The Anatomy of a Resume that Gets Noticed

To find work in today’s labour market, it’s expected that you submit a well-written, polished resume which outlines your best skills, experience, training, and accomplishments. And as resume formats have evolved over time, it’s raised the bar on what’s expected by future employers.

Resumes are about YOU, but they are FOR HR and hiring decision makers. As you build your resume, you will get all kinds of advice. But what really matters is what the decision makers are saying.  

In 2017, we surveyed over 60 hiring experts including hiring managers, HR professionals, and recruiters across a wide range of industries. Here’s what we learned. 

1. Target your resume: Hiring managers want to see you made an effort. They want to hire someone who wants to work for them, not just someone who wants a job. For each position you apply to, be sure to adjust your resume to highlight your best skills, experience, and training.

2. Check your spelling and grammar: Spelling and grammar mistakes are the #1 turn-off for hiring managers. Be sure to check, double-check, and check again before sending out.

3. Be organized: Hiring managers scan your resume in 5-10 seconds. Make it as easy as possible for them to understand what you can do. 

4. Use a common font: Hiring managers don’t care which font – it just needs to be an easy-to-read font. Creative fonts don’t earn you extra points.

5. Limit the length of your resume: The average resume should be two pages. If you are at a senior level, it’s acceptable to have a longer resume. If you are junior, you may only need a one-page resume. Everyone else? Stick with two pages.

6. Utilize the correct date format: Use the month and year format for start and end dates in your employment history.

7. Limit your bullets per section: No one has time to read a dense list of bullets. Identify what is most important. Generally, 5 – 7 bullets per section is the golden rule.

8. Incorporate keywords: Use the job description to identify industry keywords and integrate those keywords throughout the resume.  

9. Use action words: When describing your work and accomplishments, always start your statements with a powerful action verb.

10. Explain your value: Instead of listing tasks, explain what you achieved. How did the company benefit from your performance? How do you do this job better than someone else might? Or what would get missed if you were away for an extended amount of time? 

11. Write accomplishment statements: Under your work history, write accomplishment statements using the PAR (problem – action – result) method.

12. Quantify results: Find tangible examples of what you have done and use numbers and percentages to describe how you made a difference.

13. Explain gaps or short-term employment: Gaps or short-term employment causes concern for hiring managers. If you have a recent employment gap on your resume, address it briefly.

14. Design matters: Hiring managers appreciate a nice-looking resume. In particular, they like the use of bold font to draw attention to important information.

15. Show personality: Reviewing resumes can be tedious, especially when job seekers use generic phrasing or unnecessary jargon. Be unique and memorable in your wording.

16. Send it in PDF: Most hiring managers want your resume submitted in PDF, but always follow the instructions, first and foremost. 

All the best in landing your next opportunity. If you want to read more about our survey, you can download our exclusive guide here. 

All the best in landing your next opportunity. 


Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

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