You never get a second chance to make a first impression, says the old-but-still-true adage. Your resume is the first impression hiring managers have of you. Is it saying everything you want it to say? Does it stand out from the crowd — in a good way?
At Integrity Staffing Solutions, we see tens of thousands of job applications per month, and resumes from all levels of experience, first-job-seeking newbies to seasoned professionals. Now we're going to share our insider secrets about the resumes that get our attention.
Highlight Skills Pertinent to the Job
Your generic resume should be only the starting point. From there, create a custom variation for each job you're applying to.
Give more space to describing your most relevant experience and skills. Also, cut down on the details that aren't applicable to this specific job.
For example, an accountant might apply for positions at a medical billing company, a business bookkeeping firm and a tax specialist. The resume for each of those positions would emphasize different areas of expertise.
Include as many keywords from the advertised job requirements as possible. Most employers these days use applicant tracking software to screen resumes, and those that don't contain the specified keywords never even make it to a human being.
Choose a Professional Resume Format & Design
You might think that multiple colors, fonts and type sizes will make your resume catch the hiring manager's eye. It may well do that, but you will be judged negatively for your lack of professionalism.
The surest way to make an impact is with a resume that is clean, organized and easy to read. (There are many professionally designed resume templates on the internet if you don't know where to start.) You can still be distinctive by adding a little something extra. But keep it marginal and non-distracting, such as a small head shot or a colored border.
Pay attention to what file format is required for submission: DOCX or PDF. And never use a format that doesn't have a text layer, such as JPG or PNG. If the company's software can't read it, your resume won't stand a chance.
Keep It Current
Check that everything on the resume you send out is up to date: contact information, job history, educational degrees, awards/accomplishments, and so on.
It's a good idea to update your resume at the time something changes, even if you're not job hunting then. If you wait until you do need it, you may forget to include things that happened years ago.
Promote Your Reputation
Anyone can use this strategy, but it's especially beneficial for those who don't have much paid job experience or are changing careers. Add a section for "extra-curricular" experiences, such as community service and volunteer activities. These can demonstrate your character, initiative and ability to work well in a team.
And finally, add a line at the bottom of the resume that says, "References available upon request." Hopefully, you asked your manager for a reference letter whenever you left a job, and you now have them ready to send on demand. If you don't have any employer references, seek a character reference from distinguished people in your community, such as a religious leader or school principal who know you well.
Apply these tips to your resume, and let it take you from one of the crowd to leader of the pack!