Having an impactful résumé will help differentiate you from other candidates. A powerful résumé sells your skills, accomplishments, and professional traits; and establishes the match between you and the job opportunity.
Incorporating the following ten tips when drafting your resume can help you stand out from the pack.
1) Go deeper than job duties
It’s your responsibility to show evidence of how you have gone above and beyond in the past. Recruiters and hiring managers appreciate achievements supported by hard data. Tell the HR recruiter what you do, then prove to them that you are good at it by listing your accomplishments.
Sold automobile, fire, life, property, medical and dental insurance policies to businesses and individuals.
Brought company from start-up to nearly $3M in premiums in less than ten years.
The before example reads like a job description. Selling insurance policies is the job duty of every insurance agent. The after example gives proof and scope. Dig more deeply into your results. How have you made money, improved a process, or boosted your team’s performance?
2) Nix the objective statement
The objective statement has fallen out of favor with employers. A résumé is not the place to tell an employer what you want, but rather to show how you can benefit the employer. The potential employer wants to know how you will help them solve their problems.
Instead of an objective statement, use an introductory or professional summary section to capture interest and set the tone for those who are making decisions about you. Include your experience, skills, and career accomplishments. You will want to highlight 3-5 of your greatest strengths that correlate with the next job you are seeking.
An introductory section can include any of the following:
- Number of years of experience
- Advanced degree/certification
- Language skills
- Technical skills
- Management style
3) Add a title statement
A title statement is a short statement listing the job you are targeting. Be specific with your résumé title. For example, “Senior Healthcare Sales Representative,” “Property & Casualty Field Claims Professional.”
Why include a title statement and why modify it for each job?
A title statement helps with Applicant Tracking System (ATS) recognition. It’s a significant opportunity to help you identify with the exact position you are applying for. Having the exact keyword on your résumé is especially crucial for new graduates who may never have held the role they are targeting. It’s a bit covert; you’re adding the role (keywords) even though you haven’t held that job – the computer doesn’t know the difference.
A title helps with identification and tracking within the hiring company. In a smaller company where they don’t do much hiring, identification may not be an issue but within a larger company, your information may be distributed to several HR associates and hiring managers.
4) Optimize keywords
Keywords are nouns and phrases that HR Professionals use to search their Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) databases for résumés that match their job requirements. Ninety percent of large companies use applicant tracking systems to search for qualified candidates.
Keywords can include:
Licenses, Certifications, Software Experience, Position Titles, Target Jobs, Industries, Skill Sets, Company/Employer Names, Specific Universities, Degrees, Location: Area Codes, City/State Names, and Soft Skills.
You can find beneficial keywords within job postings, job descriptions, LinkedIn Profiles, and O*NET.
Consider adding skills or competency sections to emphasize the abilities you have gained from your various jobs and volunteer activities that relate to the position you are applying for.
5) Meticulously proofread and edit
Having spelling and grammatical errors on your résumé can be disastrous. Spell check programs will not pick up all errors.
For example, a recent candidate’s résumé inadvertently used the homophone collage (a piece of art made by sticking different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric onto a backing) instead of college (an educational institution). Proofreading your résumé is mandatory.
Have someone unfamiliar with your résumé read it carefully to check the correct use of verb tenses, run-on sentences, appropriate use of punctuation, grammar, capitalization, and homophones.
6) Incorporate attractive formatting and design
Your resume and its appearance is the very first impression that you send. Résumés have come a long way from the tedious business documents of the past. Now they are compelling marketing documents that should showcase your brand, have a straightforward flow, and grab the reader’s attention.
Use a font between 10 – 12 points with larger name and category headers. Include sufficient white space and be consistent when laying out categories.
7) Consider including a showcase section
Statistics show HR and hiring executives generally spend between five and ten seconds when first reviewing a résumé. A showcase section appearing at the top third of your résumé capitalizes on this limited time.
Use this section to boast your most formidable professional selling points – your achievements, expertise, and product knowledge. These powerful elements of your background are what will differentiate you from other candidates.
8) Take out irrelevant or outdated information
Anything not relevant is muddying up your message. Hiring managers and recruiters are busy. If your résumé is not crystal clear on the job you are targeting and your focus, they will place you in a category (which may be incorrect) or worse yet, not know where to place you at all.
Listing 10-15 years of experience is standard for most job seekers. Covering more than 15 years of work experience can give the appearance that you are older than you are and even overqualified. Cut out lengthy descriptions from roles that are over five years ago.
Omit certifications, training classes, and professional affiliations that are no longer relevant. If you held a role briefly that doesn’t fit with your career narrative, consider trimming it to make room for other accomplishments or cutting it out altogether.
9) Make sure your résumé and LinkedIn profile match exactly
Not aligning the information on your résumé and LinkedIn profile can cause HR recruiters and hiring managers to become suspicious. Take the time to ensure the job titles and dates of employment on your résumé and LinkedIn profile match.
10) Right-size your document
The standard rule for the majority of résumés is that they should not be more than two pages long. Correctly written and formatted, most professionals can create an informative and impactful résumé within this two-page standard.
Longer résumés tend to be poorly formatted or become “career narratives” which are laborious to read. One-page résumés can be appropriate for new grads and early-career job seekers.