5 Free Ways to Improve Your Resume Right Now

By Myles Leva

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Last Updated: January 11, 2022

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Getting an ideal job is difficult. Competition is high, and amid the great resignation, there is a mass movement of people leaving positions that they don’t see a future in. But even if you’re not feeling picky, putting your best foot forward will land you a job faster.

Regardless of the specific career direction you’re trying to set yourself on, the best practices for drafting a resume will help you get there sooner. So, let’s go over how you can best communicate your value through a resume.

Many people are looking for a career change right now, but may not have the time or finances to go to school.

 

Free Things You Can Do to Improve Your Resume 

"How do I get experience in a job if I don't get the job?"

Sometimes you need to give yourself every advantage you can in a competitive job market. And some jobs require previous experience, not every workplace is going to train you from the ground up. So without going back to school to get a totally different degree, how can you start getting that knowledge and experience in your desired area?

Volunteering

No, you won't get paid. But volunteering covers a lot of bases when it comes to boosting your resume - and your chances of landing a job.

Want to get into Marketing? Look for internships or volunteer positions in these areas.

Volunteers often get a good amount of training, or at least, there may be more opportunities for you to learn something new, or take on roles you wouldn't yet be qualified for.

  1. You can learn valuable skills 
  2. You'll meet a whole new network of people 
  3. You are demonstrating an interest in leadership, values and helping in your community

These are all things that will help your resume. Yes, it takes time and effort. But the rewards are well worth it. 

Free Online Courses

Money is often a factor when it comes to making a career change. But there are some free ways you can start to gain knowledge in certain industries. Yes, it will take time, but it can set you ahead of others in the long run, and many organizations like to see that people are constantly learning, or building their skills - it shows discipline and ambition.

Ever heard of The Open University? Based in the UK, they offer free online courses through Open Learn in 8 different subjects: 

  • Health, Sports & Psychology
  • Education & Development
  • History & the Arts
  • Languages
  • Money & Business
  • Nature & Environment
  • Science, Maths & Technology
  • Society, Politics & Law

Learning new skills will also show you if you are actually interested in a new industry if you are making a career change.

 

How Do I Get My Resume Noticed by Recruiters?

Outstanding resumes come with a professional appearance and text that gets straight to the point with quantifiable achievements.

  • Make sure you format your resume to appear professional
  • Don’t take up space with generic sentences
  • Include as much concise, valuable information as possible (You don't need to include every job you've ever had)

Also, if the job posting asks for a 'cover letter for resume', include one. It may seem annoying, but there's a good reason employers ask for them. It's your opportunity to show that you have read the posting, want the job for some reason and are qualified for that job. It also shows your communication skills and ability to follow 

Don't just throw something together and attach it to every job you apply for - you should create a new, professional CV that is tailored to the specific job you are applying for. If you can't take the time to tell the employer why you are the best person for the job, why are you expecting them to read through a resume that had no effort put into it? 

 

What Do Employers Look for In Resumes?

Ideally, recruiters write job descriptions based on the actual things the new hire will be doing in the job. If someone applies who doesn't have experience or knowledge of the job they are hiring for, they are not going to look at your resume. 

Recruiters often look for the negative aspects first so they can eliminate many of the applicants and make their jobs easier. You do not want to be noticed in this way, so focus on professionalism and a clean, crisp appearance.

For resumes that are well-written, recruiters look for past experiences and achievements that they believe you can recreate for them. The more specific and quantifiable, the more impressive these factors will look.

 

How to Improve Your Resume With No Experience

This is one of the most commonly asked questions regarding resumes.

Every employer prizes past experience in the field and position they are looking to fill. Naturally, most people haven’t held that position.

If you don’t have the exact experience that the employer is looking for, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send them your resume. But you should have something close to what they are asking for. Applying for jobs you have absolutely no understanding of is wasteful for you and the employer. 

While you prepare to start sending your resume for the positions you can find, here are some free ways to improve your resume today.

 

1. Outstanding Header

First impressions matter, especially for hiring managers.

You have to remember that they are going through many resumes and they may not feel so excited doing so. That’s why a few of these points will cover the value of communicating concisely.

