Let’s face it: No one likes to work on their resume. Although I write resumes every day as a recruiter, I’m the worst when it comes to updating my own. I struggle to articulate what I’ve done in past jobs, what I’ve accomplished and worst of all – that dreaded professional summary explaining exactly how I qualify for the job. It’s tough. However, it’s such a critical component to a job search that it has to be done – and, done well.
Although the employment situation in the U.S. is stabilizing, competition is fierce in some sectors. Candidates that have not updated a resume in a while feel like they are applying for more jobs just to get an interview. “It’s like a black hole.” “I never heard back from the recruiter.” “I keep applying, but never get an interview.” These are common phrases I hear from job seekers, most of whom are highly qualified for the jobs for which they are applying.
In order to secure an interview and have the opportunity to land a new role, a solid resume is more important than ever. Below are three helpful resume tips that have the potential to increase the likelihood of getting an interview:
The summary is the single most important component of your resume in the job search. In most cases, it has replaced the cover letter in order to explain who you are and how you meet the job qualifications. This single paragraph is your opportunity to “sell” yourself.
The summary paragraph should be 3-5 sentences and can be somewhat formulaic. When I re-write a resume, I highlight the candidate's years of experience, related certifications, industry experience and most significant roles. I then give 1-2 specific examples of how they meet the qualifications. For example, if the job is for a Senior Project Manager leading web development projects, I might write: “Has five years’ experience leading web portal and web development projects for Company 1, Company 2 and Company 3 in Agile/SCRUM environments.”
Next, I highlight relevant tools: MS Project, Project Server, Visio, etc. By the time I’m done, the hiring manager should be able to take the job requirements and my candidate’s resume and do a side-by-side comparison to evaluate whether the candidate is a fit.
I see resumes that are extremely well written but their content is completely lost because the format is not appealing. One of my first jobs out of college was a copywriter in an advertising agency. I would write what I thought was spot-on copy, but then when our graphic designer placed it into the ad, I’d often see how the message was lost because of how it looked within the artwork. We live in a highly visual world driven by mobile apps, gaming and Skype conversations. How a resume looks is as important as what it says.
Here are some tips on formatting content in a visually appealing way:
- Use bulleted lists for each job, including responsibilities and accomplishments.
- Keep it to 1-2 sentences per bullet.
- Let your resume breathe! I meet professionals with 20 years' experience worried that a two-page resume is too long because that’s what they learned in college. An acceptable length is 3-5 pages. As I would tell that 20-year pro, you earned the extra length!
- Use bold and underlining to define resume sections.
- Use a standard format like Arial or Times New Roman. It translates best in Application Tracking Systems (ATS) used by most companies.
- Resist the urge to add graphics.
- Don’t use tables or other MS Word formatting that will get jumbled in an ATS.
- If you think of your resume as am advertising billboard, ask yourself or someone you know if your resume says “read me.”
If you have ever Googled anything ever, you know what I mean by the importance of “keywords.” Whereas a Google search is based on keywords within a website’s content, a resume search is based on keywords within your resume document. A majority of jobs you apply to will go into some type of ATS or similar database; your objective is for your resume to rise to the top of the search. The way to do that is by making your resume keyword “rich.” How can you identify keywords? Easy – your keywords are all contained in the job description, specifically, in the qualifications section.
Using the same example as above, if I am searching for a Senior Project Manager who has led web development projects, my search would include the keywords “Project Manager,” “Scrum Master,” “web portal,” “e-commerce,” “application development,” “SDLC”’ and possibly, “Agile” and “Scrum.” If your resume contains the most amounts of those keywords, it would likely rise to the top of my search. Based on your resume content, my search tells me you most closely match the job I’m filling.
I suggest to Project Managers that they list common tools like MS Project for each role where they have used it instead of just listing it once in their “tools/technology” section.
Use common language – if job ad uses “SDLC” and your resume uses “development,” it may not be picked up in a resume search. Having a keyword-rich resume will increase your chances of having your resume seen by a recruiter or hiring manager.
With the job market improving, it is a good time to get out there and find your next great job! Don’t let tackling your resume be the hurdle to making your move. I hope you find these tips helpful in your next job search.