Getting interviews is hard!
Your resume has a hard job; it has to conquer Applicant Tracking software, present you as the best fit for your ideal job, and secure an interview for you to really sell yourself as the top candidate. While networking has evolved to be a game-changer in the modern job search, your resume or job application is the most timely and cost-effective method of selecting candidates for most midsize to large companies.
If you’re finding that your resume isn’t getting you the interviews you deserve, try this handful of actionable resume tips that are proven to get you more interviews.
1 | Learn + Embrace The Hiring Process
The most frustrating step for most of my clients starting a job search is understanding and embracing the hiring process. They want to have a basic resume, upload it to a job board or every interesting job posting they find, and start scheduling interviews. Who doesn’t?
The hiring process for most midsize to large corporations start with a manager’s staffing needs. The manager or HR Manager will create a job description based on their staffing needs. The job will be posted on the company’s website and, depending on their budget, other locations such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, Indeed, Craigslist, local newspapers, etc.
When they request your resume or ask you to fill out an application, those details are stored in their Applicant Tracking software which will sort and categorize your information. That software will also compare your resume information or application answers to the job posting and rate you based on how well the two match. The top candidates will be the ones called to schedule an interview.
This whole process is designed to save the company money by saving the recruiters and HR professionals time (and time is money!). It’s not designed to make your life easier to help you find a job faster. But embracing this process can make your life easier and help you get more interviews.
2 | Update Your Contact Information
Don’t make this easy but fatal mistake! Your contact information is by far the most important detail listed on your resume (and on job applications!). Too often do candidates forget to proofread their phone number or email address.
Many of my clients list their full street address on their resume, and I don’t advise this especially if you will be uploading your resume to job boards or emailing it to people you don’t know. You should, however, not omit your city of residence altogether. Many employers use your city of residence as a filter within their Applicant Tracking software and omitting it may be a red flag.
If you have recently moved or plan to relocate, listing your new city of residence is more strategic than your current (and somewhat irrelevant) city of residence. Not sure where you may move to? I recommend updating your contact information to reflect your job target’s location.
3 | Remove Any Graphic Elements
So, I talk a lot about Applicant Tracking software. It’s a big deal. Your resume may not even be seen by HR if it doesn’t conquer this software first. While flashy, graphic resumes are trendy and exciting and make you feel like you stand out… they’re KILLING your chances of getting interviews.
Applicant Tracking software can’t read graphic resumes. So if your resume is saved as a PDF or has non-standard fonts, icons, colored text boxes, multiple columns of text, and so on, your resume isn’t getting seen by anyone who will pick up the phone and get you on the calendar for an interview.
Applicant Tracking software loves Word documents, one-column layouts, standard fonts, and overall clean designs. If this sounds boring, it doesn’t have to be. You can get creative (but professional and ATS-compatible) with some conservative pops of font color, spacing, lines, and bullet lists.
Not sure how to create an ATS-approved, modern resume? This Microsoft Word resume template is the resume design most requested by my clients!
4 | Use Basic Section Headings
Don’t get too creative with your resume’s section headings. Remember Applicant Tracking software is first sorting and categorizing your information. It’s intelligent enough to pick up on phone numbers without “Phone Number:” being listed in your contact information, but it’s not intelligent enough to register “What I Do” as “Experience.”
Your resume should also be organized by contact information, a Branding Statement or Career Summary with an easy-to-scan list of Skills or Areas of Expertise, your Experience (Professional Experience, Recent Experience, etc.), your Education, Certifications, and any Additional Training or Additional Information.
5 | Remove Dates Prior To 2005
If you want to get more interviews, stop sharing your life story for every job application. Employers are more interested and concerned with your last 10 years or so unless you’re applying for a senior leadership or executive role that specifically is looking for 15+ years of relevant experience and you happen to have it.
Adding dates to your resume, either in your Experience or Education section, can negatively age you too. Age discrimination is still a harsh reality in the modern job search. You can’t hide your age in an interview, but you can focus on your qualifications while downplaying your age on your resume by removing any dates prior to 2005.
6 | Be Descriptive In Your Titles + Job Descriptions
There are two major reasons why you should use descriptive job titles and descriptions on your resume. First, Applicant Tracking software (yep, we’re still talking about that…) uses keywords found in your resume to rank you as a top candidate. Another reason to use descriptive job titles and job descriptions is to showcase your skills and abilities quickly and easily when a human being is actually skimming over your resume.
For example, I’ve had clients hire me to rework resumes that just aren’t working with job titles like “Seasonal Employee” or “Director.” Well, you’re a Director of what exactly? The more advantageous job titles would be “Customer Service Associate” or “Director of Product Development.”
7 | Optimize Your Resume With Keywords
As a continuation of the tip above, optimizing your resume with keywords is a proven strategy to get more interviews. It’s easy, too. Read through the job description. Stop and focus on the Qualification or Requirements section. What are the top qualifications and skills the job posting indicates as important for this job? Those words (and variations of those words) need to be on your resume.
Adding variations of keywords into your resume will also keep your resume natural to read. Variations for “5+ years of experience in managing projects...” look like “managing projects,” “project management,” “project planning and execution,” “planning, executing, and managing projects,” and so on.
8 | Make Your Skills + Achievements Stand Out
Your resume should not be one long bullet list of tasks and responsibilities, though. Employers LOVE measurable achievements such as dollars earned, percentages saved, people trained, customers retained, and the list goes on. Anything you can put a number to should be on your resume.
Not every job makes it easy (or sometimes even possible) for you to track your achievements like this. That’s when it’s important to highlight how you contributed to overall company goals by applying certain skills that are also keywords for the jobs you’re targeting. You can also showcase problem-solving skills (every employer loves these) by describing how you resolved specific issues.
9 | Target Your Cover Letter
Cover letters are becoming less and less important in the job search process. Frankly, it’s because they’re time-consuming for a hiring manager to read and too many don’t offer any real value. This is where targeting your cover letters can make the difference in how many interviews you get.
Your cover letter should address the specific purpose of the job you are applying for (also known as the “Pain Points” of the employer) and introduce you as the best fit for that job by highlighting the most relevant details from your resume. You should keep your cover letter short and sweet and truly speak to the specific needs of each employer who asks for a cover letter.
10 | Triple-check Your Spelling
Interviews are hard to get in the modern job search! Don’t set yourself up for failure by forgetting to proofread your resume for spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues. This may be the first impression you are making to (potentially) your dream employer. If the first impression you give is that you’re sloppy or have poor communication/presentation skills (another top skill desired by EVERY employer), you’ll lose what few chances you may even be getting.
If spelling or writing in general is not one of your strengths, ask someone who is inclined in this skill to read through and proofread your resume for you. You should also consider getting a free resume critique from a Certified Professional Resume Writer. Feedback from a trusted colleague or professional make be the key to getting more interviews.
To noticeably get more interviews, start by creating an Applicant Tracking software-approved resume then target your resume and cover letter using keywords found in the job posting.