The job market is hotter than it’s been in years. The national unemployment numbers are at record lows, and it seems like there are opportunities around everyone corner. In fact, some industry reports indicate there are currently substantially more jobs than applicants. With all this positive economic news, do job seekers need to be concerned about the quality of the resumes they submit? The answer is a resounding “YES!” Contrary to some reports, the resume is not dead. While it’s true that LinkedIn profiles have made it much easier for candidates to provide an accessible professional representation to employers, most hiring companies and hiring managers will, at some point, want to see a traditional resume. In many cases, the interview process can’t even begin until a formal resume document has been received by the appropriate department heads involved in the search. In addition, most medium to larger companies, as well as most staffing firms, use an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) that creates a candidate record based on a resume and job application that guides the entire interview/hiring/on-boarding process.
With the job-seeking process still requiring a formal resume for most opportunities, many candidates unfortunately fall flat when it comes to creating a compelling and effective one.
Here are 4 simple tips for creating an effective resume if you are one of those job seekers trying to update an old resume or create a new one.
- No Funky Formatting: resumes should be clean, crisp and use standard fonts. They need to represent the candidate well both on a screen and in printed format (yes, Virginia, many hiring managers will often request a printed version of the applicant’s resume). A hiring manager’s attention should be driven to the content and not distracted by format. Graphics, off-the-wall fonts and other formatting gimmicks are a no-no. This becomes even more of an issue with organizations that use applicant tracking systems to process job applications through websites or job boards. Some industry estimates indicate that over 75% of job applicants are ruled out even before their application is seen by human eyes due to the ATS reviewing the applicability of their resume for the position. One sure way to get dumped is if the ATS bots can’t read your resume due to funky formatting.
- What’s Your Story? There’s nothing worse for a hiring manager or a recruiter than receiving a resume and not immediately understanding what the candidate’s “story” is. We’re not talking about a narrative here, but rather what is it that the applicant wants to do and how does their experience and background support that. Professional summaries (top of the resume!) should succinctly tell the reader what the candidate has accomplished, their area of expertise, and what they are professionally. Generalization is NOT a good thing in this case. Reviewers and interviewers want to see specifics, so they can easily connect the dots between experience and how the candidate will fit in based on that track record.
- Results-Based Versus Task-Based: one of the most frequently-made mistakes that job seekers make on their resumes is that they don’t indicate what they accomplished and how it impacted the organization or company they worked for. Words like “responsible for”, “managed”, “completed” and “interacted” don’t really mean all that much to the hiring manager. What’s more effective is quantifiable numbers and metrics like “increased sales by 125%” or “saved the company $500,000 in Q1 by reducing unecessary inventory holdings.” Hiring managers want to know what you can tangibly do for them and how you will make a positive impact for their organization, particularly if they are looking for senior-level candidates.
- Keep It Short: this is probably the most difficult one for most candidates, particularly if they have substantial professional experience. Most managers don’t want to read an overly lengthy resume. So, how do you “tell the story” of a 25-year career properly and yet keep it to a manageable length. Here are some additional tips on this area:
- Work with the mindset of 2 pages. With some exception, most resumes should be no more than 2 pages and content should be tailored with that in mind. Working from this starting point forces decisions around content.
- Important stuff upfront. Skills, summary and recent jobs should be the areas with the most content.
- Leave out “old” stuff. If you have a lengthy professional career, then significantly edit older jobs. Any job you had more than 10 years ago should only have 1-2 lines devoted to it. Most readers don’t care that much about experience in an area over 10 years old (particularly if it’s not that relevant to the job the candidate is applying to.
- Get a second (or third) set of eyes on it. While this is always a good idea for proof reading, it also helps to have the reviewer(s) let you know if it’s succinct and effective or if it looks like an eye chart! Have them be honest about it – if a friend or family members finds it too long, then what might a hiring manager think?
Creating an effective and compelling resume is not a simple task, but it is a necessary one even in today’s red-hot job market. Following these simple tips should help make it a little easier.
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