4 Tips for Improving Your Resume
Whether you’re entering the workforce for the first time, coming back after a long break, or looking for a career change, searching for a new job can be a challenging, time-consuming process. It’s stressful even for professionals with years of experience under their belt—after all, there’s a lot at stake, and you’re competing with many other well-qualified candidates.
The job search also demands lots of time and effort. From scouring job boards and networking to sending cover letters and preparing for interviews, finding the right opportunity requires that multiple moving parts align. Not all of them are under your control, making it all the more frustrating when you don’t see the results you expect.
There are some elements of the job search you can’t do anything about, so you should focus on those you can influence. There are a few things you can do to improve your chances of getting a job, and among the most important ones is making sure your resume grabs the employer’s attention and gets you invited for an interview.
Hiring managers sift through dozens or even hundreds of resumes for each position, and if you don’t impress them right off the bat, they won’t give you another chance. Your resume is your calling card and usually the first thing a recruiting manager will see, so make sure it highlights your greatest achievements and most marketable skills to help you stand out from the crowd. That said, creating an impressive resume isn’t as simple as it sounds, is it?
If the thought of putting together your first-ever resume or digging out and updating the last one is giving you anxiety, contact our experts for a resume overhaul. Our service includes optimizing your resume for hiring managers and applicant tracking systems (ATSs). Plus, you won’t have to struggle with formatting tools to get the layout right. Of course, you shouldn’t simply submit the resume we send back for every position you’re interested in—you should always tailor it (as well as your cover letter) to the individual job. However, you can save tons of time with our tailored template, making a few tweaks as required.
Let’s now see what you can do to improve your resume.
1. Don’t lie on your resume
Some people might think that embellishing their job history and filling in the gaps with some fake credentials will get them a better position, but it’s always best to stick to the truth. Down the line, your lie will either be discovered or perpetuated, and neither scenario bodes well for you. Therefore, be honest about who you are and what you’re good at. If you get the job but lied about your skills, for example, your new employer may assign you duties you can’t handle, and you’ll end up in a precarious situation when you can’t live up to the expectations you’ve created.
If you lie on your resume and are invited for an interview, you’ll have to back up your claims. For instance, you may have said you’re a good leader, so you should be ready to share an example or two of your leadership helping resolve an issue or gaining you recognition. Yes, you could make up stories about your fictional leadership abilities, but you’re just digging yourself into a deeper hole that you won’t be able to climb out of if you’re hired. In the event that you’re exposed as a liar, word may spread, and you’ll find yourself with a tainted reputation. So, don’t make any claims you can’t back up.
2. Match your skills to the job
You only have a few seconds to convince the person or AI system scanning your resume that you’re qualified for the job, which is why it’s crucial to customize your resume for each position you apply for rather than dispatch a generic document crammed with information about every single job you’ve ever had.
In particular, it’s essential to incorporate the specific keywords for each position because ATSs typically work by scanning resumes and cover letters for predefined keywords—if the machines don’t find them, they discard the application. Even if it’s a human recruiter skimming your resume, unless they see you’ve used the keywords from the job listing, they’ll decide you lack attention to detail.
It should be clear at a glance that you possess the necessary skills and experience to meet the employer’s needs, so make sure you highlight the qualifications they want from a candidate and don’t waste space on irrelevant skills. Position your most relevant skills front and center, striking a balance between those the employer values the most and those you consider your best.
Focus on keywords that will stand out and match your skills to the job, and remember to emphasize your achievements rather than your responsibilities when you’re listing your job history. In other words, instead of explaining what you did on a day-to-day basis, mention the results you got. Also, incorporate as many numbers, stats, and percentages as possible since this enhances your credibility—just be careful not to accidentally reveal another company’s confidential information.
3. State your objectives and be specific
Most recruiters will look for your professional statement or summary to get a quick glimpse of who you are, what you do, and what you’re searching for, so give them an impactful sentence or two noting your position, experience, and your goals. Are you a recent graduate looking to launch your career or an experienced professional who wants a change? This is your chance to tell them why you’re the candidate they’re looking for, so put some thought into it and customize it for the specific role, not only to pique their interest but also to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
In many ways, your professional summary is the single most important section of your resume, and if the hiring manager isn’t impressed by it, they’re not likely to read the rest of the document. So, even though it’s just a couple of sentences, do take your time to craft the best professional summary you can. Write multiple versions and ask friends, family, or our job success experts for their input—it’s worth the extra effort.
State who you are (for example, a web developer with over five years of experience), get specific about what you do (successfully built over 100 websites, mostly for restaurants), and note what you’re good at (driving their page visits up by 20% within the first three months). Remember: You want to be able to back up your claims, so include numbers to give your experience more weight. Concrete figures also give the hiring manager a clearer idea of how exactly you can contribute to their company.
4. Keep it short
Recruiters don’t want to dig through countless multi-page resumes, and they typically won’t—they’ll just toss them aside and move along. This is why you should aim to keep your resume short. What’s short, you wonder? That would be a single page. Yes, that’s not enough space to list that high school summer job where you scooped ice cream at the mall, but here’s the thing: Unless it’s relevant to the position you’re currently applying for, leave it out. If you have enough relevant experience under your belt, the hiring manager wouldn’t care a fig about the jobs you did as an adolescent.
The extremely limited space you have means that you need to be very picky about the work experience you include, your job descriptions, and the personal details you share. Don’t forget that your resume is only meant to get you through the door—you seal the deal during the interview, where you can expand on your experience and get more personal. There’s no space for that in your resume, so stick to the basics, highlighting your best attributes and selling yourself to the hiring manager. Think about the information that best argues your case and include that.
You want your resume to impress whoever is reading it and positively (and accurately) reflect who you are as a person and as an employee, so don’t rush the process—be patient and consistent. Importantly, proofread your resume before sending it out. Typos and messy formatting are not a good look, and they can get your application tossed into the reject pile before the recruiter even gets a chance to see what a great candidate you are. This applies even if excellent grammar is entirely irrelevant to the role—it’s a matter of professionalism and attention to detail. Given that hiring managers are usually swamped with applications, they’ll use any reason to justify shrinking the candidate pool.
If you’re not sure about keywords, formatting, or the best way to match your qualifications to a specific role, check out our resume overhaul services and let one of our job success experts help make your resume shine. You’ll still have to tweak it for each individual position, but it will be a lot easier when you have a strong foundation to build upon.