I meet with dozens of highly educated professionals every week, and they usually have the same response when they sit down with me to write their resume, and it sounds something like, “what? I had no idea!” It doesn’t matter how educated you are or how great you are at your job, chances are, you’ve only had to write a couple of resumes in your life. That means you may not be aware of the changing trends or updated candidate screening tools.
Here are a few current (and timeless) tips for writing resumes:
Focus – Know your target and aim directly at it. If you were at a shooting range, you would never close your eyes and fire aimlessly hoping to hit a bullseye, so why would you approach a job search with that method? Ditch that wordy, cliché summary at the top of your old resume and replace it with a targeted tag line or objective statement. For example, “CPA Candidate seeking an Entry Level/Internship Position in Tax.”. Now focus everything on the resume toward that target.
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Keywords! Know them, use them, love them – Once you know your targeted title, search for those positions on your favorite job board (WalshCareerLink, Monster, Indeed, LinkedIn, etc.). For example, if you want to work in human resources, read at least 20 job descriptions and make a list of the phrases and keywords that come up repeatedly. You may see things like communication, interpersonal skills, leadership, employee relations, HRIS or HRMS (Human Resource Information System/Management Systems). If the words come up often, they should be incorporated into your resume. These keywords are critical to get you through the first hurdle…the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
Understand Applicant Tracking Systems – The primary objective of an ATS is to scan resumes to find candidates who match the keywords entered by the hiring manager. Unfortunately, finding and using the keywords is only part of the battle. If the formatting is too complicated, some ATS programs won’t be able to read all of your great skills. Since there are over 220 different programs out there, it’s difficult to say what will work consistently, but we do know a few tricks. Avoid fancy fonts and bullets, and don’t insert graphics, pictures, text boxes, tables, or headers/footers. Save your creative resume for the career fairs, and use the simplified ATS friendly resume whenever applying to jobs online.
Looks Matter – You’ve made it through the initial gate and you got a human being to look at your resume – congrats! Now you only have about five seconds to capture their attention. If that potential employer doesn’t see important information (dates, education, relevant skills), or it’s hard to read, cluttered, or just plain ugly, they’re going to pass. Make sure the content is concise with quantifiable results (use dollars, numbers, and percentages whenever possible). Bullets are easier to get through than paragraphs, so keep it short and simple. Very few people actually read resumes, so think scan-ability.
Proof read for perfection – You’ve heard it before, but this one is crucial. If you’re telling an employer you’re “detail oriented,” but your resume is littered with inconsistencies and errors, you’re not going to get far. When you spend a lot of time on the content (which you should), sometimes it’s easy to miss the finer points. Some common errors that sneak through are inconsistencies in date formats, periods at the end of bullet points (either use them, or don’t, just stick with it), verb tense (past tense for old jobs, present tense for current jobs), fonts, numbers (spell out numbers under 10, use numerals for 10 and above), and text alignment. You already know proper spelling is important, but when dealing with automated systems, there’s even less room for error. An ATS doesn’t know what to do with words like “edqcatlon.”The best way to avoid these types of mistakes is to have someone else proof read your resume when you’re finished with it.
Although it seems like common sense, having a rock-solid resume that includes all pertinent components is critical to landing your next job. Crafting an exceptional resume these days has the added challenge of attracting not only hiring managers but the software bots doing their upfront work.
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Everybody has a tip or two, and most are good when combined with wording that will make its way past the software screens. Some say that it can be beneficial to polish your resume with professional help to attain that extra edge, but with this list, you shouldn’t need to.
These resume tips were written to showcase your unique talents and skills and, when utilized correctly, should result in a click from both the hiring manager and stonewalling software bot.
Review Successful Examples
Before you start work on writing or updating your resume, review resume examples that fit a variety of employment situations. Then select a style and format that best highlights your strengths and achievements.
- Resume Samples
- Resume Examples: A – Z
Use a Template
Using a resume template as a starting point allows for personal customization on a predesigned platform. Add your information to the resume template, then tweak it to highlight your skills and abilities.
- How to Use a Resume Template
- Resume Templates
- Microsoft Word Templates for Resumes and Letters
Choose the Best Resume Format
Several basic types of resumes are best for job openings. Depending on your personal and professional circumstances, choose a chronological, functional, combination, or targeted resume. Decide on one that best fits your work experience, educational background, and skill set. Take the time to customize your resume; it is well worth the effort as it won’t seem copied.
- Types of Resumes
Choose a Basic Font
When formatting your resume, use a basic font that is easy to read, both for hiring managers and for applicant management systems. Google also favors the simple over the complex. Many fonts make your resume clear and easy to read while retaining your individual style.
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- Resume Font Size and Type
- How Long Should a Resume Be?
Add Numbers That Quantify Accomplishments
Adding numbers to your resume shows employers in black-and-white fashion what you have accomplished at work. Not all of your achievements are quantifiable, but adding those that are can serve as powerful negotiation tools when the topic of salary arises.
