Resume writing comes with quite a bit of pressure. It’s basically a one-page audition without being able to call upon dance moves or a wide vocal range to impress recruiters. And instead of having the judge’s undivided attention for an entire song, you have about six seconds to woo them with words on a page. That’s how long — or little — it takes for hiring managers to decide if you’re a fit for the position, according to LinkedIn. When you're applying for your dream job, reading all the resume tips that could save you from the reject file is only common sense.
You're likely used to jamming in as many points as possible, downplaying achievements, and using a standard template so as not to stand out for the wrong reasons. But those mistakes are precisely what's landing you in the slush pile. Here's how to make sure your resume actually lands you that interview.
In general, your resume should stick to a set order, according to Glassdoor:
· Header and contact information: List your name, professional title, phone number, email and home address.
· Professional summary: Include a brief tagline introducing your qualifications and objectives. Life hack: Use or modify your existing LinkedIn professional summary — they serve a similar purpose.
· Awards: Include any accolades you’ve received that speak to the job position (no, talent show contest winner in high school doesn’t count).
· Work experience: In descending order, list relevant positions you’ve held, including dates.
· Skills: Include your most relevant skills for the position, ensuring to use similar language listed on the job posting. (Hint: Many major organizations use applicant tracking systems to help filter out and disqualify a handful of applicants. Using their keywords is one way to help get your resume into human hands).
· Education: Include college degrees and relevant certifications.
And though it might sound counterintuitive, the fewer words on the page, the better, according to Angela Aylward, a resume expert and tutor with Varsity Tutors. The most common error Aylward sees are blocks of text. “Resumes are short documents [...] so you can’t afford to hide your best qualities,” she said. “So many people hide their assets and achievements in job descriptions and bullet points that are several lines long apiece.”
Break it up with shorter bullet points starting with numbers. For example, your work experience might read as:
· 10 years customer service
· 5 years office management
Use that same brevity strategy to organize the rest of your resume.
Brag your bylines (or awards)
Many of us shyly list our achievements towards the end, but they belong way up top, before work history/experience, according to Aylward. Awards and improvement statistics all count, she said. For example:
· Increased sales 20 percent over two quarters
· Decreased outstanding end of month invoices by 90 percent over two months
You have lots to gain by displaying your achievements front and center. A recent study from CareerBuilder.com found that recruiters receive an average of 75 resumes per job posting. That’s pretty stiff competition. You can’t afford to be shy, vague, or undermine your accomplishments. The squeaky wheel gets the grease — and the job.
Get creative — but not too creative
The least you could do is make the recruiter’s job feel a little less mundane. “Though a resume is a formal document, it shouldn’t be anonymous or generic. it should have a unique style to showcase that you’re a unique candidate,” said Aylward.
Stand out with customized borders, fonts, and color schemes. Resume templates available on Word or Google Docs are a great place to start if you’re not particularly design-oriented. But do make an effort to customize it at least slightly — it won’t exactly work in your favor if a recruiter could have sworn they had just seen the exact same layout, font, and design three resumes ago. When mixing it up, avoid tiny or overly large fonts, and stay away from light or neon colors. Send it off in a PDF document to ensure it retains its format.
Hire an editor
If this all sounds a little overwhelming, fear not. There’s an app — er, professional for that. No matter the stage of your career, editors are a great resource to help you look at your resume with an objective eye. They’re especially handy if you need to overhaul the design, condense your work experience into one page (the golden standard!), update your work experience, or get back in the game after a long time out of work. Plus, they’re in tune with recruiters’ expectations and how formatting preferences change over time. “The job market is very different now than it was even five years ago,” said Aylward.” In fact, a recent study conducted by TopResume found that those who hire a professional to help design their resume were 32 percent more likely to get a job. Additionally, recruiters felt more confident presenting professionally written resumes to hiring managers and clients.
If you’re ready to take the leap, there are several databases with resume editors on offer, like Fiverr, Craft Resumes, Resume Genius and Adzuna’s ValueMyResume tool. To prepare for your initial consultation, give your resume as it stands a thorough once-over, even if it’s a rough outline. Aylward suggested changing up the font and reading it from the bottom to top, which forces your brain to pay closer attention in order to catch any errors or word repetition. This way, your editor has accurate information to work with.
“If you have an idea of what positions you’re looking for, let your resume editor know,” said Aylward. “If you can, provide the job title, industry, or job listings you’re interested in to help them decide on the best design, language, and skills to highlight.”
Ready? You got this.