Resumes 101: The Simpler, The Better

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Improve Your Resume or CV

You may have heard that it's important to make your resume stand out. That’s certainly true—hiring managers deal with a deluge of job applications, and you have to prove why you’re the best applicant of all. However, you don't need any bells and whistles to accomplish that goal. 

Colored paper, fancy fonts, or unusual formatting may draw attention to your resume but not in a good way. Not only will all the extras make the document hard for a hiring manager to read, but your resume may not even reach their desk if an applicant tracking system (ATS) blocks it because of all the frills. 

Instead of trying to impress recruiters with the creative liberties you take, use the content of your resume to set yourself apart from your competitors. Go with a simple layout. Follow the tips below to craft a compelling resume that will increase your chances of getting a hiring manager's attention and, in turn, the interview you're seeking. If you need help, check out our professional resume services.

Keep up with the times

It's important to note that you rarely need to worry about picking out the right paper for your resume since you'll most likely submit it electronically. Any large or medium-sized company nowadays will allow—or even require—you to hand in your resume online, so choosing the right file type is much more important than the right paper. 

You want a format that most systems can handle, such as Microsoft Word’s .docx or .doc. PDF files are readable by most systems, but the ATSs that most companies use today may have trouble deciphering them, so PDFs aren’t recommended. The best file type for these programs is .txt, but it makes for a less attractive resume for the hiring manager. Thus, the golden mean is .docx or .doc.

If a company does request a hard copy of your resume, choose a professional white paper, easy-to-scan formatting, and a simple font.

Know the power of ATSs

To manage the overwhelming stream of job applications they receive, larger companies tend to use ATSs to filter the most relevant candidates. These programs generally work by scanning the text of a resume for specific keywords—the more, the better. 

Therefore, you have to tailor your resume with keywords that will help set you apart from other candidates. Use keywords in the job description that also apply to your specific skills and experience. This will help the ATS filter your resume from the hundreds of others, increasing your chances of being considered for the job.

Highlight your unique skills and higher education

If you have an advanced degree, such as a JD, MBA, or other higher education achievements that would be useful in a new job, include the acronyms at the top of the resume, right after your name. This positioning ensures recruiters will easily see your advanced credentials and know what you have to offer right away. If you don’t list them immediately, a hiring manager may never see them at all since they decide whether to read a resume within a few seconds of glancing at the thing.

Also, make sure to include anything that can show a recruiter how you can help their company grow. Be specific when you share what you've accomplished in previous jobs. For example, highlight how you led a team of 10 employees to exceed their annual target by 20%. Accomplishments are vital because they serve to prove the skills you’ve listed and give the hiring manager concrete examples of your value.

Include a career summary

Highlight your best qualifications and skills in one or two sentences at the top of your resume. Make it easy for the recruiter to know what you bring to the table. Many hiring managers use the career summary to determine whether it’s worth reading the rest of the resume, so draft it with care. This is also another opportunity to use keywords to help the ATS filter your resume.

At the end of the day, it truly isn’t about a pretty or fancy document. It's about your skills, experience, accomplishments, and the reasons a company should hire you. Always share how you can help meet or exceed their expectations and back it up with examples from your previous positions. Set yourself apart with the content of your resume, not its appearance.

Given that hiring managers have to sift through piles of resumes, don't give them a reason to toss yours out. If you’d rather have a professional writer do the heavy lifting for you, check out our resume services here. 

Improve Your Resume or CV