Resume Best Practices: A Complete Guide for Showcasing Your Relevant 10%
Your resume offers potential employers a snapshot of your professional experience. But, the rapid evolution of the job market means what was once considered the ideal resume format may no longer be effective or adequate for job seekers like you.
Staying up to date on resume best practices is crucial in presenting your qualifications, experiences, and value in a clear, curated, and compelling way—maximizing your chances of standing out and paving the way for success.
3 key takeaways
- Your top 10% and why it matters
- 2023 resume writing best practices
- How the free guidance in the Teal AI Resume Builder can help you implement these resume tips seamlessly
Resume best practices: The basics
Your resume offers an overview of your professional journey. It highlights your career history, experiences, skills, and the subsequent impact of those elements—giving hiring managers, recruiters, and prospective employers insight into the top 10% out of your 100% that is relevant to the role you're applying to.
Yes, you read that correctly—just the top 10% that's relevant to the position.
The relevant 10% resume rule
It seems like such a small glimpse, right? Just 10%. But the 10% guideline doesn't undervalue the remaining 90% of your experience.
Every role you've had, project you've tackled, skill you've cultivated—it all matters.
But in the fast-paced world of hiring, relevance is crucial. And the way you showcase relevance with your top 10% will grab attention—landing you the interview. (And in that interview is your opportunity to delve into the other 90%, explaining your comprehensive experience and showcasing the depth of your skills.)
Essential elements of a resume
Every section of your resume plays an important role in highlighting your relevant experience.
Clarity and compatibility are the secrets to a great resume. The sharper your presentation and the closer your experiences align with a role, the stronger your first impression.
Here are the sections you need:
- Contact Information
- Target Title
- Professional Summary
- Work Experience
– Awards and Scholarships
– Volunteering and Leadership
Best practices for every resume section
Knowing what to include in every section of your resume is vital to your job search and application process. Let's explore the best practices for each one.
Section 1: Contact Information
Position your contact information at the top of your resume. Keeping this information front and center ensures hiring managers and recruiters can contact you easily.
Your "Contact Information" section should have the following:
- Full name
- Professional email address
- Full Linkedin URL
- Portfolio link or URL
But before you move on, a few important notes:
You no longer need to include your street address in your "Contact Information" section.
Your resume is circulating throughout your job search—you're likely submitting this information to multiple hiring managers, recruiters, and companies—and you don't want to share that level of private information publicly. (It can also lead to bias in the hiring process.) Be mindful that city and state are essential, as some companies can only hire in specific locations.
Also, when including your full LinkedIn and portfolio or website URLs, make sure these relevant links are short and professional.
For example, linkedin.com/in/tina-miller-nyc vs. linkedin.com/in/2hgai3tyg8_89675aHr297.
While hyperlinking is recommended, having the complete URLs allows for easy copying and pasting should the links fail when scanned by an applicant tracking system (ATS). (And remember to double-check that they work!)
Use Teal's AI Resume Builder to plug in the appropriate contact information.
Section 2: Target Title
The importance of tailoring your resume to each application begins with your target title. Did you know a target title can be different from the job title of a role you've held previously?
While your target title and any professional title you've held should have some commonalities in the responsibilities or skills required, your target title should align with what a recruiter or hiring manager has listed in the job posting.
For example, a visual designer might also be called a graphic artist, design specialist, or visual content creator in a job ad.
But be mindful that adding a target title alone isn't enough—you need to ensure the rest of your resume supports that experience. (For example, if you're an account manager, and you use "Influencer Marketing Manager" as your target title, this doesn't suddenly make the rest of your resume "tailored."
Section 3: Professional Summary
Your professional summary statement, or short professional bio, is where the top 10% that's relevant to the role you're applying for starts to take effect.
Think of your professional summary as the trailer of a movie. You have just a few seconds to grab attention and briefly explain who you are as a professional to draw the reader in—encouraging them to dig deeper into your resume. This is your opportunity to talk about your career in aggregate and speak to the highlights.
