Given all the new school social media outlets and apps for job searching — LinkedIn, Twitter, Jobr, Emjoyment — to name a few, is there even a need for resumes anymore? While the times certainly are a-changin’ with more creative approaches surfacing, we haven’t seen the end of resumes yet. They remain the centerpiece of most job applications. Until it goes the way of the buffalo, you need to make sure you get your resume right.
Writing a good resume takes practice. Lots and lots of practice, especially as the best resumes vary slightly depending on the skills and responsibilities required for different roles. With some employers receiving hundreds of resumes per opening, you need this one little document to set you apart.
Here are ten tips to help your resume stand out and get past the screening stage:
Always make sure to tailor your resume, including job titles and descriptions, to the job for which you are applying (and apply for jobs that relate to your qualifications). If you have a varied professional background this becomes even more essential so that you highlight the correct experiences. Do your research on the company and the position to ensure that you include the necessary information.
Demonstrate your suitability for the role early and often. If you have space, a brief summary section that includes relevant core skills will grab the reader right away. The list of achievements in your job description should go in descending order from most applicable to least. Pay special attention to the position listing to see which of your prior tasks are most translatable to the job you seek.
3. Show Value
Use your resume and attached cover letter to demonstrate to the reader why you are the best candidate for the position. You want to be accurate, but also forceful in selling your experience, skills, and drive. Always put yourself in the perspective of the employer and be sure your resume responds to the listed job requirements.
4. Key Words
Incorporate key words about the job or employer into your resume and letter to convey your knowledge of the position, the employer, and the industry. The closer to the top you include these terms, the sooner you will command the reader’s attention. Use language from the job description as well as general research from networking, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, etc. See how others in similar positions describe their work.
5. Be Specific
Clearly define the scope and scale of your work for the reader. Use percentages, dollar amounts and numbers when appropriate (e.g., generated over $500,000 in new accounts through…). Quantifying your results allows the employer to see the value you brought to your previous employers and, accordingly, could bring to it.
6. Get Experience
If you don’t have the appropriate background for the jobs you are seeking, then go out and develop it! You can start by doing an internship or volunteer in order to gain the necessary practice and boost your qualifications. Also look for consulting opportunities to help you fill a gap in your experience.
7. Name Drop
Finding a contact at a company who can internally refer you and bypass the application process is the best way of ensuring your resume will be read. If a contact suggested that you apply for a job, refer to this person in the first line of your cover letter (e.g., [X] encouraged me to apply…). Also, find out the name of the hiring person (use LinkedIn, company website or call employer directly) for the position and address your materials to her/him.
8. Maximize Real Estate
In each description include a topic sentence that gives the gist of your role and outline the specific responsibilities and accomplishments with bullets below. You can ditch the unimpressive skills section, references, and any other extraneous information that does not directly speak to this particular role. In general, err on the side of keeping the resume to one page unless you have enough pertinent information to warrant another page.
Make sure that the formatting is consistent throughout (e.g., if writing Washington, DC in one place, do not then write Washington, D.C. in another). You may want to up your style game and go for a fresh-looking font, but don’t use too many as this can be distraction. And don’t indent the first sentence of every paragraph. These nitpicky errors are especially easy to miss after a resume has been revised a few times.
Have another person or, even better, two other people, proofread your materials for errors and visual appeal — if you know any English teachers, editors or copywriters, reach out to them first for an extra set of eyes. Many hiring managers will immediately toss a resume upon catching even the slightest mistake. You can’t get that first impression back so make yours a good one!