From ‘Meh’ to ‘Wow’: 11 Tips to Take Your Résumé a Notch Higher
There is no right or wrong way to write a résumé. But there is definitely a way to write one that gets the attention of recruiters and hiring managers—and increases your chance of landing an interview. Oftentimes this short piece of document is the one that separates you from a fulfilling job. If written properly, however, a résumé could be your bridge to your dream career. In this article, Kalibrr, a tech start-up providing end-to-end recruitment solutions, puts together a list of useful tips for a better, attention-grabbing résumé.
1. Ask Yourself, If I Were a Recruiter, Would I Read This Résumé?
Before you hit that send button, ask yourself first: “Would I hire this person?” If the answer is not a resounding “yes,” then it is better to put your application on hold for the time being and thoroughly review—and revise if necessary—your résumé. Remember, there are probably hundreds of other applicants vying for the same job and the way to stand out among them is to turn in a résumé that is nothing short of spectacular.
2. Out with the Objective, in with the Summary
According to career coach Lynn Carroll, a summary, as opposed to an objective, is a more appropriate and useful addition to any résumé. She says the objective tells the recruiter what the jobseeker is looking to find in a company or position, which is something that many hiring managers see as outdated. Carroll says that the summary is considered more current and a better way to describe what the jobseeker can potentially offer the company he or she is applying to. To write a résumé summary, Carroll recommends writing a full paragraph at first, and then gradually reducing it to two or three sentences.
3. Brevity Is a Virtue
Keeping your résumé short and concise is the way to go, said multigenerational workplace expert Lindsey Pollak. In her blog, she wrote that she’s seen senior executives with one-page résumés, so there is not any reason why a recent grad’s résumé needs more than that. “Your résumé is a marketing tool and not a transcript or a laundry list of everything you’ve ever done. By keeping your résumé short and sweet, you’re demonstrating that you can edit yourself and sell yourself clearly and concisely, which are both important skills in the professional world.”
4. Don’t Forget Keywords
Keywords are often overlooked by jobseekers, but they are extremely important especially now in the advent of applicant tracking systems (ATS), a type of software that companies use to electronically sift through job hundreds of applications. If your résumé does not contain the right keywords highlighted in the job description, then it is very unlikely that your résumé will be identified as a high-quality applicant by a computer software.
To increase your chance of landing an interview, try to incorporate as many relevant keywords to your résumé. These keywords should describe your skills, competencies related to the job posting, relevant credentials, and previous positions and employers.
5. Be Clear and Effective
Even well-written résumés will not get a thorough reading the first time, so it is safe to assume that a bad one will not even get 5 seconds. Hence, if your résumé is hard to read, poorly organized, and exceeds two pages, then you are not making the recruiter’s job any easier. Use a clean format with wide margins, clean type and clear headings; selectively apply bold and italic typeface that help guide the reader’s eye; and use bullets to call attention to important points.
6. Watch Your Tone
Although there is no one correct tone to use in a résumé, jobseekers are advised to adapt their résumé depending on which company they are applying to. According to Carroll, applying to a Fortune 500 may mean employing a more traditional, formal tone compared to applying for a tech startup or a creatives agency. The same goes for adding personal details, says John Lees, a UK-based career strategist and author of Knockout CV: “If you’re applying for a job at a more informal company that emphasizes the importance of work–life balance, you might include a line about your hobbies and interests. For a more formal, buttoned-up place, you’ll probably want to take out anything personal.”
7. Be a Red in a Field of Yellows
In today’s cutthroat job market, it is easy for your résumé to get buried in an ocean of profiles. This is especially true for popular positions that attract hundreds of candidates. Hence, in order to be noticed, be the red balloon in the field of yellow ones. One way to do this is to give the recruiter or hiring manager something to be excited about, which means going beyond simply stating that you spent an X amount of years in Y company. Dig a bit deeper and see what else you can add, like a strategic partnership you brokered for your old job, or a workflow structure or process you devised that boosted productivity.
8. Write a Custom Résumé for Every Job Application
Although this is tedious and time-consuming, writing a custom résumé for every job application is worth the effort because it makes the job of the recruiter or hiring manager easier—and your chances of landing an interview higher. In addition, it will not distract them from details that are not relevant to the job on offer. To do this, you may start with a master file that includes all of your work experience, skills, and certifications, then make a copy and adjust it depending on either the role of the job or the company. Adjust the wordings so that parts of your work experience that align with the job opening will be highlighted.
9. Find a Balance
It makes sense to use a mix of paragraphs and bullets throughout the résumé body to give the eye some variety, and this same principle goes for the actual content. Technical and expert-level skills should, of course, get major billing, but make sure to add certain soft skills especially those that signal leadership, negotiating, and communication skills. However, jobseekers are advised to be selective, says Debra Wheatman of Careers Done Write. “Avoid being overly fluffy,” she says. At the end of the day, recruiters are still looking for concrete skills and if they’re filling an engineering position, they probably will not care how “outgoing” the candidate is, she says.
10. Enumerate Accomplishments, Not Responsibilities
It is easy to fall trap to the temptation to stuffing your résumé with “responsibilities.” As employers care far more about your successes, be specific and provide relevant statistics or data. This includes data on revenue and client growth, in addition to budget savings and number of strategic partnerships closed. If you do not have numbers-driven examples, look at your skills section and find ways to validate section. Were you regularly asked to speak at public events? Then you may have opened doors for your company to close more deals through these events. Are you a market expert? If yes, then you may have facilitated trainings for your business development team that made them more equipped at talking and presenting to clients.
11. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Lastly, make sure that your résumé is free from spelling and grammatical errors. Common mistakes include not knowing the difference between “their,” “they’re,” and “there.” You may use your word processor’s spell-check function, but do not over-rely on it. One effective way to spot errors is to step away from your résumé for a while and return when your eyes are refreshed and rested. You may also ask someone to make a final review of this document before you hit “send.”
Even if you are currently employed and not planning to switch jobs anytime soon, it is still sensible to keep your résumé updated. A good rule to follow is to revisit and update it periodically, so when a headhunter suddenly reaches out to you for an exciting opportunity, your résumé is good and ready to do the walk for you.