As professional recruiters, we read hundreds of resumes a week. It is often our first impression of a candidate and given the number of resumes we review, if what we see in yours doesn’t grab us quickly, we will be tempted to put it aside and move on. The resumes that do draw us in and convince us to take a closer look are concise, compelling, well-organized and relevant. Therefore, a key part of any successful job search is creating a resume that will help you stand out in that initial quick review. Below are a few of the most important tips to help you achieve this and rise to the top of the candidate pool.
1. Customization is Key
Standard resumes are one-size-fits-nobody. While it is tempting to create a template resume and reuse it for efficiency’s sake, this is not a successful strategy. Think about the top three to four competencies a recruiter might be looking for in a given position and highlight those front and center. Then, build around those themes with examples of experiences that fortify those points.
Avoid including everything and the kitchen sink! This is overwhelming for recruiters and makes it difficult for them to filter out the truly relevant aspects of your background, skills and experiences thereby diluting the relevance of your experience.
2. Formatting Matters
Everyone wants to stand out from the crowd; however, it is best to do this through content as opposed to fancy design attributes. Using a standard resume format makes it easier for a recruiter to access the specific details he or she is looking for in that quick initial scan. This means using clear and standard headers, bolding or italicizing key words and details, and using bullets for brevity. In addition, choose a basic font such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri, instead of “fun” fonts, like Comic Sans or Monotype Corsiva. Your resume should represent the professionalism that you are capable of bringing to the position.
Finally, be sure to send your resume as a PDF file to ensure the formatting is consistent if your recruiter is using a different operating system or version of Microsoft to view it.
3. Focus on Mission and Culture Fit
This is particularly important in the social sector. We always look for evidence of experience with, or strong interest in, the mission and culture of the organization. So if you are applying to an ed-tech organization, you should include examples of professional work, volunteer work, or professional group affiliations you have had related to that field. If you are applying for a role at a small, start-up organization, you should include examples of entrepreneurship and driving results in resource-constrained environments.
4. Give Concrete Examples that Demonstrate Your Skills
Instead of claiming to have skills, provide specific examples that demonstrate these skills. For example, which person would you want to talk to for a role requiring problem solving skills and personal initiative?
[Candidate A]: Proven ability to take initiative and strong track record of paying attention to detail
[Candidate B]: Created a more efficient system to track all client records after noticing that the previous system was responsible for an occasional discrepancy in records.
Even though Candidate B doesn’t use the words “problem solver” or “initiative” they demonstrate those skills in a far more compelling way. The point is, don’t just tell us you can do these things; give examples that prove it.
5. Speak to Results
In a results-oriented, data-driven sector, it is important to demonstrate that you have tracked the impact of your work in a measurable way. Give actual statistics whenever possible in your examples demonstrating how your work increased productivity, impact, revenue, engagement, satisfaction, innovation and or/decreased costs. For example, the above example would be even stronger as follows:
[Candidate B]: Increased accuracy of client records by 25% by creating and implementing a new tracking system after noticing that the previous system was causing discrepancies. The new system also allowed for organization-wide efficiencies that reduced our record-tracking process from three days a month to one day a month.
And finally, the most important one of all:
6. Make sure there are NO TYPOS OR MISTAKES OF ANY KIND.
Having any typos, big or small, is easily the quickest way to disqualify yourself from a position, even if you’re perfectly qualified otherwise. Employers reading your resume will see the typo and assume that you either don’t care about the job and therefore did not put a lot of time into your application OR that you are not detail-oriented enough for the position.
In order to make sure that your resume is ready to be submitted, when you’ve finished putting it all together, run spellcheck. After that, read it out loud. Reading your own writing out loud is a useful technique for finding typos and other mistakes because when you read it internally, your brain jumps ahead and hides the typos by correcting them in your head when you read them. Once you read it out loud, you actually hear what the words you’ve strung together sound like as a whole, and any errors or mistakes will be more obvious.
After you read it out loud, send it to a few friends. Not only will they be helpful with finding errors you may have missed, but they may have useful opinions or suggestions for your resume in general! The more people you can get to read it, the more likely it is that your resume will be safe from the devastating effects of a typo.
When candidates successfully include all of these aspects in their resume, they have a much better chance of landing an initial interview with us. Keep an eye out for a future blog on nailing your first round phone interview. But first, perfect that resume!
Do you have any other pointers that you think belong on the list? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below!