I’ve reviewed a ton of resumes (if you printed them out, they would have weighed a ton!), during my time working at Microsoft Corporation.
I’ve seen amazing resumes, and plenty of awful ones. The sad reality is that given the tsunami of resumes most companies receive, decisions on which people get get a second look or call-back happen fast.
If you are lucky, your resume might get a whopping 6-seconds of attention!
It is imperative that you put your best effort into making your resume a strong reflection of your value to a future company. Resumes, when done well, take a while to create. Below are a few simple strategies to help you build a winning resume, faster.
Nail your “elevator pitch”
At the top of your resume, underneath your name and contact details, is where you would articulate your objective. I’m including this as the first tip in this post since it is yor objective that will frame and direct the remainder of your resume content.
Your objective is equivalent to your 20-second elevator pitch that explains why you are the right person for the job. Especially if you have an extensive work history, the objective is critical since it helps recruiters and managers quickly understand why they should hire you for a particular role.
Your objective should be specific. If you can’t come up with an objective that is specific and tailored to the job you are applying for, you should not include it, and perhaps question why you are applying for the particular job in the first place.
The rest of your resume should support your objective and tell the story of how your experience and skills backs up your ambition for your career going forward.
Be clear and brief
The purpose of a resume is to communicate one thing, why you are an outstanding candidate for the job. Anything else you include is superfluous and at best will be ignored, and at worst will get your resume passed over. Resumes should not be a laundry list of everything you have done in your life. They should be concise and very clearly articulate your value in a way that makes a recruiter or hiring manager want to contact you for further discussion.
Your goal for a resume should be to get noticed and have the chance for a real conversation where you can mutually assess your fit for a potential job, and that’s all! It will take self-control not to let your resume turn into a brain dump of every experience and accolade that has come your way. Focus, focus, focus! If you resume is longer than two pages, you need to think carefully about why you include that much content. According to job site, TheLadders:
“Three-page resumes are certainly not extinct, but they should be rare. Professional resume writers urge their clients first to try to trim their resumes down to a maximum of two pages. One instance in which a three-pager might be appropriate would be if a job seeker were to transition from one field to another.”
Tailor your winning resume
Let’s suppose you work in the tech industry and contemplating Product Management job opportunities with a Fortune 500 company, a mid-sized start-up, a small startup and a consulting firm. You might be looking for the same job role for all these companies, but you should not assume that the same resume will apply equally well for each of these roles.
One size does not fit all when it comes to your resume. You need to think critically about the needs of each type of company you are applying to and adjust keywords and how you describe your experience to follow suit.
Another way of looking at it is like this, if you were at a job fair and had conversations with 4–5 vastly different types of companies for a potential role, would you tailor your communication to the context of each company? Of course, you would! The same should be true for your resume.
Get past resume robots
Most large companies and recruiters use a search engine to crawl and screen resumes before a human looks at them. These systems are Applicant Tracking Systems or Automated Resume Screeners. I prefer the term Resume Robots 🙂 You can use a service like https://www.topresume.com to learn how crawlers view your resume (just apply for their free resume analysis).
You should also examine the needed skills for your desired job and ensure that you include the right keywords. Barbara Safani of CareerSolvers suggests using LinkedIn’s skills section to find the keywords that would most likely show up in a company’s search query database. To start, look at the skills listed on your Profile on LinkedIn for ideas. Examine job postings of interest. Include these keywords throughout your resume, where it makes sense.
Lifehacker has some other tips on how to “hack” your way past the resume robots.
Have a highly structured format
Eye- tracking research from job search site, The Ladders, discovered the shocking statistic that recruiters on average spend six seconds looking at a resume. That is if the recruiter looks at your resume at all! It’s, therefore, critical that your resume is visually structured and free of clutter.
Alignment and formatting must be crisp and clean. Bold/highlight key portions to improve scannability. Leave for plenty of white space to draw attention to your primary content. Brevity if your friend. Do not include too much information.
Get professional help
There are a ton of people and companies our there that will support your resume writing efforts. I do not recommend turning to help until you’ve created your solid draft. You should only hire someone to fine-tune your resume, not to write it for you! The process of writing a resume is highly useful to your job search process. It will get you thinking about what you want, why you want it, and how your past accomplishments can set you up for success.
With a solid first draft in hand, next turn to 2–3 people in your network who are hiring managers for the type of role you are looking for, and ask them for honest feedback on your resume.
Lastly, you may turn to a service like Top Resume or a skilled resume writing freelancer, who will write or refine a robot-friendly resume for you and help nail down keywords and wording that will help you stand out from the crowd.