Five Resume Writing Tips To Land A Job

Written By Jen Paxton, PHR (she/her)

VP of People Operations & Talent, Privy

With the economic impact of COVID-19 in full swing, the candidate market has never been so crowded. I’ve spoken to candidates and read countless LinkedIn posts voicing frustrations that their resume seems to be going into a black hole. If this sounds all too familiar, just know that it doesn’t mean you’re not a catch.

As a recruiter, I can confess that I don’t spend a ton of time on each resume (don’t hate me, I speak the truth). According to a Ladders, Inc. study, the average recruiter spends about 7.4 seconds on each resume. I get it; as a recruiter you need to sift through hundreds, maybe even thousands of resumes, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to thoroughly read them all.

It’s the company’s responsibility to provide the best candidate experience possible and to get back to every candidate, whether they’re the right fit for the role or not. However, it’s fully within your control to submit a resume that stands out from the crowd, and I’m going to help you build it.
1. Sell Your Value Add

The first thing you need to remember is that your resume is a reflection of you, and it should highlight how you can add value to a company. Many times people will bullet out daily tasks on their resume without giving any specifics on how those tasks helped the company achieve a goal. 

For example:

Example A: “Oversee all retail operations of store” (Meh)

Example B: “Hired, onboarded and supervised 30 employees at retail store. Implemented new return and audit processes, which resulted in a reduction in shirk by 10%.” (Yeah!)

Example A is too generic and doesn’t let the interviewer know what you actually did. You should add in more detail around what your typical day to day looked like and what ROI you brought to the company because of your work.

2. Be Specific

Make your resume fit the role that you are applying for. I’m not saying that you need to create an entirely new resume for each application, but you should make sure to highlight the accomplishments that best fit the role you are applying for. One way to do this is to look at the “requirements” or “qualifications” listed in the job description and see if your resume highlights what is listed.
For example, the image below highlights a job description and the resumes of two applicants:

Candidate B would be my choice to move on. They give concrete examples of their success in their last role and they demonstrate how they can work collaboratively with other teams. I can feel relatively sure that this experience would be directly applicable to the role on my team.

3. Proofread Like Your Life Depends On It

This should be a given, but try to avoid spelling or grammatical errors. Spell check and Grammarly are your friends, people (Hi, my name is Jen, and I’m addicted to Grammarly). Do what you have to in order to get your resume in tip-top shape– because if attention to detail is lacking on your resume, employers might think it’s lacking in other places as well!

   Another common and extremely avoidable mistake is addressing the wrong company or position in your cover letter. To be honest, I have mixed feelings on cover letters in general (remember how I said I barely have time to read applications in the first place?). However, if you are including a cover letter with your resume, make sure that it is addressed to the right company and for the right position. This lack of detail puts a bad taste in manager’s mouths, and signals to recruiters that you are spamming your resume to tons of places.

4. Clean lines, Not Cluttered Layouts

It’s easy to fall into a trap of wanting your resume to look cool or cramming in as much detail as possible. But an onslaught of text can leave the reader feeling overwhelmed. Leaving blank space (I’m talking normal margins and spacing) gives the reader a chance to pause and digest all the important content of your resume. I suggest having bold titles and bulleted accomplishments for resumes over anything that is flashy. Just like with your spelling and grammar, make sure that your formatting is clean and error-free; lots of different bullet sizes or fonts are going to make you look sloppy. Remember, a recruiter only spends a few minutes on your resume, so have them spend it reading clear bulleted accomplishments.

5. To Cover Letter, or Not to Cover Letter?

Cover letters can be great ways to show your deep passion and interest for the role; however, they can get lost in a sea of applications, especially if the role has a ton of interest. A better strategy would be to send a well crafted email or Linkedin message to the recruiter or hiring manager, to show your genuine interest in the position. However, I have been known to read a cover letter if I was one the fence about a candidate OR if I had a question about a candidate’s background that isn’t answered in the resume. TL;DR- a cover letter isn’t always the most strategic play, but it’s better than nothing at all.

I always recommend that candidates write a cover letter if the role that they are applying to is a career change. The cover letter can highlight the relevant experience in their previous role and how they might apply it to this new role.


Your resume isn’t merely a list of your qualifications; it’s marketing for yourself in a competitive job market. Take the time to do it right by creating a strong, credible resume, and doing your homework on the company.

Are you a NSBE Member interested in a resume review? Contact Jen Paxton to schedule a 1 x 1 resume review:


With a master’s degree in Opera, Jen Paxton didn’t think she would have a career in Talent Acquisition, however, she fell in love with helping candidates find the right role. She started her career at a recruiting firm placing technical professionals, then after a few years moved in-house. She has grown teams at later stage startups like Fiksu and LevelUp and built Recruiting and PeopleOps strategies from scratch at small startups like Logentries and TrueMotion. Jen is currently at Privy, an eCommerce Marketing platform that helps small and growing brands get from $0 to $1 million in online sales, as their VP of People+Talent. She focuses on building a company that employees and candidates love.  

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