Writing the perfect resume: Best practices and quick tips

by Gina Rautenberg

Hitting a roadblock or not sure you’re getting that "Skills" section right? Here are a few of our best practices and tips for perfecting your 78 Cents Project resume template.

1. Find the “why”

Instead of just listing out the tasks you completed, try to show the hiring manager why they were important to the success of your current or former employers.

  • Bad example: Color-coded files to better organize our office’s casework
  • Better example: Created an office-wide process for organizing casework, which allowed us to uncover client patterns and develop new, optimized workflows

2. Spin your experience, but don’t lie

In the above, the better example shows the outcome of the candidate’s color-coded filing system. While it’s important to “spin” your experience to show why you were important to the mission of your previous or current company, it’s imperative that you never lie about anything on your resume.

The best way to check yourself is to ensure that every statement on your resume could be proven true, with a bit of effort:

  • Would your current or previous boss (and reference) verify each statement?
  • Do you have the exact documents you designed, wrote or created?

Be sure that you are staying inside the lines as you spin your experience to potential employers.

3. Use active voice

Check each sentence or bullet for passive voice, which can make even the smartest and most capable candidates sound lackluster. If you can add “by me” to any idea on your resume, you’re using passive voice.

  • Bad example: A better budget system was implemented across all departments in less than three months
  • Better example: Introduced and integrated a new budget system across all departments in less than three months

4. Use content sections to draw out your BEST skills, expertise or achievements

Each of our templates has a section that calls out the expertise, skills, achievements or authored works of the candidate. This is an excellent way to fill in a resume whether you only have a few years of experience to show off or you want to draw out your best skills after 30 years in the workforce.

Don’t panic if you can’t immediately fill in the section that we have pre-loaded into our template. Instead, add in content or ideas that bring out the best in you.

Here are ideas for content sections you can swap in and out:

  • Expertise — Think general concepts, like Public Policy, Data Analysis, Event Production
  • Professional or Technical Skills — Specific things you know how to do. Everything from Portrait Photography to Content Writing to HTML Coding can fit here
  • Supported applications — If you work in design, tech or other technical fields, be sure to list the exact programs or applications you use proficiently
  • Authored Works —  Showcase any published work from grad school or online publications
  • Professional References — Be sure to include them if the description asks for them. If you run out of space, repurpose the Cover Letter template to create a References page
  • Awards or Achievements — Did you graduate Summa Cum Laude or were you awarded Employee of the Month? Be sure to talk up the times that you’ve been recognized for your talents or intelligence

5. White space is better than overly cluttered

Hiring managers are busy and they may receive hundreds of resumes for each position they post. We designed our templates so they stand out in the pack and so they can be easily skimmed. Be sure not to overload the page with too much content.

6. Advertise your social media profiles if they’re going to help you

Within the contact section of the resume, include a link to your LinkedIn profile if you have one. Only include links to other social media platforms if they:

  • Are open // unlocked to the public
  • Show off skills that will be directly used in your professional work
  • Are free of profanity, NSFW imagery or other graphics and content that could jeopardize your ability to get hired

6. Use short URLs to make it easier for the hiring committee to find your work online

If you offer any links within your resume, be sure the links are as short as possible. Social profile URLs should be just fine but if your links are long, shorten them for free at https://bitly.com.

Have any other questions?

Include them in your email to the 78 Cents Project team when you submit your resume for review. We’re happy to spend extra time on the sections that you’re unsure of or to help you draw out an experience or skill that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere in your selected template.