Your resume is arguably the most important financial document you’ll ever own. Let’s think about that for a bit. A great resume wins interviews that help you land a job. A job provides the income you need to pay bills, feed your family, plan for retirement, and take vacations.
Considering the importance of your resume, it’s vital that it be written properly. Simply throwing a single resume at a bunch of jobs and hoping something will stick isn’t good enough. Yet, that’s what most job seekers do. It does take some time to perfect your resume, but there are 5 ways you can improve it and impress a hiring manager to the point they call you for an interview.
- Write a compelling Professional Summary.
- Make the resume ATS-friendly.
- Match keywords in the resume with qualifications from the job description.
- Focus on quality over quantity.
- Couple your resume with a powerful cover letter, thank you note, and follow-up.
1. Write a compelling Professional Summary
The age of writing an objective at the top of your resume is dead. Objectives are a waste of space that provides zero value to the resume. Instead, write a professional summary. This should be a 3-5 sentence paragraph that basically answers the “tell me about yourself” interview question. This is the first opportunity to show a hiring manager that you’re the only one who’s right for the job and it provides for a place to start using relevant keywords.
- Start with the title of the role you seek to fill along with how much experience you have in that position.
- Move on to an accomplishment that demonstrates your skill in the role.
- Provide a solid mix of hard (things you know how to do from education and experience) and soft skills (personality traits that make you good at what you do).
- You can add some bullets beneath the paragraph to call out a few career achievements.
2. Make the resume ATS-friendly
The resume you submit to a job often has to talk to a computer before it reaches a human being. In fact, a whopping 75% of resumes are pushed through these Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). ATS scans will check your resume for things like margins, font, years of experience, and relevant keywords.
- Make sure you are applying to positions for which you’re well suited and highly qualified.
- Tailor your resume to each job you apply by using keywords from the job description.
- Use MS Word for the format of your resume. ATS scans can’t always parse information from a PDF.
- Avoid the use of graphics, tables, charts, logos, and don’t put important information in the header/footer.
- Don’t cheat. There used to be widely circulated information that said pasting the job description in white font would fool the ATS scans. This is NOT true. Computers can read text whether it’s black or white.
- If at all possible use the reverse-chronological or hybrid/combination format. The functional format is okay in some instances but is widely frowned upon by hiring managers.
3. Match keywords in the resume with qualifications from the job description
Even the shortest job descriptions have superfluous words. It’s important to go through each one to determine which keywords are important (i.e., relevant). Relevancy allows you to show expertise. Here’s a sample job description for a beauty advisor:
Even though the position is specifically for a beauty advisor, you’ll notice in the second bullet, the word “beauty” is crossed out from the relevant keyword. This will allow you to show that you stay up-to-date on trends, no matter what product you’re demonstrating. In the last paragraph of the job description, it talks about encouraging staff members to be unique in a diverse environment. You can pay homage to this point in your summary paragraph.
4. Focus on quality over quantity
Turn your task-based resume into an achievement-based resume. No hiring manager wants to know what you were supposed to do at a previous job, they want to know what you did. The key question they’ll be asking themselves as they scan your resume is, “So, what?!” Meaning, they want to know why it is they’re reading what they’re reading and how all of it translates into a win for them and their team.
Here are a few examples that show you how to turn tasks into accomplishments:
- Turn “Responsible for managing project team” into “Managed & supervised project team consisting of 6 analysts & 2 team leads.”
- Turn “Negotiated sales terms & completed contracts” into “Utilized consultative & needs-based sales approach to negotiate new sales contracts resulting in onboarding 26 new clients in 3 months.”
- Turn “Performed automotive preventative maintenance like oil changes & tire rotations” into “Employed advanced knowledge of automotive preventative maintenance to handle the needs of up to 35 vehicles per day.”
It doesn’t matter what your job is, you can always talk about results.
5. Couple your resume with a powerful cover letter, thank you note, and follow-up
Pre-COVID-19 roughly 25% of hiring managers wanted and/or read cover letters. Post-COVID-19, that number has jumped to 48%. In fact, a recent study shows that only 18% of hiring managers don’t care about cover letters. While cover letters and resumes should always be sent together (you never know whether your hiring manager is in the 48% or the 18%), it is more imperative to use both now (Fall 2020).
Not surprisingly, sending a thank you note and following up with the company after you apply is also seen as a good thing. It puts your name in front of the hiring manager more than one time and shows that you’re diligent. Additionally, the company will know that you didn’t just send your resume to a bunch of companies. Following up and sending thank you notes is hard evidence to suggest you are targeting that company specifically for a position.
If you’re being ghosted by companies after you apply to their positions, it’s probably because of a problem with your resume. Following these 5 steps to improve your resume and impress hiring managers is how to get your phone to start ringing with interview appointments.