You know the old saying, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”? Well, when it comes to job-hunting, this statement could not be truer.
And your resume is often the first impression that prospective employers have of you. On one page, they determine whether you are meticulous and detail-oriented or whether you are sloppy and disorganized. They decide whether you are diligent and hardworking or lazy and complacent.
I remember several years ago, I was applying to jobs and sent my resume out to a bunch of different companies. One of them responded to me and said the following,
Thank you for submitting your resume. For future reference the word portfolio is misspelled in your resume.
You never get the second chance to make a first impression.
And that was it. You can imagine the shame I felt upon reading that (especially because I prided myself on my attention to detail). My resume was in PDF format and, despite reading and proofreading my resume many times over, I had somehow missed that. One tiny typo cost me that job (and perhaps many others).
Everyone knows the importance of having a resume that’s free from spelling mistakes. But what else matters?
I’ve got eight additional tips I’d like to share with you.
1. Make it Readable
First and foremost, your resume should be easy to read. Steer clear of fancy fonts. They might make you stand out, but not in a good way. Your employer won’t take long to try and understand your resume, so if it’s hard to read, chances are, it’s going to be tossed straight in the trash.
The solution? Choose a simple font, like Times New Roman or Helvetica. And make the leading (or space between the lines) 120% of the font size. In Word, you can do this by going to “Format,” “Paragraph,” and then under “Line Spacing,” choose “Exactly,” and set the spacing to be two points above the size of your font. So if your font size is 12, then set the leading at 14pt.
2. Use Hyperlinks
With more and more employers reading resumes off of screens, it makes perfect sense to include hyperlinks throughout your resume. It also makes things easy for your employer, so that they don’t have to go searching for whatever you are referring to. It’s a little way to show that you are tech-savvy and also demonstrates that you are proactive, since you are anticipating what your prospective employer is looking for.
You could link to your blogs, if you have them, or portfolio. And a hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile is an absolute must.
3. Make it Scannable
The person looking at your resume is probably “reading” hundreds of resumes at a time. So make it easy for them. In addition to being readable, your resume should also be easily scannable.
It should be formatted so that the hiring manager can quickly scan your resume and get the main idea of what you’re all about. Include bullet points and avoid filler words that just take up space. Remember: Whitespace is your friend.
You can bold or italicize certain things that you want to highlight, like your previous job titles or company names.
Use no more than two different fonts throughout your resume. You could, for instance, use one font for your headings and another font for your subheadings and copy.
However you format it, make sure that it’s easy to scan in 10 seconds or less and that the formatting is consistent throughout.
4. Use Keywords
As it turns out, keywords are not just used for SEO purposes. Hiring companies also rely on them to find the resumes that best fit what they’re looking for. Many will use applicant-tracking systems (also known as ATS), which filter through resumes based on keywords that are used. They might search for certain skills, previous employers or years of experience.
So what keywords should you be using in your resume? Do a little research to find out. Check out job postings similar to the positions you’re applying for and look under the “qualifications” or “responsibilities” section at the words that are used. For instance, if one of the job responsibilities requires experience with Google Analytics, you can be darn sure that the hiring manager is going to search for that keyword; so, if you have experience with Google Analytics, find a place to include that keyword in your resume.
You could also check out the About section of the company website and see what words they use to describe themselves. If they say they are all about growth, for instance, you could include the word “growth” somewhere in your resume. Demonstrate how you have grown.
Make a list of all the keywords that you can come up with that are relevant to your position, and sprinkle them throughout your resume. Even better if it’s a healthy blend of different keywords, ones that show off your soft skills (like your people skills) and hard skills (your specific knowledge and abilities).
5. Get Rid of the Objective
Resume objectives are a thing of the past. Hiring managers don’t care about what you are looking for in a career. They want to know how you can help them.
Instead of having an objective on your resume, have a career summary, where you can highlight your skills and experience in a few simple bullet points. What are you known for? What makes you special? If you have a good deal of experience in an area or a diverse skillset, now’s the time to share that. Put your career summary at the top of your resume, so that it’s the very first thing potential employers see.
6. Take Off Your Address
While it used to be fairly standard, there’s really no reason to include your address on your resume. If anything, prospective employers might bias against you if you are far away or have a long commute.
7. Avoid Cliché Language
Yeah, yeah. You’re “hard-working,” “a go-getter” and “goal-oriented…” That’s great and all, but at the end of the day, these are just words that every candidate uses to describe themselves. As the adage goes, actions speak louder than words; words are meaningless unless you can back them up with some evidence.
Instead of describing yourself, describe your accomplishments. How are you great? Which brings me to my next point…
8. Tell Stories
Think of your resume as a way to tell your unique story.
Laszlo Bock, who was once in charge of hiring at Google, said that, “The key is to frame your strengths as: ‘I accomplished X, relative to Y, by doing Z.’ Most people would write a résumé like this: ‘Wrote editorials for The New York Times.’ Better would be to say: ‘Had 50 op-eds published compared to the average of 6 by most op-ed [writers] as a result of providing deep insight into the following area for three years.’ Most people don’t put the right content on their résumés.”
Take advantage of the power of storytelling, and think of your resume as a place to share exactly what you have accomplished in your career and how you accomplished those things. The more specific you can get, the better.
Your resume should be centered on one thing and one thing only: how you can help your employer. That’s really what it’s all about.
Make things as easy as possible for them, so that your resume is readable, scannable and digestible. Showcase your expertise and skills. Skip the clichés and instead, provide some hard, concrete evidence of your accomplishments. Storytell a bit to get your point across.
And last but certainly not least…don’t forget to proofread.