Forget résumé templates: These 7 hacks will get you the job and salary you deserve

ByNatasha Noman and Kathleen Wong

Let's face it — most people's résumés kind of suck.

More than half of hiring managers say résumés tend to be low on information, which means they aren't really fulfilling their purpose: A great résumé should be packed with details that sell you as a job candidate in one glance.

In fact, making over your résumé could do more than just increase your odds of a job offer.

Play your cards right, and the way you portray yourself could also improve your shot at negotiating a higher starting salary. At least one state has already made it easier for job switchers to get pay bumps: In Massachusetts, employers are no longer allowed to ask you what you made in your previous position (great news for women, in particular).

Whether you end up sharing prior pay with a prospective boss or not, a well-tailored résumé can speak volumes about your worth, said Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume.

"Your résumé is one of the first touch points you'll have with a prospective employer," she said. "Make sure it's sending the right message." 

So take a hard look. Before you ever get to the pay negotiation phase, you'll need a foot in the door — and a résumé that exudes value. Elevate yours above the rest with these seven key fixes.


Jazz up your language with exact words from the job description ...

Never, ever use just one blanket résumé for every job you apply to. 

Sure, you can have a general template to work off, but each time you apply to a new position, you need to revamp your wording to match up with the specific job listing to which you're applying.

This fix can be simple. For example, if the job description uses a term like "fast-paced," go through your work history and find a position that could accurately be described as fast-paced — and then include that exact term.

"You should absolutely adapt your resume for each job you're applying to," Jenna Mucha, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's Talent Community Manager, told Huffington Post. "Review the job description and incorporate keywords directly from it."

Having the right keywords is crucial because many competitive jobs use algorithms to screen applications for certain skills and kinds of work experience. If you're not using the correct language, your résumé might never be read at all.

... but cut out any jargon.

One study found recruiters can spend as little as six seconds looking at each résumé that crosses their desk, and most hiring managers readily admit they spend five minutes or less reviewing your career history.

That's why it's crucial that your résumé be incredibly easy to read, both in terms of visual formatting and language.

"Be sure the content is on a level any high school senior could understand," career expert Kerry Hannon wrote for Forbes.

Rather than making you sound smarter, jargon can actually get in your way, since you never know how much industry experience the person reading will have.

"The person looking at your résumé should be able to easily understand exactly who you have worked for and what that company does," Hannon adds. "Just because you know the company or it's a big name ... doesn't mean everyone is familiar with what your specific division does."

Fire your font.

It turns out that everyone's favorite fallback font — Times New Roman — sends the wrong message.

Experts say it communicates a lack of thoughtfulness, since it's the most common default typeface.

Now, this doesn't mean you should be switching to Comic Sans. Instead, consider fonts that are similarly professional, but that might pop a bit more: Helvetica, Garamond, and Proxima Nova are all good alternatives.

And while you're fixing your typeface, consider other key formatting changes: Break up dense blocks of text and stick with reverse chronological order (more recent jobs should be listed first).

One smart rule of thumb from Mic's in-house HR experts? Limit yourself to black type on white paper — which is safe and classic — or two other colors. Three or more shades, and you might not be taken seriously.

If you don't know any grammar nerds, hire one for cheap.

According to a recent CareerBuilder study, 58% of employers say typos are the top mistake that would lead them to automatically discard a résumé. 

Don't become a victim of klutzy typing. 

Have a friend who is smart and attentive to detail review your résumé with a fine-toothed comb. And if you don't know anyone particularly trustworthy? Consider hiring a copy editor. Marketplaces like Fiverr have copy editors with rates as low as $5 per thousand words to help you catch those errant commas and dangling participles.

A typo-free résumé is non-negotiable; take the extra time to clean up your writing.

Axe the "objective statement" — unless you're changing careers

There's really no reason to include an objective statement along the top of your résumé, and in some cases it could actually harm you. 

"The top of your resume is prime real estate, so you don't squander it by using vague filler material," Lily Zhang, a Massachusetts Institute for Technology career development specialist, wrote for the Muse.

There's only "one occasion when your resume should, in fact, return to the objective statement: when you're making a huge career change," she said. 

Career switchers should be sure to use the space to highlight specific qualifications, as opposed to an entire life story. And if that's not you, skip this option and get straight to the point with your relevant experience.

Bold the most important words.

Let your story jump out of the page, so that someone who's scanning your résumé in 6 to 10 seconds can get the big picture

"It's not just what you say but how few words you use to say it," résumé writer Jessica Hernandez explained in an article for LinkedIn. "Create brief sentences that communicate key accomplishments, your branding statement, and critical information you don't want the employer to miss."

Run your rezzie through a solid BS detector.

By all means, get creative with the language in your résumé. Job descriptions should highlight your most impressive accomplishments first — and every sentence in your "experience" sections should lead with vivid, powerful, active verbs.

But do not get creative with the truth.

About 56% of hiring managers have caught a job applicant lying on his or her résumé, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey.

Missteps might not be intentional: Sometimes several rounds of edits can result in a résumé that just doesn't describe you accurately anymore.

To make sure you're not tossed out along with real fibbers, have a skeptical reader go through your résumé to check statements that seem to stretch the truth. A good heuristic? If you're embarrassed to share an overly highfalutin résumé with a friend, you probably need to reel in your language.

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