The resume you submit to a recruiter is how you make a first impression. Obviously, you want it to wow recruiters, and leave them wanting to know more. The single most challenging thing about the job search process is getting a recruiter interested in you just by this one-page document.
In this day and age, technology permeates into all aspect of our lives and has revolutionized the way recruiters view job applicants. Companies have begun using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) as a tool to quickly distinguish which candidates they want to move forward in the application process. The system scans resumes for specific “keywords” and a bit of contextual elements, so recruiters no longer have to read over every single application. Unfortunately, this can lead to well-qualified applicants being looked over just because they lacked whatever the system was programed to look for.
Tailoring your resume so that it’s laid out correctly and contains right the verbiage, keywords, and overall message is critical to landing a job. Not to mention, you are blindly sending an email to an inbox flooded with messages from others who are just as eager as you to getting hired. How you communicate your past job experience and skills is just as important as having them. Our hope is that by the end of this post you will know how to tailor your resume to be memorable, polished, and effective.
Layout: How your resume is presented will influence how you are perceived. Most people are surprised to learn that the font style, font size, and font colour of a resume can help or hinder your chances of getting a response. Each career field has different standards for what they see as an acceptable resume layout. For a corporate position, go with a resume with a simple layout, clean lines and minimal colouring except for black/white (maybe a pop of blue to give it some pizazz). If you are going for a graphic design position, take that chance to flex your design skills and create an extraordinary but effective layout. Scouting the web, we have found some of our favorite free resumes templates on canva.com.
Top: The top half of your resume is where a recruiter should be able to do a quick scan and find your contact information, education, and skills. Avoid being too wordy and bland with this top section, especially when highlighting your skills. If nothing you say catches the recruiter’s eye, you likely will be skipped over.
Skills: Again, your skills should go in the top section of your resume. As mentioned priorly, oftentimes, companies have “keywords,” that they use to describe their employees. Finding out what these are only takes a tad bit of online research, and can really intrigue a recruiter when they see these keywords on your resume. Make sure the skills you are listing are not only applicable to the position, but also to yourself. Do not just plop down random adjectives that sound impressive as this will shine through as being staged and even presumptuous. It may sound time-consuming to have different resumes for each role you apply for, but we do promise you it can make a significant impact. The resume you submit for a position in human resources should not highlight the same skills you send in for a sales position. They are two completely different roles that value different types of skill sets. Your skills should be written in a bullet format, and I encourage you to be creative with the verbiage.
Here are some tips to communicate your soft skills…
For a sales role, instead of saying “strong communication skills” say “dynamic speaker.” Another way of saying “works well in groups,” is “collaborative team member.” Keep the number of soft skills you list to a minimum, and always include any of your certifications or hard skills, such as SEO, Indesign, etc. Brainstorm skills that make you qualified for the position, and highlight them in the top third of your resume.
Bottom: The bottom portion of your resume is where you should list your professional experience. For each position, do not forget to include your job title, when worked, and what you accomplished while you were there. Use an action verb or numerical evidence when describing your accomplishments, as they are more concise and vividly demonstrate your role. Words like “led,” “generated,” and “spearheaded” are all great first words to use here.
Landing a job after university or trying to move up in rank when you are mid-career are two of the biggest challenges we as professionals face, which makes the effectiveness of your resume a fundamental part of your success. Be proactive, and seek out what your target employers are looking for, but be sure that your resume is an authentic representation of yourself. When you put in the work, it will be sure to pay off.