Job hunting is an activity that never seems to get easier. Competing against others for a new opportunity can be a daunting task, especially in a crowded market. With the impact of COVID-19 on employment, standing out among a growing field of applicants is more important than ever.
To give yourself the best chance of grabbing a potential employer’s attention, you have to think about yourself in a new way. Forget about seeing yourself as a person with a set of skills. You must see and promote yourself the way the most successful companies do – by showing your target audience that you are what they are looking for; that you are someone who not only knows how to do a job but how to do it well with features and benefits they can’t do business without. The best way to present your standout skills and separate yourself from the pack is to submit a killer resume.
Once upon a time, a resume was simply an introduction, a statement of your career objective, and a history of your employment with a nod to your specific skill set. Now, that is simply not enough. With the world of work focused on personal branding and innovative self-promotion, your resume needs to make an even stronger impression. Here are 10 things to focus on when you put together the resume that will make your phone ring:
1. Make It an Easy Read
Choose a layout that is clean, contemporary, and well-formatted. Set your margins and spacing to create a balance of text and white space. Use bullets to break up longer paragraphs, and add minimal design elements like lines and shading to give the document visual interest. Use these elements only to break sections, as too many embellishments can become distracting. Avoid using graphics and pictures unless the industry or potential employer requests a design-oriented presentation.
2. Keep It Simple
Your resume is not an autobiography. If you use more than two pages to try and gain the interest of an employer, you risk losing them before they finish page one. Your story should start strong and be supported by facts. It is very rare for a potential employer to read an entire resume; instead, they will scan it to find the qualifications they are looking for. You have mere seconds to impress them, so make every word count!
3. Lead with a Great Headline
The most successful publications in the world know that the key to making people stop and read their stories is to lead with a powerful headline, that will catch a reader’s attention and make them want to know more. Title your resume with a concise description of you as a professional, using the adjective that best describes you overall: “DEDICATED & EXPERIENCED BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT PROFESSIONAL"
4. Use Your Profile to Grab Their Interest
Resume writing standards have evolved quite a bit over the last 10 years. One of the major parts of the resume that was considered an absolute must was the objective. The first item of business after writing your name, address, and phone number was to state your goal for finding this job. Unfortunately, objectives did little to help the applicant and were eventually considered by employers to be a time-waster, because they were simply too vague. With only seconds allotted to each resume, lines like “to secure an opportunity that will allow me to apply my skills and advance with a growing organization“, doesn’t tell an employer why they should want to give you a call.
The most effective use of the space on your resume and the employers’ time is a profile. This five to seven line statement is an overview of who you are and why you are the best at what you do. This is an opportunity to sell yourself before you get into the details. It is also a great way to customize your resume because you can add statements that match the qualifications in the job listing. A strategically written profile statement is a powerful tool.
5. Use a Custom Skills List
After your profile, a skills list tells potential employers exactly what you know how to do. This can be a combination of processes and tools. This is a space where you highlight those things that you have the most expertise in. It is also a chance to optimize your resume, which is very similar to the way companies optimize their websites with keywords. List skills that you are proficient in that also match the desired qualifications for the job. Remember your resume is a living document, so you will likely make adjustments to your skills list often to make it as effective as possible.
6. Tell the Truth About Technology
No matter how much you want or need a job, overselling your skills can find you in some very challenging and often embarrassing situations. If an employer is calling for a specific set of skills or proficiency in certain software, avoid the temptation to say you know something you don’t. If you are not highly proficient in a skill but have a comfort level using it for work, describe it accurately, using terms such as “working knowledge". Job listings will typically indicate what level of proficiency they require in various areas. Match your skills to those opportunities so that you are comfortable representing yourself, even if you are tested in an interview.
7. Keep Your History Accurate, Relevant, and Concise
Your employment history is your opportunity to show off your background. The path your career has followed will determine if you want to highlight how long you stay with a company, how rapidly you rose in a company, or how well you performed in one role. Ask yourself what you are proudest of about each job you have held, and use your resume as a chance to draw an employers’ attention to that. If you want an employer to see that you rose to a leadership role in a short amount of time, list your job titles in bold, or state that you advanced from Customer Service Associate to Manager in just two years.
8. Use Power Words to Tell Them How Well You Did Your Job
When describing your jobs, it is not enough to just describe what you did with action words. Your resume is your chance to tell the world how good you are at what you do. Stating that you “Managed a team of 10 Sales Reps" is not as impactful as stating that you “Successfully grew a high-performing team of Sales Representatives that exceeded established quotas for four consecutive quarters." You must ask yourself what you did well in every job, and use powerful adjectives to share that with employers. A separate section of accomplishments, listing awards you won, deals you orchestrated, or costs savings you were responsible for, can place you miles ahead of your competition.
9. Use Education to Push Your Professionalism
Your education section should provide details on your higher education and any professional development activities you completed that are relevant to your field. If you list your college, be sure to formally state the type of degree you earned. If you have not completed school, list your anticipated graduation date, and relevant coursework. Professional development is all the rage these days, so be sure to list those leadership, safety, time management, and other courses you completed, even if you completed them at your previous place of employment. Be careful not to overshare – no need to add your crocheting classes or your certificate in ballroom dance, unless you’re applying for a job as a dance instructor.
10. Seek a Second Set of Eyes
Even if you feel like your resume is a masterpiece, and you have applied every tip included in this article, always ask someone else to review your resume. When we write, we often don’t see errors, and we can’t see our resume through the eyes of another person. Ask a friend or colleague, or your mentor, to read the resume and identify those things that would make them call you or not call you. The feedback you receive can help you make important changes before you hit the market.
No matter what type of resume you write, or how much you love it, it will never be finished – and that’s the beauty of it! As we continue to work, we continue to learn and develop. As your career or education advances or when you mark a great accomplishment, take a moment to add that item. Your resume is the place where you share your career trajectory, and tell your professional story to the world.
If you or someone you know needs additional support during their unemployment journey, learn how to do so here.
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