Job opportunities come and go. The funny thing is that they usually come at times when you expect it the least. And when your resume isn’t… in the best shape you are told to send it ASAP!
It doesn’t really matter if you are an active job seeker or currently employed professional looking for a new opportunity. When it comes to new career challenges, it often boils down to how convincing your resume story is.
So the question is how do you make your resume great again? Your main marketing document is what can make a difference between you and the other candidates after all.
Skimmable Resume Format
If you are thinking that recruiters and hiring managers will read every single word on your resume then you can’t be further from the truth.
In fact, during the first evaluation they spend seconds to skim through the things on a resume to understand whether a particular candidate deserves a closer look. With such limited time, your resume has to attract employers’ attention, you can’t afford to list your credentials in a way that you like.
Resume writing isn’t about you after all. It is about what prospective employers need and how you can address those needs. It may sound weird but your resume format can make a difference between a lifetime interview opportunity and being disregarded.
Make your resume easier to skim. Don’t write long paragraphs (3 or 4 lines at most). Make use of bullet lists – they really help to make a document skimmable. Also, add some white space both between the paragraphs and resume sections. Don’t forget to use headings and subheadings to structure information and help employers navigate through your resume.
If you updated your resume 5 years ago or even longer, there is a good chance you still have an objective statement on the document. Get rid of it. In most cases, resume objectives bring no value to prospective employers whatsoever. In other words, they say nothing to the decision makers. The fact that you are seeking a challenging role with a reputable company is awesome but why would HRs care? The truth of the matter is that they don’t.
Instead, create a bulleted summary list and place it at the beginning of your resume.
It should be focused completely on what you can offer as opposed to what you want. Showcase your value proposition. List those skills that will be relevant for the target audience (study the job ad carefully). In other words, make it all about how you can practically make a difference for your prospective employer. It is best to write it last.
When you are done tweaking your document for the specific job opening and have familiarized yourself with what the employer needs, it will be much easier to develop a strong summary section. Since for employers a summary section is enough to either proceed reading or discard a resume, you might want to make sure it aligns well with the entire document.
When it comes to resume writing, size does matter. Because on average it takes 6 seconds for hiring managers to review your resume and decide whether it deserves a closer look, the length of your resume is critical. With too many unnecessary details you have a good chance that employers will miss something important stumbling upon something that has no big value.
On the other hand, if you cut it too short (just for the sake of keeping everything on one page for example), you may end up leaving out information that might make a difference in the eyes of prospective employers.
There is no single rule for resume length. “How long should a resume be?“ is a question to be answered individually. It used to be that one-page resumes were highly preferable by decision makers. However, that is not so today.
Therefore, depending on your experience and skill set, you should choose the perfect length for your document on your own:
- If you have less than 7 years of work experience, it is likely you can easily fit the most important information on one page.
- For those job seekers, who have 7+ years of experience, a two-page resume format should be just fine.
- C-level executives with 15+ years of experience can sometimes extend their resume to three pages.
More and more companies use applicant tracking software (ATS).
This means that writing a resume without considering industry and position specific keywords is similar to fishing with nothing but bare hands.
Hiring managers use ATS to select only those candidates with relevant industry expertise and skills. Usually, before a resume is sent to the computer of decision makers, it is scanned and analyzed by these applicant tracking systems. Even if you are a great candidate but your main marketing document contains very little to no critical keywords, it is not even going to be reviewed by humans.
That said, you have to research the keywords that are relevant to your industry as well as the position you are applying for. Because ATS wants specific keywords you have to be careful when choosing which terms to integrate into the content of your resume. These systems primarily focus on hard skills so prioritizing them may earn you some extra points.
If you are not sure about your resume keywords, try online resume optimization tools. It helps job seekers compare their resumes against job descriptions in order to identify missing keywords.
While the resume remains to be the most powerful marketing tool, it shouldn’t be the only one. We live in a digital world where people spend their lives online: they sell, buy, play, interact, and have fun there.
Limiting yourself to just one resume isn’t the smartest move job seekers can make today. There are plenty of other opportunities to say you are the right fit.
For example, LinkedIn is becoming an essential recruiters’ tool. If you don’t have a profile there, you must set one up. Make sure your profile tells a convincing story though before you share it with prospective employers.
Additionally, it may be a good idea to create an online portfolio of your works. It can significantly make a difference between you and the competition.
Lastly, turn your entire resume into a website. In fact, it can be both your portfolio and resume depending on how you want to organize it. Just don’t forget to include all of the links on your main resume version.
If you need to update your resume and send it to a potential employer asap, then make sure your resume
- is easy to read/skim
- contains your value proposition at the very beginning
- is not too long and is not too short
- has industry and job-specific keywords
- contains links to your LinkedIn profile/portfolio/website
There’s always a huge temptation to update your resume by simply adding new information.
However, simply adding new content won’t make it great again. Things that have worked in the past don’t work today. Because the jobs market is extremely competitive, job seekers need to be wise when presenting their career story on a document.
For more insight, you check multiple resume critique examples (there are tons of them online) to see what kind of mistakes job seekers usually make when writing or editing their resumes.