Your header should essentially appear as a professional business card attached to your resume. It should be clear and up-to-date. Critically, make sure your contact information is both correct and displayed so it is easy to read. Many people forgo them but leaving an email and phone number is necessary.

One factor some people overlook is a professional email address. Your email address should match your name closely, within reason, and not include numbers, jokes, or anything like that. It is best to have separate emails for professional and personal purposes.

You can also add your LinkedIn to your resume, and we’d suggest you do so. Other social media platforms are not normally relevant for most positions, but you can attach them as well if they are.

LinkedIn, however, is a fast-growing platform that many modern businesses are adopting as part of their regular HR procedures.

 

2. Professional Formatting

Presentation matters, a lot.

Substance is more important than appearance, but if your resume’s formatting is sloppy, it will be taken as a sign of laziness. Even if the content of your resume is impressive, eye-sore formatting can still lead a hiring manager to put it aside.

Getting your formatting correct is easy with Microsoft Office Suite and other professional tools. To keep matters simple, refer to this checklist to make sure your resume’s formatting meets accepted standards:

  • Use a clear font like Arial, Calibri, or Georgia
  • Set your font somewhere from 10.5 and 12
  • Set your margins to 1 inch on all sides of the page
  • Only ever use the standard size of 8.5 by 11 inches
  • Use larger, boxier fonts and capitals to clearly separate sections
  • Make the sections covering your relevant skills and experiences easier to notice
  • Use bullet points
  • Keep sentences concise, don’t use run-on sentences
  • Keep the layout consistent and smart
  • By default, presume to save your resume as a PDF
  • Make sure you comply with any specific requests the employer lays out regarding resumes

 

3. Focus on Quantifiable Achievements

Hiring managers are looking for people who have some kind of relevant experience. 

There's a big difference between saying you did well at your last job, and showing you did. If you end up getting an interview, this will likely come up in the questions as well. It's an opportunity to show what a great job you did in your last role, but also that you understand elements of the job you are applying for. 

But it’s the quantifiable achievements that will make the strongest impressions. For example, which looks better?

  1. I hit all my goals in 2019.
  2. In 2019, I hit 107% of my performance goals, including one project that I brought to completion 6 weeks early. 

If you can’t provide an exact number for any particular claim, you can still try to be more specific and more concise. Mention timeframes and met goals wherever you can do so positively. 

 

4. Edit for Readability

The need for proper grammar and spelling is self-explanatory.

But it’s harder to assess your own work for readability. Readability is the quality of being decipherable, easy, and enjoyable to read.

Readability is a sign of professionalism. Run-on sentences and those which contain too much indecisive information will make you appear as trying to dodge the fact that you have fewer important things to say. But how do you make sure your work is readable?

There are some tools such as Hemingway Editor and Grammarly which highlight factors like:

  • Unreadably long sentences
  • Indecisive language
  • Overly complex word choices

However, you can often detect the same things in other peoples’ work. One thing you can try is reading your own resume to yourself out loud. If you have trouble breathing from the lack of a pause, add more punctuation. If you sound like you’re rambling or repeating yourself, start liberally cutting words out.

 

5. Get Specific

Your future employer is looking for specific information from you. Give it to them by making your resume more specific about:

  • Industries and sectors
  • Employers in said industries and sectors
  • Job titles
  • Individual responsibilities

This is probably the hardest point to follow if you’re not yet experienced. Whether you do or do not have experience, it’s a good idea to have different iterations of essentially the same resume. Depending on the employer, you should adjust your resume’s specifics to align with what exactly you know they’re looking for.

Read this next: Top 8 Ways to Prepare Your Finances Before Quitting Your Job

 

Next Steps

It’s time to start editing your resume.

If you’re unsure about whether it’s professional or not, try using programs like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor. There are dozens of online resources you can use to find great resume examples or get resume help if you feel stuck or want advice from a professional. 

By making a few tweaks, and putting in some targeted effort, you can improve your resume and go for that dream job of yours! 

Photo by Dan Counsell on Unsplash

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