How can you make your resume stand out to potential employers? There are a few guidelines to be followed that will help your resume stand out. Moreover, a winning resume may encourage employers to contact you about job opportunities. In this article, we will go over what employers look for in a resume, how to describe your work experience and tips to make your resume shine.
What Employers Are Looking For
Your resume is your first and best chance to get noticed by recruiters and hiring managers. Your goal is to make it easy for them to see that you have the qualifications and skills they are looking for. In many cases, employers have several key strengths that they want candidates to demonstrate. Because they may be reading through hundreds of applications, a recruiter or hiring manager might quickly scan your resume to see if those qualifications jump out.
It is also important to note that online job applications are often sorted through software called an applicant tracking system (ATS). This software scans resumes and cover letters for relevant experience, skills and other keywords so that qualified candidates are easy for employers to identify.
Read job descriptions closely to identify required skills and experience. You may want to make a list of the requirements you see. Refer back to this list as you’re writing your resume. If you have these skills, list them prominently. If you don’t meet the exact requirements, list your related or similar skills. For example, if a job description asks for three to five years of experience and you have two years, write “2+ years of experience in your job or industry.” If you don’t have the required skills and experience, you may want to refine your job search to find a better match.
Use a simple format, leading with contact information (your name, email address, phone number and the city where you live), followed by a summary, your work experience and education. Complicated page layouts can be hard for applicant tracking systems to handle, such as using graphic templates with text boxes and varied fonts. Use a standard font such as Arial, Calibri and Georgia, keeping font size between 10 and 12. For most resumes, it’s best to keep it to two pages maximum. Carefully consider if everything you’ve included is necessary.
Beginning your resume with a headline or summary statement is one way to clearly call out your most relevant qualifications. This short description should quickly advertise your skill set and professional goals to any reader.
To get started, think back on your proudest career accomplishments and what defines who you are in the workplace. Carefully read the job descriptions that you’re considering. Do they require a specific certification or years of experience? Your headline is the place to let the employer know you meet these requirements.
For example, a customer service representative with a track record of customer satisfaction might write: Customer success professional with 3+ years’ experience delighting clients in the retail industry.
Similarly, an experienced dental assistant could write: Certified dental assistant with 12+ years in direct patient care.
The Experience Section
Once you have written your resume summary, the next section to take on is your work experience. In some cases, your education may be listed before your work experience. Today, it’s more common for education to come at the end of the resume, though it depends on your industry and when you received your education. Here are some guidelines to follow when listing out your work experience so employers can quickly understand your background:
Use bullet points rather than paragraphs. Writing out your experience in a list has the double benefit of using fewer words and making it easier for employers to read.
Lead with strong action verbs and follow with an accomplishment rather than a task. Employers are interested in what you’ve achieved, not just what you’ve done. What’s the difference between an accomplishment and a task? Here are a couple examples:
Task: Greeted customers
Accomplishment: Provided friendly and helpful service by greeting customers.
Task: Analyzed marketing campaign performance
Accomplishment: Reported on ROI of marketing campaigns, improving campaign efficiency by 20%.
If you can, fill employment gaps with other experiences such as education or freelance work. Did you take classes, earn any certifications or volunteer during the time you weren’t formally employed? If you worked on personal projects or as a freelancer, you can put “Self-employed” where you would otherwise list an employer.
The Education Section
In the education section of your resume, list all of the relevant degrees or certifications that make you qualified for this job. If you have attained a degree, list your degree type and field of study followed by the name of your educational institution and the city and state. Unless you’re a recent graduate, you don’t need to list your graduation date. If you have multiple degrees, list your highest level of education first. If you have attended a program of study but didn’t graduate, you can list the years you attended and the credits you received.
Proofing Your Resume
After taking the time to write a great resume, you don’t want typos and spelling mistakes to get in the way of submitting a winning application. Reread your resume from top to bottom and then from bottom to top, correcting mistakes as you find them. It is also a good idea to ask a friend or family member to read it for you—they will look at it with fresh eyes and may find mistakes more readily.