembered. Depending on your industry, this means different things. Whilst engineering or programming positions will likely prioritise efficiency over style, your resume is a great showcase of your skills for anyone entering the creative industry. Don’t go overboard with the design – legibility is still the most important thing, but find subtle ways to make your resume eye-catching and memorable.

What Should a Good Resume Include?

In general, many of the traditional rules for a resume still remain. A good resume should be structured as follows.

  • Personal bio/summary

Relevant professional experience (in reverse chronological order) 

  • Education 
  • Other relevant experience (e.g., volunteering, personal achievements etc)
  • Relevant hard and soft skills
  • Hobbies and wider interests
  • Links to social media and contact information

Resume Tips

Keep it to two pages

Whether you have 15 years experience or 5 minutes, your resume should not exceed two pages. Hiring managers will scan your resume in a matter of seconds and too much information will simply put them off. Be sure to optimise your resume as much as possible, including only information that is directly relevant for the role in question. The more you cut it down, the easier it will be for employers to see the information that they’re seeking. If you can get it down to one page – even better!

Avoid clichés

Hiring managers and recruiters sift through thousands and thousands of resumes. They’ve read every cliche and can sniff out an auto-generated resume a mile off. For this reason, make sure to phrase as much as possible in your own words and try to be genuine. For more tips on avoiding common resume mistakes, check out our article: “Common Mistakes on a Resume”

What is the best resume format?

For a modern resume, here are two key ways to format:

Chronologically

This means listing everything in order of when it happened, starting with the most recent at the top. For your Employment History section, you would list your most recent job first (with dates) and detail what you achieved and learnt from that role in bullet points underneath. Then you’ll list the second most recent (if relevant), then third and so on. For education and work experience/volunteering history, you will follow the same format.

Skills-led

This means listing the most relevant skills, experience and/or education at the top and working down to least relevant. Though less common (and potentially more confusing) than a chronological resume, this formatting style is useful for those with a shorter employment history, or an unusual career path. For example, if someone wanted to go for a Web Developer position, but was switching careers from a completely different type of role, they would want to focus more on their skills, volunteer work, projects or education history (e.g., Bootcamp qualifications). 

Hopefully these tips have helped you figure out how to write a modern resume. Even if you don’t have a degree or other forms of further education, anyone can write a great modern resume (for more information, check out our article “How to Write a Resume with no Education”. Hopefully these tips will have shown you how to write a solid resume, so that you can dazzle recruiters, get your application seen and land that dream position! 

Hannah

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