7 Ways to Craft a Stand-Out Resume
With the job market getting more competitive, it’s important that your resume can perform. Here are 7 sure-fire ways to give you an edge on the competition:
- Use Keywords and Key Phrases to tailor your resume for the job. With recruiters receiving a deluge of resumes, more companies are using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs) to weed out less desirable candidates and save time. Not too long ago only large companies used ATSs; but today, small and medium-sized companies also use them. When you email your resume or complete an online application, it goes through the ATS that stores your resume on a database. When the recruiter enters keywords for a job opening, the system lists the top search results in the same way as when you do a Google search. So, it’s important to include relevant keywords in your resume to increase your ranking in the ATS.
- Include SMART Accomplishments. Instead of just describing responsibilities and accountabilities, include accomplishments that contain as many as the following elements as possible:
- Specific (clearly explain accomplishment)
- Measurable (use numbers when possible)
- Action-oriented (start with verb)
- Results-oriented (how it helped company or customers)
- Time-specific (how long accomplishment took)
For example, compare “Reorganized medical filing system.” with “Reorganized 1000 patient files within 4 months to help doctors find information more quickly”. Using SMART accomplishments shows the employer you understand the importance of your job.
- List all Relevant Work Experience. If you don’t have a lot of work experience, you can list volunteer work, school projects or community initiatives and explain how you helped the organization or team. Employers are always looking for people who take the initiative to solve problems or meet needs. If you’re applying for a position where you need a portfolio, use school projects as samples or create samples on spec to demonstrate your skills and knowledge.
- Avoid clichés. Clichés are boring because they’re overused. Everyone says they’re an “excellent communicator”, “team player” or have “excellent problem-solving skills”. When a recruiter has to look at over 100 resumes, seeing the same old tired words and phrases can put them to sleep. Show don’t tell. For example, instead of saying you have strong problem-solving skills, demonstrate it by explaining how you solved problems during your summer jobs, internships, part-time jobs, initiatives or projects.
- Use a clean, professional design. You may have the best qualifications, skills and experience for the job, but if your resume has too many fancy fonts or loud bullets dancing all over the place, recruiters won’t have the patience to wade through the madness. The average recruiter has less than a minute to scan your resume, so you must help them quickly answer the question “Is this candidate suitable?”. A well-designed resume that answers this question will make the recruiter’s job much easier.
- Include a cover letter. Unless specified otherwise, always include a cover letter. Try to find out the employer’s name and address the letter to them. If you can’t find out their name, it’s OK to say “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Human Resources”. Ensure your letter follows the AIDA formula. Your letter should have 4 paragraphs, each with its own purpose:
- A is for Attention: Grab the employer’s attention by asking a question or stating an interesting fact.
- I is for Interest: Explain how your skills and knowledge match those needed for the job.
- D is for Desire: Mention what you learned about the company to show the employer you’ve done your research.
- A is for Action: Ask for an interview by suggesting a meeting to further discuss your qualifications.
- Check and recheck. A sloppy resume with typos and grammatical errors sends the wrong message. When you finished your resume, set it aside for a day or two, then check it again to ensure it’s error free. Better yet, ask someone you trust to look it over because with being so close to the document, it’s hard to be objective and catch your own mistakes.
Job hunting is a lot of work. Some people say it’s a full-time job. If you put in the time to craft a stand-out resume, you’ll put yourself on the road to success.
Giselle Mazurat received her designation as a Certified Resume Strategist from the Career Professionals of Canada. She also writes technical and business content for government and private companies.
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