So, when was the last time you updated your resume?
If it’s been a while, I’m not surprised. Resume writing is often the most dreaded task for job seekers for several reasons.
You hate talking (or writing) about yourself.
You’re suffering from information-overload and can’t figure out where to start.
Despite your efforts, nothing you do seems to work.
The modern job search is frustrating, time-consuming, and often discouraging. I get it. I’ve been there.
Luckily for you, I have put together a step-by-step guide in these 19 resume tips that will get you hired in 2019.
1 | Understand How The Hiring Process Works
The modern job search is frustrating, time-consuming, and often discouraging. Complaining about the hiring process doesn’t solve anything, though. Understanding how the hiring process works is the first step to creating a job-winning resume.
Here’s the SparkNotes version of how the hiring process works:
A team leader or manager realizes they need to create or fill a position and notified the HR team.
Someone on that HR team creates a job description based on the team leader/manager need and posts it to the company’s Applicant Tracking software which is linked to the company’s Careers page.
The HR staff member posts the job to job boards as well as LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor, and other sites depending on their budget.
The Applicant Tracking software collects resumes and applications from hundreds of job seekers, compares resumes to the job posting and to each other, and ranks the top qualified candidates based on keywords.
The top qualified candidates (maybe the top 10) will have their resume looked at by the HR team.
Out of the resumes seen, the top candidates (maybe the top 6) will get phone screening interviews.
Out of the candidates talked to, the top candidates (maybe the top 4) will get in-person interviews.
Out of the interviewed candidates, the top candidate (maybe more depending on the hiring circumstances) will get the job offer.
How does understanding this process help you? You should realize that your resume must conquer this Applicant Tracking software to move forward in the hiring process.
2 | Worry Less About The Formatting
Understanding how Applicant Tracking software works is the next step to getting hired. There’s a ton of outdated information online about Applicant Tracking software. It’s been around since the 90’s, and it’s evolved a lot since then. Yes, there are several Applicant Tracking systems out there; but this shouldn’t overwhelm you.
The concepts for conquering Applicant Tracking software are relevant to all of them. Your digital formatting doesn’t matter, but where you place your text does.
Applicant Tracking software can’t read text placed in headers or footers.
Applicant Tracking software can’t read text placed in charts, tables, or text boxes.
Applicant Tracking software doesn’t care about bold, underlined, italicized, colored, or color-filled text.
Applicant Tracking software doesn’t see photos embedded in your resume (JPG or PNG files); just don’t rely on them to convey important information that isn’t in the text.
Applicant Tracking software scans the text from left-to-right so it may not read text formatted in columns correctly.
Applicant Tracking software can read PDFs.
Bottom line: Worry less about the formatting, and focus 95% of your attention on what your resume says about you.
3 | Create An Applicant Tracking Software-approved Layout
When you understand how Applicant Tracking software works, you’ll understand how to create an ATS-approved resume. Start with a Microsoft Word document, and organize your information in a one-column layout. Make sure your contact information can be found in the body of your resume rather than just in the header or footer.
Keep in mind that Applicant Tracking software is designed to look for certain keywords and text arrangements to fill in a form with your information within the software. Use standard section headings (Skills or Areas of Expertise, Experience, Education, Certifications, etc.) to make sure your information is parsed and organized in this software correctly.
4 | Use Color Strategically (& Conservatively)
If your resume looks like every other black-and-white resume from the 90’s, you’re not helping yourself at all. Your resume isn’t just a list of your work history and skills; it’s a marketing document, and color psychology is a key branding tactic used in marketing. Your personal brand, or how you want to present yourself to employers, is directly linked to your personality. Would you want to hire a black-and-white personality?
Instead, you can use color strategically to impact an employer’s perspective of you. Keep your resume looking professional by using conservative color for your name, section headings, and other design elements. Pick no more than two colors, but keep the rest of your text easy to read with a standard black font.
If the thought of getting creative with your resume design is giving you anxiety, deep breath. That’s why I made these modern resume templates, and they’re only $15 each!
5 | Add Your LinkedIn Profile Link To Your Contact Information
If you’re not on LinkedIn, you're hurting your chances of getting hired faster. Why? Your LinkedIn profile is often the first stop in a background check because it’s an easy and free way for HR teams to validate your work history (since you’ve made it public online). I won’t even get into how LinkedIn recommendations on your profile are the new letters of recommendation…
A LinkedIn profile also allow you to humanize your job application where it’s less acceptable on a resume. It’s your profile on a networking platform, so it should be more approachable and conversational. An even more important advantage is this: You can add more information to your LinkedIn profile than a 1-2 page resume will permit.