Rather than an outdated resume objective—which addresses your career goals—a summary statement aligns with the job requirements to demonstrate you understand what the role entails and that you'll succeed because of your experience and impact in previous positions.
Your summary should:
- Be tailored to the job you're applying to
- Include a time-based statement, for example: "In the last 4 years…"
- Incorporate at least two relevant skills and their corresponding impact
- Be between 3-5 sentences
- Use the first-person voice
So if a job description had a requirement like:
"Research and identify relevant and on-brand influencers and creators that match our target audiences."
A good professional summary that aligns might look something like this:
"Digital marketer with 5+ years of experience specializing in influencer identification and relationship management. With a keen ability to leverage advanced analytics and using tools like impact.com, I've consistently analyzed engagement data, resulting in a 25% increase in campaign ROI, and aligned creators with brand campaigns to boost brand awareness by 10%.
For more samples, check out these resume summary examples.
Section 4: Work Experience
Your career history is the cornerstone of your resume. And this is where your relevant experience connects to all that you're capable of in a new job.
A breakdown of each experience
In a chronological resume format, which is the most common and popular layout, list your resume work experience after your professional summary. Start with your most recent role and proceed in reverse chronological order.
Each company you list should include the following information:
Clearly state the name of each company you worked for. If you've worked for a smaller company, including a brief description of what they are can help tailor your experience by incorporating keywords from the job description of the role you're applying for.
Your job title or position clarifies your level of responsibility.
Include the company's city and state. Adding "Remote" to this information can also be valuable if you are or were a remote employee.
Dates of employment
List the duration of your employment for each role. Include the start and end dates with the month and year. Just including the year can look like you're trying to obscure information or hide something, even if you're not. (Don't minimize or exaggerate this information, as it's likely easy for a hiring manager to find.)
3-5 work experience achievements per role
Structured as bullet points, your achievements provide tangible evidence of your success by showcasing your impact, contributions, and value.
How to write relevant achievements
Rather than a list of your job duties, your "Work Experience" section should highlight your achievements with results and impact.
Think of these results and the subsequent impact as proof you have a skill or experience (that aligns with keywords in the job description) in something specific.
So how do you do it? Using this formula (or a slight variation):
Success Verb + Noun + Metric + [Strategy Optional] + Outcome = 1 bulleted achievement
Let's take a look at a few examples.
"Implemented new payroll and tax accounting systems, saving firm $2 million over 5 years."
Noun: New payroll and tax accounting systems
Metric: $2 million
Outcome: $2 million saved over 5 years
"Reduced load times by 30% through optimized database queries, resulting in improved user experience and a 20% boost in platform efficiency."
Noun: Load times
Strategy: Optimization of database queries
Outcome(s): Improved user experience and a 20% boost in platform efficiency
"Generated pipeline of $2.6 million by reviewing customer data and conducting a comprehensive content analysis, subsequently establishing and implementing an in-house copywriting service."
Metric: $2.6 million
Strategy: Reviewing customer data and conducting a comprehensive content analysis
Outcome: Establishing and implementing an in-house copywriting service
Work experience resume writing tips
- Do use metrics, data, and numbers. Numbers draw the eye visually, quantify your impact, and show that you think strategically about the business.
- Do use strong action verbs like generated, implemented, reduced, and saved
- Do list your strongest achievements at the top of each work experience.
- Do showcase at least two skills and how they influenced impact
- Do include keywords from the job description for every application
- Don't include achievements for work experience older than ten years, if possible.
- Don't include more than five bullets for your most recent role or three for older, less relevant jobs
Section 5: Education
Your "Education" section is straightforward. If you find that you're running out of precious resume real estate, limit this section to your highest level of education.
Here's how you should list your educational background on your resume:
- Degree earned
- Institution's name
- Completion date
If you're a recent graduate (but only a recent grad), consider adding your GPA (if it's above 3.0) and any relevant coursework, clubs, or activities.
Section 6: Certifications
Certifications help you further align your credentials to the qualifications prospective employers are looking for. They also illustrate your expertise and commitment to professional development.
