Through my experience as an HR professional I have reviewed a lot of resumes and applicant profiles. I have also received feedback on applicant’s resumes from managers who make hiring decisions. What I know about resumes, is that there are several key factors that can hold applicants back from moving forward through the recruitment process. I wanted to share these tips to ensure you avoid the mistakes that several job applicants make!
Update your resume using these helpful tips so you are getting callbacks on your job applications.
Your Resume Format Should Be Consistent and Visually Appealing
The structure and formatting of your resume is so incredibly important. On average, recruiters spend 6-8 seconds reviewing a resume (first glance) before they decide to move a candidate forward or disregard the application altogether.
When cleaning up your resume, ensure all headings are aligned and your font/ font sizes are consistent throughout your resume. There are great resume templates out there but be cautious not to over-design it.
Your resume should follow chronological order – starting with the most recent education and experience. The flow of a chronological resume allows the reader to make sense of your story and is the most preferred among hiring managers and recruiters. It is my opinion to steer clear of using a functional resume. The ONLY time I would suggest using a functional resume is when you have no volunteer, extra-curricular, or work experience to put on a resume.
If a recruiter has to piece together your resume or flip back and forth between pages to make sense of it, your application will either get discarded or swept to the bottom of the pile.
Your Skills Stand Out and Are Easily Identifiable on Your Resume
When listing your skills on your resume, always ensure the skills you have listed are directly related to the position you are applying for. Look for the keywords in the job posting and use those (assuming you have those skills – don’t lie). By making a connection with your resume and the job posting, you will catch the attention of a recruiter and applicant tracking systems that scan your resume for keywords.
Always list your key skills, in a “skills” section and use bullet points. Avoid embedding your skills in sentences where they will get lost.
- Transferable Skill
- Specialized Skill
- The skill that you are trying to make stand out, will get lost in a sentence.
Get my point?
Always use a mix of transferable and specialized skills on your resume; however, if you need to eliminate some due to space, eliminate the transferable skills.
Ensure Only Relevant Information Referencing Education and Experience Are Included on Your Resume
Since you only have 1-2 pages to make yourself shine, only include information that is relevant to the position you are applying for.
For example, if you are a Certified Plumber who is looking to make a career change to a Digital Marketing Specialist – there is no need to talk about your ability to unclog drains, install fixtures, or install water and waste lines. What you can include, if it is the only previous experience you can put on your resume, is any transferable skills or experience obtained as a plumber that could be applicable as a Digital Marketing Specialist. Maybe you created Google Ads to promote plumbing services? Maybe you managed a social media account for the plumbing company you worked for? Make the information on your resume count, if it doesn’t leave it off!
Include Work Achievements, Not Just Job Responsibilities on Your Resume
In addition to summarizing your job responsibilities, also include some of your achievements. This can include leading projects, metrics and targets obtained, or recognition received (like a company award etc.). I recommend listing approximately 2-3 of your most noteworthy accomplishments for each role.
If Your Education is Stronger Than Your Work Experience, Place it Above Your Experience
As a student or new graduate applying for a summer job, co-op position, an internship, or even a full-time role, it is likely that your education heading will come first on your resume. When you lack work experience and your education is your strongest asset, it should be put above your experience. Put your education in standard resume format and create a subsection to list relevant courses that you have completed. Only list courses if they are relevant. Once you have some work experience, you can remove your list of courses from your resume as it can make you look too junior. There is no need to reference your GPA unless a job posting is specifically asking for it.
Write Clearly and Concisely – Your Resume Should Not Be “Wordy”
I have come across several resumes in my day where I read a sentence describing someone’s job responsibilities over a few times trying to determine what they actually did in their previous positions. The sentences are often full of gibberish and a slew of big words – but no real explanation of the candidate’s previous job responsibility or the demonstrated achievements. If you struggle to find the words that explain your job responsibilities, go back to your previous job description. Keep it simple! If a recruiter can’t quickly see that your experience matches the role they are recruiting for, your application will quickly end up in the regret pile.
Ensure You Use Proper Sentence Tense in Your Resume
When writing your resume be sure to always explain your current job(s) in present tense and any previous positions using the past tense. Also, your resume should never be written in the first person, save the “I’s” for your cover letter!
Your Resume Should Convey Your Professional Brand and Be Consistent With Your Professional Profiles
Your resume is a piece of marketing material that demonstrates who you are as a professional. Always ensure that you are creating a professional picture that is consistent across all platforms that you are using to market yourself for jobs. This includes your profile on LinkedIn or any other platform you have set up a candidate profile where recruiters can find you.
When you set up a candidate profile on an online platform that allows you to quickly apply for jobs – it should match the resume you are submitting. When using the quick apply method, the first thing a recruiter is likely to see is your online profile. Therefore, it is equally important that your online professional profiles are well put together. If a recruiter likes what they see they will then move on to opening your uploaded resume…and your resume should match your profile!
When you update your resume, don’t forget to update your profiles – and vice versa.
If you hold social media accounts, keep them clean! If you chose to have accounts that may be slightly less than professional, ensure they are marked private or change any identifying information.
Your Template is Tailored to the Position You Are Applying For
When applying for a position, I always suggest that you edit your resume to include the keywords indicated in the job posting. This will help identify you as a top candidate. That being said, your resume template should remain relatively the same with a few edits here and there. Create a resume that can quickly be tailored to the position you are applying for, or create a few drafts for specialized roles.
For example, as a general HR practitioner, I have experience in payroll, benefits, training and development, recruitment, employee relations, etc. If I was going to start applying for a specialized role in HR… maybe a Payroll and Benefits Manager, it may make sense to create a resume draft that focuses specifically on my experience applicable to managing payroll and benefits programs.
By not targeting your resume to the job you are applying for, you risk getting by passed by applicant tracking systems or a human reviewing your resume.
Your Resume Should Be 1-2 Pages in Length
Your resume should be 1-2 pages in length; however, a curriculum vitae (resume for academics, researchers, etc.) is an exception. When submitting a curriculum vitae, you will likely have several publications that you need to reference. By keeping your resume to two pages, you are forced to get to the point and avoid fluff – which is what recruiters and hiring managers want.
Have a Second Set of Eyes Review Your Resume for Formatting, Consistency, Sentence Coherence, Spelling, and Grammatical Errors
Always, always, always, have someone review your resume after updating it. Errors on your resume or online candidate profiles may be the culprit if you aren’t getting any callbacks from recruiters!
Once you have had someone review your resume, save it as a PDF and ensure that the formatting hasn’t changed. Always submit a resume as a PDF file – unless you are loading it into an applicant tracking system (ATS).
Take the time to ensure you are putting your best foot forward. Clean up your resume using these tips so you can confidently start applying for positions. Best of luck in your job search!