Resume writing can be confusing. In today’s competitive job market, you have to draw the attention of the hiring manager in mere seconds. And, unless you work with resumes on a daily basis, you might find yourself wondering what format to choose, how many pages to write, and whether to include that short-term job you had three years ago. In this post, we are going to share actionable tips that will significantly improve the quality of your resume and make your resume stand out so that it is more appealing to recruiters.
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Hiring managers are tired of such clichés as hard-working, team player, motivated, go-getter, leader, etc. These words are overused in resumes, and at the same time, they don’t tell anything specific. Instead, use the resume space to give specific examples from your experience.
If you don’t have a Skills section yet, consider adding it. In this section, you can highlight the most important work-related skills so that the recruiter can see them immediately. Moreover, listing skills mentioned in a job posting are good for ATS.
Keep your list of skills up-to-date: add the newly learned skills and remove the obsolete ones (such as Windows 2000 or the internet). If you are an expert in more than one area, divide skills by categories to make the entire list easier to read (for example, Language proficiency, Software skills, Management skills etc.)
Today, resumes are often scanned by specific ATS software before they get seen by a human hiring manager. This software evaluates your resume’s fit for the job opening based on keywords. Keywords are specific skills, experiences, job titles, degrees or company names. If the software finds enough matches between the resume and a job description, it marks your resume as relevant. It is the first goal that you need to achieve.
To make your resume stand out and pass the ATS, review the job posting carefully and highlight the skills and qualifications that you have. Be sure to include them in your resume in the same form. However, avoid copying the entire bullets from the job ad, as the hiring manager will notice this trick. Support the keywords you’ve added with specific examples of when and how you used this skill in your career.
The recommended resume length is one page for entry-level professionals and graduates and two pages for experienced professionals. Hiring managers are less likely to read resumes that take more than two pages. If your resume exceeds the recommended length, you can remove jobs older than 10 years or delete information irrelevant to your target position.
A summary of qualifications is the short paragraph at the top that serves as an elevator pitch. Ideally, it should emphasize your value as a candidate and compel the hiring manager to pay closer attention to the resume. To make it effective, avoid generic introductions like “An experienced sales professional looking for a rewarding opportunity in a dynamic company”.
Instead, write specific details from your career. Mention how many years of experience you have, in what industry you worked, and what your biggest strengths are. Adding some professional accomplishments with figures is a good strategy too. Keep the summary to 3-4 sentences so that it’s focused and free from excessive details.
Formatting isn’t everything, but a recruiter will rather read a well-structured and organized resume than a cluttered and messy one. Use the same font throughout the document (experts recommend Arial or Calibri, 10-12 pts). Add some colors or formatting to emphasize the most important information. Avoid using resume builders – although you can make an attractive resume, most of such resumes don’t open correctly with ATS systems.
This can sound frustrating, but generic resumes don’t work. You need to optimize a resume for each job you apply and describe yourself as the right candidate for this specific job. No need to rewrite the resume from top to bottom every time, but you surely will need to adjust the career summary, skills and your most recent job description. Remember that the recruiter is looking for a person to address the specific challenge the company is facing, so be ready to prove that you can excel in this position.
Another reason to adapt a resume for every company to make your resume stand out is that most companies use ATS, and if you don’t insert the keywords from the job posting, your resume can be marked as irrelevant.
Many hiring managers reject resumes with typos, grammar issues or poor punctuation. They might think that you have poor writing skills, are not interested in the job or lack attention to detail. To avoid this, proofread the resume carefully before submitting it to a company. An online spell checker is a good start – it will help you eliminate most typos and mechanical errors. However, don’t rely on the software completely and proofread the document on your own as well. Consider printing it out, as in this case you’ll be more focused on the text and definitely spot the errors.
If you struggle with some aspects of resume writing, consider showing it to a resume expert. All in all, the success of a job search depends on how well your resume is written. So, if you hesitate about what to include or how to adapt it for the ATS, ask for professional help. A resume writer can update your old resume according to modern standards and fix mistakes, thus helping make your resume stand out so that you get more interview calls.