Keeping any certifications relevant to the role you're applying for is key to including them on your resume. (And yes, this means, unfortunately, your certificate in floral design isn't really relevant to your project management application.)
If you have relevant certifications, this is what you should include.
- The name of the certification and, in parentheses, any common acronyms or abbreviations it may be known by (like CPA, CFA, or CISSP)
- The certifying agency with the complete business, institution, or organization name
- The start date and end date, or date of completion, using a consistent format
With all of that information, a "Certification" section for a devops engineer could look something like this example:
- Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) | Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) | June 2023
- AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional | Amazon Web Services| October 2022
- Certified Jenkins Engineer | CloudBees, Inc. | August 2021
- Docker Certified Associate (DCA) | Docker, Inc. | March 2022
Section 7: Skills
Your hard and soft skills are the foundation of how you drive impact.
Best practices for a resume highlight integrating your key skills throughout various sections of your resume.
But if space permits, you can add a dedicated "Skills" section to highlight hard skills mentioned in the job description. While you can include soft (or transferable) skills in this dedicated section, keep in mind these are more challenging to measure objectively, and you should demonstrate them alongside complementary hard skills and impact.
Expert Tech Recruiter Leah Dillon says,
"If you're going to include a list of skills on your resume, make sure they're relevant to the job. Are they specifically listed in the job description?
Without impact or relevance, your skills are just words. Listing hard skills, such as programs you've used, can be helpful as a quick reference. But soft skills have far less meaning without results. These should be incorporated into your summary and achievements rather than on a skills list as often as possible."
Pro Tip: The Teal AI Resume Builder offers free step-by-step guidance for each section as you build a resume.
Optional resume sections for other experience
If you have unconventional work experience, it might seem like presenting your top 10% that's relevant to a role is impossible. But effectively showcasing other experiences can distinguish you in a way that's still impactful and relevant.
Some less traditional resume sections might apply to you if:
- You're a student
- You've recently graduated
- You're transitioning careers
- You have career gaps
- Your employment history is unconventional (like freelance or part-time work)
Projects offer tangible evidence of your skills while adding depth to your resume beyond traditional work or educational experience.
If the skills you used during a project are relevant to the role you're applying to, create a dedicated "Projects" section that resembles a traditional "Work Experience" section for added value. Whether your project is academic, freelance, personal, team, or something different, it would look something like this on your resume:
Pro Tip: A one-sentence overview of the project can help tailor your experience by incorporating keywords from the job description of the role you're applying for.
Awards and Scholarships
Awards and scholarships are tangible testimonials that speak to your skills, dedication, and exceptional performance—setting you apart from the other applicants.
Adding awards and scholarships is about showcasing substance and strength. Don't just create an exhaustive list; strategically select and present those that support your career story and the job you're targeting.
Here's how to list an award or scholarship on your resume:
Section title: Awards and Scholarships
Name of the award or scholarship: Marketing Excellence Award
Date: July 2023
Volunteering and Leadership
Volunteering and leadership roles speak volumes about your character, drive, and the values you bring to an organization.
Highlighting skills you've developed and used—by incorporating keywords from the job description—will align these experiences with the role you're applying for.
For instance, if you're applying for a managerial position, emphasize leadership roles where you've showcased team coordination, project management, or strategic planning. If a job calls for community engagement or public relations skills, your time volunteering in local community outreach and coordinating public park events is a prime opportunity to illustrate how your involvement directly correlates to the listed qualifications.
To list your volunteering and leadership experience on your resume, you should include:
- The organization
- Your involvement or role
- City and State
- Dates of experience
- Your achievements
Publications demonstrate your passion and provide proof or evidence of your specific expertise and skills.
Whether you're the listed author or featured as an expert, publications relevant to the industry or role you're applying for bolster your credibility to help make your resume stand out.
When including publications, make sure to add:
- Publication Name
If you're stuck trying to connect your unconventional experiences to the job you're applying for, use the guidance in the Teal AI Resume Builder to make sure you're highlighting the right details with the most relevance.
