If your greatest job search challenge is getting called for interviews, your resume may need your immediate attention. The modern job search is frustrating, time-consuming, and often discouraging. And your resume has a tough job: to get through the Applicant Tracking software most employers are using and present you as the best fit for the job you are applying for quickly.
This is your “one-stop shop” for the best resume tips in 2018. These are the resume tips that I apply to my client projects, recommend in resume critiques, and try to “beat into” the heads of my job-seeking friends and family members.
1 | Don’t Buy Graphic Resumes
If you're going to invest in your resume, don't waste your hard-earned money on a graphic resume template. Yes, looks are important - but your resume content is far more impactful. Most graphic resumes are also not compatible with Applicant Tracking software that most employers use to collect resumes and narrow down candidates.
If you absolutely MUST have a graphic resume, buy one to complement your ATS-approved resume. Graphic resumes have their place at networking events and interviews, but don’t rely on it for your day-to-day online job applications.
2 | Apply with a Microsoft Word Document
Well, unless otherwise indicated... Yesterday's tip touched on Applicant Tracking software, but mastering this software is the key to a quick and successful job search. When you apply for a job online, your resume is stored and scanned by employer software. When your resume is scanned, your resume details are categorized by contact information, education, work history, etc. Your resume is also scanned for keywords that match the job description you applied for. The better a match you are, the higher your resume will rank in the Applicant Tracking software.
This is why it's so important that you apply with a Microsoft Word Document. PDFs are secure documents that are unable to be altered or scanned by most Applicant Tracking software. Word Documents are designed to be stripped of all formatting and scanned.
3 | Keep Your Design + Layout Simple
Your resume has one job - to quickly and effectively tell an employer that you are the best fit for the job he or she is looking to fill. If your design or layout isn't visually easy-to-scan, you may not be getting the interviews that you deserve. Minimize your design elements by strategically and aesthetically using bold font, lines, and spacing. Use a one-column layout to avoid making your resume too crowded or difficult to read.
4 | Don’t Write In Long Blocks of Text
Another way to make your resume visually easy-to-scan is to break up your resume content. Statistically, most recruiters and HR professionals take less than 15 seconds to review your resume before deciding if you are a good fit for the job they are filling. If you write in long blocks of text, you will force the reader to take the maximum amount of time (definitely longer than 15 seconds) to find the most important details that they are looking for. These details include your achievements, your related skills, etc.
5 | Don’t Use All Bullet Lists Either
Based on the previous tip, you may think that organizing all of your resume content in bullet lists is the best approach. This is usually not the case. Recruiters and HR professionals will find it just as hard to find the most important details that they are looking for if your resume looks like one long list.
Instead, alternate between paragraphs and bullet lists. Use paragraphs to summarize your responsibilities and typical tasks, and use bullet lists beneath to draw attention to your achievements, your skills in actions, and the problems you solved for each employer.
6 | Consider Color Psychology
When it comes to marketing materials (your resume included!), color psychology is a key branding tactic. Your resume should reflect your personal brand; a personal brand is how you present yourself and market yourself to employers. Applying conservative color to your resume can impact how employers perceive you and your personal brand.
Reds tend to symbolize energy, passion, action, and ambition whereas blues symbolize trust, loyalty, and integrity. So if you’re applying for a conservative banking job, using blues to make your name or heading stand out would be far more appropriate and effective than using reds.
7 | Identify + Focus On 10 Job-related Skills
Your resume needs to speak directly to the needs of the employer, so you need to target your resume for each job posting you apply to. It doesn’t have to be as time-consuming as it sounds, especially if you’re targeting similar jobs.
You can make this easy by reading through the job posting, identifying no more than 10 job-related skills that the best candidates (and you, coincidentally!) have, and make sure your resume focuses on these skills. Remove less relevant details to really target your resume and present yourself as the best fit for the job.
8 | Create A Branding Statement
Delete that Objective Statement; at this stage, employers don’t care what you want. The job posting will indicate exactly what the employer wants, so the top-third of your resume should point out that YOU are exactly what the employer wants. This is where a Branding Statement comes in.
Create a Branding Statement that is 4-6 lines long (maximum) and identifies your top job-related skills, your passions and values, and the value you offer or results you will deliver.
Need help getting started? This Branding Statement Cheat Sheet should help!
