Creating a resume is not an exact science. Advice on how to go about it abounds, and differs on nearly every facet, from how long it should be to how far back your work history should go. Even choosing factors that may seem insignificant, such as formatting and structure, can cause anxiety. What is the employer looking for? What if they don’t like the font you choose?
As long as you’re not using comic sans or a fancy italic script, you should be safe in your font selection. But employers do look for certain things in a resume, and if yours is lacking—or overabundant—in them, it may very well keep you from getting an interview, much less hired. Here are a few tips to give you an advantage over the competition.
Use The Correct Keywords
Imagine how many people apply for jobs every day, and how many resumes a large company must receive on a weekly basis. Hundreds. Possibly thousands. This is especially true with as mobile as our society has become. It’s not uncommon for someone in Los Angeles to apply for a job in New York City, and move upon acceptance. This means the field of competition is wider than ever. Let’s be practical—it would be a gigantic waste of time and money for someone, or even a few people, to sift through resumes all day, every day, trying to find the few that will stand out and warrant an interview. So how do large companies tackle this enormous and time-consuming task? With resume scanning software.
Often referred to as “gatekeeper” software, these programs are designed to look for certain keywords the employer has identified as being important. When your resume arrives, before anyone even looks at it, they run it through the scanning program. If the gatekeeper doesn’t find what it’s looking for, right into the circular file goes your resume, never to be seen by human eyes. To make it past that step, your resume should adhere to a certain format, and should include the keywords most relevant to the job you’re pursuing. If you’re applying for a position with a large company that is likely to use this kind of software, you may want to consider hiring a professional resume writing service whose writers are trained to create resumes for scanners.
Keep It Short
Whether you’re applying to a large company with a gatekeeper, or a small one that doesn’t use scanning software, a shorter resume will go over better. In fact, in smaller companies where hiring does entail a human resources manager actually reading each resume, the less you make that person work, the better impression you’re going to make. No one wants to read through six pages before they finally get to the part that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for. It’s a common misconception that a resume has to be a detailed history of every job you’ve ever had, including every single responsibility you took on, and that if you leave something out, you’re reducing your chances of getting hired.
The length of your resume may vary according to how much work experience you have, or what kind of position you’re applying for. But for the most part, think of your resume as getting your foot in the door, leading you to an interview where you can talk about your past work experience in more detail. When writing your resume, cover the highlights of your experience, include your education and the most important skills you have that pertain to the position you’re seeking, and then be prepared to give more details and background in the interview—if you’re asked. You also don’t want to talk your interviewer’s ear off with explanations of irrelevant experience or on-the-job anecdotes. Remember, the hiring manager’s time is valuable, and if you demonstrate that you understand and respect that, you stand a better chance of getting to the second interview.
Be Honest, But Modest
Your resume can be a powerful tool that either works for or against you. If you keep it in the right perspective, it will be helpful. You don’t get a job based on your resume—it’s really only one small factor in the whole package. The resume’s true purpose is to make that ever-important first impression that will hopefully lead you to an in-person interview. When it works against you is when you take things a bit too far, and write your resume as though you were writing your professional biography.
Prospective employers want to know what you can do for them. They want to know that you have the prior experience they’re looking for, and that you’ll be a fit in their corporate culture. Keep the descriptions about your skills and background pithy and fact-based. When you start getting flowery with adjectives like “motivated” and adverbs like “incredibly,” or “extremely,” you begin to sound…well, pompous. Remember, you’re trying to convince someone that they want to eventually work with you. No one enjoys working with an arrogant jerk who thinks he’s a gift to the company. That’s not you, so make sure you don’t sound like that in your resume. And above all, don’t call yourself a “guru.” That’s a sure way to get your resume thrown in the trash, but not before it makes the rounds in the office so everyone can get a good laugh over it. Just say what you do, simply and clearly, and leave the fluff for your overeager competition.
Finally, don’t think of your resume as a one-size-fits-all document. Before you send it to a prospective employer, look it over to make sure it covers the aspects that particular position calls for. Do some editing, if necessary. Yes, it means some extra work each time you send it out, but when you land that great job you’ve been searching for, you’ll find a little editing was well worth the effort.