Resume writing best practices
An impressive resume that grabs the attention of hiring managers, recruiters, and prospective employers takes these best practices into account.
Use action verbs
Using strong action verbs in your resume demonstrates a sense of movement—giving it power and energy. Instead of just stating impact, action verbs dynamically convey contributions.
As often as possible, it's vital to quantify your achievements. Numbers, metrics, and data provide concrete evidence of your accomplishments and give employers a clear picture of your contributions.
Tailor your resume to each job description
Every job is unique, and so your resume should be, too. By tailoring your resume, your relevant experiences (that top 10%) will better align with the hiring manager's requirements and qualifications.
Use consistent formatting
Consistent formatting style (in terms of fonts, bullets, and headings) gives your resume a professional look. Inconsistencies can distract the reader and make the content hard to follow.
Include white space
Don't clutter your resume. Having appropriate spacing makes your resume more scannable and visually appealing.
Keep your resume between 1-2 pages
New graduates and those with ten years or less of experience should aim for a one-page resume. Those with over ten years of experience can consider two pages. Always prioritize quality over quantity.
Teal Founder and CEO Dave Fano says,
"If your resume is more than one page, the first page needs to be compelling enough to get someone to keep reading.
The job of each word is to get the hiring manager or recruiter to read the next word. And then, if you extend that, the role of each sentence on the page is to get them to read the next sentence.
So, really, at the end of the day, the length on its own doesn't matter as much as the fact that the writing needs to keep the reader compelled to learn about you and increasingly believe that you're the right person for the job they're trying to hire for."
Common resume mistakes to avoid
You know the resume tips to create a stand-out document, but what are some good resume rules for what you should avoid?
Typos and grammatical errors
Oversights like poor spelling, grammar, and incorrect punctuation can make you appear careless.
Always proofread your content before you submit it to a hiring manager or recruiter.
Don't clutter your resume with outdated or unrelated job experience.
Stay focused on the top 10% of your experience that is relevant to the specific job that you want. Remember, your resume should be tailored and include only relevant information.
Graphics or pictures
Many companies use applicant tracking software to organize and streamline the hiring process.
The ATS are not designed to scan graphics or images. If you include elements like a headshot, bubble chart, graph, or other graphics, a human hiring manager might be unable to view your resume because it didn't scan correctly into the system.
Note: The headshot guideline is US-specific and may vary from country to country. For US residents, you should also exclude them to eliminate bias where possible.
A chaotic or inconsistent layout can quickly deter hiring managers.
Stick to a clear structure, use a professional font, and maintain consistent styling throughout (e.g., bullet points, headings)—elevating your resume's readability and impact.
Keeping up with resume trends
Keeping up with current resume trends is important. It ensures your application is relevant, maximizes your chances of grabbing a prospective employer's attention, and demonstrates your awareness of current professional standards.
Even deeper—your awareness reflects adaptability in a continually evolving market.
But staying updated can be a challenge. Whether you're actively applying for jobs, have been off the market for a while, or just getting started with resume writing, investing time in researching the latest resume trends can be demanding.
To stay up to date without doing hours of independent research or trying to discern what resume advice is accurate, give Teal a try.
Teal is a dynamic tool—it's regularly updated based on the job market, trends, and the needs of job seekers like you.
Not only does each section of the Resume Builder offer guidance aligned with best resume practices, but the Resume Analysis feature offers deeper insight and expert tips on specific improvements you can make to your resume.
Implement these resume best practices today
A great resume isn't just about listing your qualifications; it's about strategically highlighting the top 10% of your experience that's relevant to the role you're applying for.
In today's dynamic job market, adhering to resume best practices ensures you present your qualifications and experience in the best light to increase your odds of landing an interview.
And while the process might seem daunting, Teal's AI Resume Builder is here to streamline your efforts. The step-by-step guidance will walk you through each section of your resume with detailed directions, enhancing the quality and relevance of your content.
Sign up for Teal's free AI Resume Builder today—your modern, compelling resume is just a few clicks away. Why wait?