9 | Optimize Your Job Descriptions
If you plan to alternate between paragraphs and bullet lists (which I highly recommend!), optimize your paragraph job summaries with keywords found in the job description. This sounds more complicated than it is, but you can improve your chances of being a top candidate by matching your phrases and terminology to the phrases and terminology used in the job description.
10 | Give Examples of Your Skills In Action
The bullet lists you do add to your resume should draw attention to your skills in action. Sure, you could put a list of skills on the top-third of your resume; but adding context to this list of skills will show employers that you really are the best fit for the job.
Here’s an example: The job posting indicates that the ideal candidate will be a “Current or frequent user of social media with proven understanding of analytical tools.” Your statement could say, “Skyrocketed revenue from Facebook and Twitter by leveraging a proven understanding of analytical tools to create highly-targeted ads that attracted new customers.” Now THAT is a statement that you would want to draw attention to!
11 | Showcase Your Achievements
Employers LOVE measurable achievements. Measurable achievements could be dollars earned, percentages saved, new hires trained, leads acquired, and so on. Any results that you have produced, measurable or not, should be showcased on your resume.
If you’re having a hard time coming up with achievements, think about any problems that you have solved too.
12 | Streamline Less Relevant Information
You have a small window of opportunity to communicate with a recruiter or HR professional that you are the best fit for this job, so trim your resume down by removing less relevant information. Less relevant information can be tasks that you did at your last job that isn’t related to the job you’re applying for or training that you have received that doesn’t directly benefit you in this new role.
13 | Summarize Older Experience
Unfortunately, employers tend to consider work history or training received over 10 years ago to be outdated and irrelevant. If you have experience that is related to the skills and experience listed in the job posting, you can summarize this experience in a short “Additional Experience” note with no dates at the end of your resume.
Another reason to remove any dates before 2005 is to downplay your age. Age discrimination is still an issue in the modern job search, so eliminate the risk by only focusing on the last 10 years of your work history.
14 | Downplay Any Timeline Issues
Timeline issues such as gaps in employment, short-term roles or job-hopping, and self-employment can be a "red flag" for employers. There are ways to downplay these issues to focus on your qualifications. If you have a large employment gap on your resume because of stay-at-home parenting, you can present yourself as an entry-level candidate and only focus on your last few years of volunteering experience or you can summarize your older experience without dates in that “Additional Experience” note I mentioned.
Here’s an example: “Additional 8+ years of marketing, communications, and public relations experience as Marketing Coordinator for ABC Company.”
15 | List Related Education + Training
If you have a Master’s degree, do you really think an employer needs to see where you received your Associate’s degree? It’s highly unlikely and, frankly, a waste of precious space on your resume. Only list the education and training that you’ve received if it’s directly related to your job target.
Make sure your education isn’t presenting you as overqualified either. If the position is entry-level or only requires a Bachelor’s degree and you list a Master’s degree (or higher) on your resume, you may be hurting your chances of being called for an interview. Why? If you present yourself as overqualified, employers may question if they can afford you or how long you will stay with the company if something better comes along. You can eliminate this risk by only listing the education and training indicated in the job posting.
16 | Update + Revise Your Resume Frequently
Many of my clients wait until they are presented with an AMAZING job opportunity before updating and revising their resumes. This is a terrible idea because it causes unnecessary stress and may be costly if you hire a professional for help. (Rush fees aren’t pretty...)
Get in the habit of reviewing and updating your resume every 3-6 months to keep it current and ready for a recruiter or job application.
17 | Ask A Friend For Feedback
Yes, we’re all human; but typos can be devastating. Asking a friend, family member, or trusted colleague to look over your resume and give you some feedback could save you the heartache.
If you trust a co-worker to look over your resume and give you some feedback, he or she may even think of something advantageous you could add that you didn’t think of before. If you struggle to sing your own praises or brag about your achievements, a co-worker’s feedback may improve your resume.
18 | Get A Free Resume Critique
It never hurts to get a professional’s opinion! Many Certified Professional Resume Writers (myself included) offer free resume critiques with recommendations on how to improve your resume. I review your resume’s digital formatting, visual presentation, and content to identify its weaknesses and recommend strategic changes to make the best first impression.
Integrate these tips into your resume and start landing more interviews!