How to Take Your Resume from “Meh” to “We Need to Meet Her!”

Inside: How to update your resume and kickstart your job search. Get your foot in that interview door where it belongs with these tips from an experienced career coach and resume writer.


Resume summary? Education? Skills? Oh my! Between figuring out which resume sections you need to include, to understanding which format works best, resume writing can be overwhelming.

But, don’t you worry about a thing! As a career coach, I work with clients all the time to take their resumes from “meh” to “we need to meet her!” If you need to update your resume with a big makeover, like a Chip and Joanna style makeover, follow along!

Let’s do this!


Update Your Resume for 2021 (And Get That Job!)


Resume Format: Give Your Resume a Fresh Coat of Paint

Start with your format. The base of a winning resume is going to be readability. You can tidy up your current resume formatting by allowing for more white space and adding some simple design elements (font size, bold, capital letters). It’s amazing what these little changes can do to make your resume easier to read.

Tip: Keep your font size at 11 or 12. 10 starts getting squinty!

Or you can start from scratch with a new resume template.

You can purchase one of my favorite templates that you can easily edit in Word. It also comes with a cover letter template, and an interview thank you note template. Plus a discount on professional editing!

resume template bundle

For Application Tracking Systems especially, keep your format simple and clean. But also keep in mind that if you’re in a creative industry and you’ll be emailing a person your resume directly, feel free to add color and some flair. Either way, make sure you don’t overcrowd your resume, and that your content is on point. We’ll get to that next.


Contact Information: Who Are You?

A winning resume will prompt an employer to pick up the phone to call you. So make sure they know who you are!

Where’s your name on your resume? At the top? Cool. But make sure your design highlights your name and contact details enough. Bold text, capitals – find what looks right to you, but make sure you don’t fade into the background.

Include your name, phone number, and email at a minimum. Physical mailing address isn’t required – some people will choose only to use city and state or leave it off all together.

Consider adding in your LinkedIn profile URL too. It’s nice to put a face to a name, and can help highlight more of your work if you post articles or have a portfolio available on the platform. This can be particularly useful for someone re-entering the workforce or changing industries. Show that you’re up to date with industry trends by posting relevant articles and engage with other professionals in your target industry/company.


Professional Profile: Craft Your Narrative

Often applicants will dive straight into their Education or Experience sections next. Totally fine if you want to do that.

But have you thought about adding in a Resume Summary or Professional Profile on your resume? Objectives are a bit outdated, but a profile statement about what you bring to the table as an employee can be an effective intro and set you apart.

Keep your profile brief. Think of it as a ten-second elevator pitch. You’re in the elevator with your prospective employer and you have one floor before they are getting off. What do you say that makes them want to take your resume back with them to their desk?

Read more: How to Write a Resume Summary – Examples Included


Take your resume from "meh" to "we need to meet her!" Tips from a Career Coach

Skills: What Are You Great At?

I love a Skills section on a resume right below a Professional Profile for a number of reasons.

One, if the job you’re applying for requires specific skills (technical skills, communication skills, nunchuck skills) – the Skills section allows you to tell the employer right up front that you have those skills. Erase the doubt!

Two, the Skills section is great for keywords. You don’t want to keyword stuff your resume, but it is helpful to include relevant keywords in your resume so that you’ll show up in search results and get past the Applicant Tracking Systems.

Three, in addition to the Professional Profile, the Skills section lets you set the scene. A list of your past jobs is great, but wouldn’t you rather have total control over the story you’re telling and the transferable skills you’re highlighting. That’s a Skills section!


Experience: What Are Your Key Accomplishments?

Remember when we talked about cover letters?

My story about my 3-year-old applying to push the cart at the grocery store was certainly tongue in cheek, but also completely accurate. Sure it’s nice that he was excited to push the cart, but what was he going to do for ME as the CEO of getting through this grocery shopping trip?

The same philosophy applies to writing a winning resume. Your resume should highlight how you add value and what you will bring to the job. That’s the meat in the Experience section. It shouldn’t be a list of your responsibilities; instead your resume should showcase your key accomplishments and skills.

Focus on the last 15 years of experience and keep it to 3 to 5 bullet points per role. Bullet points can be longer than one line, and often will, but don’t turn your resume into a novel. Get to the good stuff right away, use strong action verbs, and then talk about your experience in more detail at the interview.


Education: Where Did You Learn That?

For your Education section make sure to include your schools, degrees earned, and years of attendance. That’s a given. But don’t forget to add in club leadership roles or honors as appropriate.

I generally recommend moving your Education section to below your Experience section if you’ve been in the workforce for more than a few years. Your education is important, but as a hiring manager, I’m going to skip right down to what you’ve been working on lately to get a better understanding of your professional expertise.


Personal: What’s Your Secret Sauce?

A winning resume is all about business right? Buttoned up, all professional, straight-laced.

But… maybe not.

You aren’t a one-dimensional person; you have interests and passions outside of the office and while maybe that stuff doesn’t line up with a job requirement, it makes you who you are. That’s where a Personal section comes in.

Be the candidate with great skills who also is interested in photography, learning foreign languages, historical fiction, or soccer – this makes you could stand out a bit more. The interviewer on the other side of your resume isn’t one-dimensional either and you could have something in common. Or your creative streak, travel experience, or sense of humor could make you an even better candidate for the job!


Get the Help You Need to Update Your Resume

Want some more help writing a winning resume? I’ve got you!

Head straight for the templates if you’re ready to roll! (And guess what? The whole bundle will cost you less than a sandwich and will last WAY longer.)


Or grab your free resume checklist to walk you through the steps to take your resume from “meh” to “let’s bring her in!”



Read More Career Development Posts:

1:1 Career Coaching and Electronic Resume Reviews

Cover Letter Writing Tips

To Stop Getting Rejected from Jobs, Stop Applying

Resume Template | Cover Letter Template


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