What You Need to Know About Writing a Resume
If you submit a resume for a given job, you probably feel like you’re qualified for it. So, why didn’t you get hired? Most of the time, it’s not that you’re unqualified; rather, it’s the way you present your qualifications that costs you the job.
Writing a great resume is a skill in and of itself, one that can land you tons of interviews if you master it. Knowing how to properly communicate your qualifications is crucial for proving to the hiring manager that you’re the right person for the job, and, more importantly, it places you above the hundreds of other candidates who have applied. On average, recruiters spend 5-7 seconds on any given resume. Therefore, what you put on yours and how you write it is crucial. You want to so impress the hiring manager in those few seconds that they can’t help but read your entire resume.
However, your resume first has to go through another process, and it’s easy to fail to overcome this initial obstacle even if you’re qualified for the job. Understanding the process your resume goes through to get to the hiring manager can help you determine what to include and what to keep out. Need help deciding what should go into your resume? Contact our resume experts for assistance.
The road to the hiring manager
Due to the high volume of applications they receive, most large and mid-sized companies these days use a resume-scanning program known as an applicant tracking system (ATS). A resume must pass through this system before it lands on the hiring manager’s desk. The program analyzes applicants’ qualifications and filters the resumes according to the employer’s specifications, looking for specific educational achievements, locations, and skills.
Unfortunately, the ATS is a cold, hard machine that relies on code rather than the sharp human intuition that allows hiring managers to recognize your qualifications even when presented in different ways. You may tick all the right boxes, but if your presentation falls short, your resume won’t make it past the ATS.
Resumes are complicated, and you have to nail all the sections to produce a truly outstanding one. Here are some of the most vital aspects to focus on.
When writing your resume, focus on your accomplishments. Don’t just list your previous job descriptions without detailing how you added value to the company. The hiring manager doesn’t care what your responsibilities were because that list doesn’t actually tell them whether you were any good at your previous jobs. They want to see your specific accomplishments because they want to know how you could add value to their company. Don’t leave them guessing—if you do, they’ll move on to the next candidate. Let them know what you can accomplish, based on previous experience.
The keywords you should use vary depending on the job you’re applying for. There isn’t any magical list of keywords that apply to all jobs; if you think there is, you’re probably thinking of tired old buzzwords, not value-adding keywords.
Pick keywords from the job description—they’ll generally stand out somehow, appearing in a bullet list, all caps, or italics. Be sure to include any keywords that apply to you in your skills and work experience sections. These keywords are what the hiring manager and, perhaps more importantly, the ATS are looking for. While the hiring manager can understand the same idea conveyed in different words, the ATS may not, so stick to the language in the job description.
When you include keywords in your resume, you also demonstrate that you have read the job description through and through and have the proper qualifications.
While formatting may seem like an insignificant element of the resume, it can actually keep you from getting the job. Most crucially, the ATS may not be able to read your resume if it’s improperly formatted, dumping it in the trash pile.
It’s also important to properly format your resume to meet the requirements of the hiring manager and observe the proper resume guidelines. Recruiters expect a standard format, and if you use a creative layout and a font that forces them to hunt for the information they want, they’ll probably just toss your resume to the side.
Proper formatting also includes correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. All of these are small but critical details in resume writing.
The final stop on the road
Before submitting your resume, get some objective feedback on it. “Objective” is the key word here. You could send it to friends or family members, but chances are that they’ll give you subjective feedback because they’re either biased in your favor or don’t want to hurt your feelings.
You want someone who will judge your resume objectively, looking for errors or room for improvement and offering potentially painful criticism that will actually help you. The best source of objective feedback is a professional resume writer, who will judge your document by high standards. This expert knows how to craft a resume that makes it past the ATS and gets into the hands of the hiring manager. Don’t be afraid to have your resume critiqued or completely rewritten—it’s worth it to land the job!
Oftentimes, having the qualifications for a job is not the hard part—it’s presenting this information on your resume. Knowing the road a resume travels will help you focus on the elements that combine to ensure your success in the application process. If you want your resume’s final stop to be the hiring manager’s desk, you can’t afford to bypass the last step: getting objective feedback from a resume expert. Don’t ignore the signs on the road to a new job!