1. A profile at the top of your resume. Profile sections or summaries have replaced objectives at the top of modern-day resumes. This is a quick list of the highlights of your strengths and experience, summing up in just a few sentences or bullet points who you are as a candidate and what you have to offer. A well-written profile or summary can provide an overall framing of your candidacy, setting the hiring manager up to see the rest of your resume through that lens.
2. Accomplishments at each job. If you're like most people, your resume lists what you were responsible for at each job you held – but doesn't explain what you actually achieved there. Rewriting your resume to focus on accomplishments will make it far more effective, and more likely to catch a hiring manager's eye. That means getting rid of lines like "managed website" and replacing them with lines like "increased Web traffic by 15 percent in six months" – i.e., something that explains how you performed, not just what your job was.
3. Volunteer work. Too often, candidates don't mention their volunteer work on their resumes, even when it's relevant to the jobs they're applying for. If you believe that volunteer work doesn't count because you don't get paid for it, think again. Employers want to know about all the experience you have that might be relevant, whether you received pay for it or not. Hiring managers have plenty of stories of nearly rejecting a candidate for lack of experience before discovering that the person simply hadn't mentioned their relevant experience because it had been gained as a volunteer.
4. Relevant hobbies and side projects. As with volunteering, too many people neglect to mention relevant experience that they've gained through hobbies or side projects, mistakenly thinking that it doesn't count because it's not "real work" or it's just for fun. But to the contrary, it can help flesh out your skills and experience and can demonstrate a passion for the work that paid jobs can't always do. For instance, if you're applying for an IT position and you run an online software discussion group in your spare time, mention that. Or if you're applying for a teaching job and you review children's books for your website, that's important to mention too. These types of details help paint a stronger picture of you as a candidate.
5. Bullet points. Too many job candidates have resumes that are filled with large blocks of text. Hiring managers will only skim your resume initially, and big blocks of text are difficult to skim (not to mention, they often make employers' eyes glaze over). An employer will absorb more information about you with a quick skim if your information is arranged in bullet points rather than paragraphs. And after all, that's your goal – to have your information read and processed, not to cram as much in as possible.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.