Add your LinkedIn profile link to your contact information on your resume and indicate at the end of your resume that more information can be found on your profile to speed up the background check and boost your application.
6 | Remove Dates Older Than 2005
Can you believe that 2005 was 14 years ago?! Unless you’re applying for a job that specifically wants 15+ years of experience in a particular field (which is common for many executive-level roles), listing dates on your resume prior to 2005 is only going to age you… and not in a good way. Age discrimination is a serious issue that job seekers over 45 need to conquer to get hired in the modern job search.
I work with TONS of mature job seekers looking for their last job before retirement, drastically changing careers, and returning to work in their 50s and 60s. Eliminating half of their careers from their resumes has been terrifying but so rewarding. The workplace has changed so much in the last 15 years that, depending on the field or industry, many of their skills from then are outdated.
Removing work history prior to 2005 can bring focus to your resume and show employers that you’re more interested in the future than your past.
7 | Learn How To Analyze Job Postings
This is HUGE! Job postings were created by HR teams based on the staffing needs described by a manager or team leader. They tell you exactly what they’re looking for in an ideal candidate, so why would these details not be in your resume? I’ve worked with a few job seekers who insist on removing critically important details from their resumes because they didn’t want employers to expect them to do certain tasks…
Analyzing job postings isn’t as technical or challenging as it may sound. You’re reading through the resume from the perspective of an employer and answering these questions:
What’s the primary goal of this role?
What are the required qualifications and preferred skills for this job?
What traits will an ideal candidate have?
What other words or phrases describe the role or the work?
If you can read through a job posting and identify the answers to these questions, then you’ll know what needs to be on your resume to present you as the best fit for the job.
8 | Identify The Top 8 Job-related Skills For The Job
Some job postings are beastly. They are challenging enough to skim through let alone analyze and will give you the impression that even the most senior executive of that company isn’t the right fit for the job. Your resume doesn’t need to list every single qualification and desired trait listed on the job posting. If it did, your resume would look like it was 100% copied-and-pasted from the job posting.
You can avoid that by identifying the top 8 job-related qualifications and skills and focusing on those in your resume. It’s more important that your resume contains the highest-weighted keywords for Applicant Tracking software but still sounds like you telling your story for the human reader.
Yes, this strategy is a balancing act; but it gives your resume more credibility.
9 | Know The Company’s Mission & Vision
If you don’t know the company’s mission and vision, you have no business applying for the job. Your role at any given company is to help that company meet its goals. If you can show that you understand this principle in your resume, you’re going to stand out from the candidate’s still using a self-serving Objective Statement on their resumes.
This information is usually in the company description paragraph in a job posting, but can also be found on:
The company website
Other social media profiles
Indicating that you understand the mission and vision of your previous employer by describing how your efforts contributed to these in your resume will give you a competitive advantage.
10 | Introduce Yourself With A Branding Statement
Your resume is not about you. (Yes, you read that right…) Get rid of that self-serving Objective Statement or repetitive Career Summary! It’s not helping you at all. Once your resume gets in front of a human reader, the top third of your resume is the first (and often the only) section that will be read. Make it count!
Encourage the reader to get to know you more by creating a Branding Statement that introduces your qualifications, highlights the most valuable skills that relate to the job, and showcases the unique value you offer or the results you will produce for the employer in short paragraph (4-6 lines tops!).
Not sure how to get started? This Branding Statement Cheat Sheet should help!
11 | Make Your Experience Section Easy To Skim
Nearly every resume I’ve seen, prior to working with the job seeker, suffers from one of these three crippling afflictions:
Long blocks of text with no bullets which forces the reader to read every line of the resume in order to find the details they’re looking for (qualifications, skills, achievements, etc.)
Too many bullets which also forces the reader to read every line of the resume to find the details they’re looking for (qualifications, skills, achievements, etc.)
Not enough information to determine if you’re the best fit for the job or not
If your resume suffers from either of the first two afflictions, I have bad news for you. Corporate recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers are not going to spend the time reading each and every line of your resume before deciding whether or not you’re getting an interview. If your resume takes more than 15 seconds to skim (I’m being generous; some sources say 6 seconds.), it will likely be tossed.
Make your Experience section easy to skim by alternating between short paragraph summaries and bullet lists that draw attention to your achievements, major contributions, or skills in action.
12 | Optimize Your Job Summaries
Your resume needs to tell employers that you are the best fit for the job. If your resume doesn’t have enough information to achieve this, here’s a quick and easy fix for you. Describe the typical tasks and responsibilities you held that relate to the job you’re applying for. This is particularly successful for job seekers targeting higher level positions or changing careers entirely.
Better yet, optimize your job summaries using the keywords found in the job posting. This will greatly improve your ranking when your resume is battling Applicant Tracking software and show employers that you’re paying attention to their terminology.
