Resumes & Cover Letters

What your resume should look like in 2020

Written by Kate Lopaze

2020 may not feel like the crazy future we were taught to expect by pop culture (Flying cars! Robot servants and/or overlords! Food in pill form!), but it’s still a fresh start on a new decade, with lots of cutting edge ideas and technology. If you’re working on bringing your resume into the real future (no offense, sci-fi writers), here are some guidelines to use as you create your path in this new decade.

Don’t worry so much about traditional formatting

While your resume should always have a nice, clean layout and be easy to read, you need to think about how it will look on different kinds of screens. Recruiters and hiring managers are busy, and the seconds they spend reading while looking at a quick printout or a small phone screen.  So don’t spend your resume construction time worrying about font choices—pick something that’s easy to read no matter what, like Times New Roman, Georgia, or Calibri.

Ditch the objective

Objectives are a classic part of a resume, but honestly, they’re not very useful or necessary. The reader already knows you’re seeking a job at his or her company. Still, one-line summary headers are a good thing, because they break up the space of a resume and help guide the narrative—so use the old objective space for a new summary line.

A summary statement is unlike an objective because it’s not about what you’re seeking and what you want—it’s about the story you want to tell and about what you bring to the job.

Some examples of strong summary lines:

Content expert with 15+ years of experience in executing marketing campaigns.

Strong leader with a focus on community and talent development.

Skilled communicator adept at solving complex problems and bringing innovation to every process.

The earlier you introduce your brand and your strengths into your resume, the better.

Be choosy about your experience

If you have a resume that dutifully outlines every job you’ve ever held, rethink what you need to include. As long as you don’t leave glaring gaps by removing previous jobs (which can lead to suspicion or confusion about what lurks below your resume), it’s fine to put most of your resume real estate into only the most relevant, recent jobs and accomplishments. Old (or less relevant) jobs can be relegated to a line or two listing the amount of time you worked there.

Showcase your skills

Most employers these days are looking for strong skill sets that accompany the right experience. Playing up skills can also help cover small gaps in experience because it shows that you bring other qualities to the job. Many resumes these days follow a skills-based format, where the skills section goes before the work experience section. This is especially effective if you’re still relatively new to the field and want to show that you have skills and capability, if not years and years of experience yet.

Don’t forget your volunteer experience

Many employers are looking for people who are community-minded and have a proven track record of engaging with others. If you have volunteer experience, think about including it in your resume and tailoring it so that the most relevant volunteer duties and skills are reflected on the resume itself. Volunteer experience can show a reader how well-rounded you are, while also playing up skills and themes in your employment history.

Keep it simple

When reviewing a resume, no one wants to read large blocks of uninterrupted text. Think of your resume as your highlight reel—not the whole game. Sentences should be concise and clear. Skills and experience should be listed as succinct, punchy bullet points that are easy to read and digest quickly. You can add more context later in a cover letter or an interview, but your resume should have only the most important information to get you to the next step.

Whenever possible, use numbers to show results. It’s one of the quickest ways to convey the accomplishments and outcomes you achieved in that role.

Don’t rely on spell check

In a “type fast, send now” world, we all lean pretty heavily on spell-check and autocorrect to clean up our writing. But plenty of typos can slip under the radar, and autocorrect has been known to, well, go rogue. Always read your resume carefully before you send it anywhere. And ideally, you should have a trusted reader who can give it an impartial once-over to see anything you might have missed.

With these tips in mind as you work on your new resume for a new year and a new decade, remember: clean writing, confidence in your accomplishments, and a tailored message never go out of style.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.