Include Contact Information, With a Caveat
Include all your contact information so that employers can easily get in touch with you. Give your full name, street address, city, state, zip code, phone number, and email address. If you have a LinkedIn profile or professional website, include those links as well. Under some circumstances, you might want not want to include your entire mailing address, but it is generally good practice to do so.
- What to Include in a Resume Contact Section
Add a Profile
Consider using a resume profile or summary, with or without a headline, if you want to include an objective on your resume. Remember to tailor your profile to match your the job you want. The more specific you are, the better the chance of being considered for the job.
Put the Most Important and Relevant Accomplishments First
Prioritize the content of your resume so that your most important and relevant experiences are listed first. Describe key accomplishments at the top of each position and quantify them if possible.
- How to Prioritize Your Resume Content
Include Commonly Parsed Keywords
Your resume should include the same keywords that appear in job descriptions. That way, you increase the chances of your resume matching available positions and of being selected for an interview. Include keywords in your cover letter also, because that correspondence will be screened, too. Keywords change with the times, so stay up to date within your industry.
- Best Skills to Include on Your Resume
- How to Include Keywords in Your Resume
Optimize Resume Job Descriptions
These resume tricks will help you make your descriptions sound impressive, catching the hiring manager’s attention.
- Utilize subtle color highlights to draw the eye to important details or quantified successes
- Blend your own style with language the software bots will understand. Good hiring managers will read the same
- If possible, keep it under two pages. Bots and humans alike prefer shorter, more concise resumes
Slip Past the Software Bots
Some tips get you further than others. Resumes these days are often read by a machine before a human sees them. These quick and easy-to-do tips can help get your resume past the screening systems. A few simple tweaks can make the difference between getting deleted or getting read.
Here are the best tips and tricks on Job searching and career opportunities to get professional growth
Research websites in your industry, they will most likely be optimized for software crawling. Recent example resumes of upper-management will have been optimized as well, and are a good resource overall on which to model your own resume.
Write a Custom Resume for Every Job
Writing a custom resume for each job takes more effort, but the effort can pay off handsomely, especially when applying for jobs that are a perfect match for your qualifications and experience. The extra time spent is often paid back in the form of interviews.
- Review Examples of Each Part of a Resume
- How to Write a One-Page Resume
- Targeted Resume Writing and Samples
- Track Your Work so Resume Updates Are Easy
Send Resumes Properly and With the Correct Attachments
When sending an email resume, follow the employer’s instructions on how to submit your CV. The employer may want your resume attached to the email message and sent in a specific format, typically as a Word document or a PDF. Always follow what the employer specifies.
- How to Email a Resume
Send your attachments correctly and include all the information they require. At the bottom, let the recipient know how to contact you.
Think of a resume as a digital first impression. It’s the first view of you that a potential employer will see. Just like first impressions, you only get one chance to make an impact. Does your resume give the right impression? There are 5 things you can do to make your resume stand out, and entice the hiring manager to call you in for an interview.
The more detailed you can make your resume the better. Don’t just write what you’ve done, write about how you did it. Simply listing your job responsibilities won’t make you stand out from the crowd. Your resume isn’t the place to be modest. If you feel like you’re bragging, you’re probably on the right track. When in doubt, have a friend read through it and ask about their first reaction.
Highlight your most relevant experience first.
When you’re listing your job responsibilities, write about your most relevant experience first. Think about which parts of your current job are most transferable to the position you’re applying for, and prioritize them on your resume. Your first two bullet points or first two lines in a paragraph should highlight your biggest accomplishments. A good rule of thumb is to use a statistic in your first bullet point and describe a soft skill such as communication in the second. This way, if those are the only two points that get read, they’ll showcase what you can do.
Use statistics whenever possible.
Talk about the results you’ve achieved using statistics. Statistics are powerful and they stand out. With the average recruiter or hiring manager spending less than 30 seconds scanning a resume, those numbers can really make a difference. Writing that you increased sales doesn’t tell the person reading your resume anything about you, but writing that you increased sales by 35% by training your staff to be better communicators speaks to your abilities.
Make friends with the thesaurus.
You want to be as descriptive as possible, but a resume can get repetitive very quickly. The thesaurus will help you avoid writing ‘managed’ a dozen times and use descriptive words that have greater impact. It helps you transform ‘Responsible for managing a team of 10 salespeople.’ into ‘Oversaw a team of 10 salespeople to ensure they met daily sales quotas.’ Be careful to avoid overused buzzwords, and replace passive words with ones that speak to actions.
After you’ve made your final edits, go back and proofread your entire resume to ensure it’s free from typos and grammatical errors. Do this in two parts – first run a spell check, and second read it out loud. You can’t rely entirely on spell check because that only finds mistakes and grammatical errors. It won’t pick up typos like writing ‘a’ instead of ‘an’. Reading aloud forces you to slow down and go through it word for word rather than just skimming to ensure that you catch these kind of typos.
Once your resume is ready to go, pair it with a well-written cover letter. The combination of a strong resume and a strong cover letter will greatly increase your chances of landing an interview.