13 | Describe Your Skills In Action
Don’t just say you have excellent project management skills. In writing classes, you’ll hear the phrase, “Show, don’t tell,” frequently. The concept is true for writing a great resume. Don’t just claim you have certain skills, but tell your unique story in how you gained and applied those skills in the workplace.
Describe how you demonstrated the skill, what resulted, and why it was necessary to give your listed skills context. If this sounds time-consuming, it doesn’t have to be. You can (and should!) create a Master List of skills with examples from your work history to have on hand and speed up the resume writing process.
14 | Highlight Your Achievements & Major Contributions
If you think a flashy graphic resume design is what you need to stand out, you’re not thinking like an employer. Measurable achievements, or achievements that you can quantify, matter more than anything else on your resume! The measurable achievements you have made are unique to you and play a key role in presenting the unique value you offer to employers.
Don’t get caught up in thinking, “I’m not in sales, so I can’t come up with any measurable achievements.” Describing the results of any major contribution that you made toward achieving company or department goals constitutes as an achievement; quantifying it might be a bit more difficult.
That’s why I wrote this article on How To Add More Achievements To Your Resume...
15 | Streamline Your Timeline
Applicant Tracking software and HR teams alike want to see a clear and consistent work history timeline. HR teams are often more forgiving, but getting past Applicant Tracking software is still your first challenge. This may mean adjusting the timeline you’re listing on your resume, and I’m not talking about changing dates (or lying).
You can downplay gaps in employment by listing the years alone. You can also downplay gaps in employment by listing only your last so-many years of uninterrupted work history and summarizing your previous experience without dates in a short Additional Experience note at the end of your Experience section.
Streamlining your work history timeline may also mean removing shorter term and less relevant positions to eliminate the appearance of “job-hopping.”
16 | Draw Attention To Your Qualifications, Not Your Age
I may have touched on this before by indicating that dates older than 2005 have no place on your resume (unless you’re an executive-level job seeker), but there are other details on your resume that may be drawing more attention to your age than your qualifications.
Unless you are a high school student, remove your high school & graduation date.
Unless you graduated within the last five years, remove college graduation dates.
If you have an aol.com or yahoo.com email address, consider creating a Gmail or Outlook account.
Remove outdated software skills including…
If you’re questioning why age is such a turn-off to employers, think about it from their perspective. With 20+ (or 30+) years of experience in anything, you may be desiring a salary that is outside of their budget. You may also be presenting yourself as overqualified for roles, in which case employers may anticipate that you will quit as soon as a more desirable job presents itself.
Hiring and training is expensive, so going with a younger candidate can be a safer bet in their perspective, so keep the focus on your last 10-15 years of experience.
17 | Target Your Education Section
Why certain industries (like technology) require college degrees still baffles me! Much of the information learned in college will be obsolete in 5-10 years, but it’s still a prominent qualification that gives many job seekers anxiety. There are still a vast number of employers who value experience over higher education, and your Education section may actually be hindering you from landing the jobs you want.
If you’re applying for job requiring a bachelor’s degree but you’re listing your advanced degrees (like a master’s), you may be presenting yourself as overqualified or too expensive. You may be too much of a risk for employers because of the high cost of hiring and training new talent.
Yes, your advanced degree is a HUGE accomplishment; but you need to be targeting your Education section to reflect the needs of the company.
18 | Proofread For Readability
Job seekers often fall into a trap when they spend hours researching how to write a resume that gets through employer software. They get a little keyword-crazy and even start copying-and-pasting general statements from job postings directly into their resume. Writing a great resume is a balancing act between writing for software and writing for human readers.
Fortunately for you, Applicant Tracking software is getting smarter. In fact, most modern Applicant Tracking software has evolved to search for messages rather than keywords. You now have the freedom to tell your unique story without having to use the words and phrases verbatim from the job posting.
Once you’ve finished writing your resume, read through and proofread it for human readability. Does it sound like a robot wrote it, or does it sound like your unique story?
19 | Keep Your Resume Updated
How often do you update your resume? Let me guess… once a year or every few years when you hear about a great job opportunity. That’s usually when my clients come back to me looking to update their resumes!
Don’t put unnecessary stress on yourself. Start keeping a list of any projects (large or small) or contributions made toward achieving company goals every other month. Every six months, update your resume to reflect changing responsibilities or achievements. When you complete on-the-job training or online courses to keep your skills fresh, add it to your resume.
The key is to always be prepared to apply for a new and better job if and when it presents itself.
If your resume isn’t landing you many interviews, make sure your resume is up to date with these strategies proven to get you hired in 2019.