If you’re looking for a new job, the most important aspect of your search lies in one simple piece of paper: your resume. Many hiring managers find it impossible to read each and every resume that floats across their desks or into their e-mail inboxes. Understandably, they take shortcuts -- such as using software to scan for certain keywords -- to make the process more efficient.
Unfortunately, too many great job candidates are tossed aside because their resumes are missing one or two small (yet critically important) elements. Here are the top six ways you can take your resume to the next level and increase your odds of getting that coveted interview.
1. Invest in the design.
When most people hear the word “resume," they think a wall of text that simply recounts the applicant's experience and skills. While that's technically true, standout resumes are much more. Whether you like it or not, your resume makes your first impression for you.
To differentiate yourself from the slew of other applicants, you must make a strong impression that lasts. While it can be tempting to use a resume template, it’s more valuable to create a personalized document from scratch. Try this:
- Use complementary fonts for headings and body text.
- Add your headshot to make the resume more personal.
- Use icons to draw the eye to contact information and other important features.
2. Pay attention to keywords.
Keywords are an incredibly important aspect of resumes, but they often are overlooked by applicants. Hiring software uses algorithms to scour each resume, searching for specific keywords that match the job. You'll need to take advantage of these algorithms by organically integrating as many relevant keywords as you can -- without seeming forced.
To figure out which keywords you should include, study the job description and the company's website. TagCrowd and Wordle can help by creating word clouds from content. Just pop in the URL, and you'll see a visual representation of the most-used words on that page.
3. Eliminate the fluff.
Unnecessarily big words, run-on sentences and random industry jargon will annoy hiring managers more often than it impresses them. Your resume's focus should be solely on your experience and skills. Cut out the fluff and use every inch of the page appropriately.
4. Make it scannable.
Many job postings get hundreds of applicants. Even if your resume gets past the software and lands in front of an actual human, he or she will spend about six seconds with your painstakingly crafted masterpiece. You read that right: six seconds. Make your resume easy to read. That means making it readily scannable with the human eye -- turn walls of text into bullet points, add headings to each section, and bump up the spacing between lines of text (and after each paragraph, too).
5. Keep it to one page.
In a perfect world, your resume could be as long as needed to convey your experience and skills. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, and hiring managers have limited amounts of time to spend reading resumes. Hold yours to one page for the same reason you make it scannable. If you're worried about fitting in all of your experience, remember the company doing the hiring will focus only on experience that's most applicable to the job. Keep your resume concise by cutting out all non-relevant job histories.
6. Ask for help.
Writing the perfect resume can seem like an impossible task. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional. Career-development specialists have turned resume-writing into a science. Their skills might be exactly what you need to turn your resume into an interview.