Looking for ways to improve your resume? We got you covered! Whatever the economy may look like and however good or bad it is for professionals in your line, there are always employers out there wading through a sea of resumes. More often than not, a computer program does a keyword search (applicant tracking system) and eliminates resumes that do not fit the bill. So your focus must be on how to perfect your resume and let it pass the scrutiny of the program. Here are a few tips as to how to improve resume quality and standout for a potential employer or hiring manager.
1. Length of the resume
How long should a resume be? Any resume should only be as long as it needs to be. A machine certainly eliminates resumes based on keywords for that particular job but a hiring manager pays more attention to the matter reinforcing/supporting the keywords used. If you have a defined set of skills, it is always a good idea to keep them on hard copy (which you mail or carry to your face-to-face interview). Cut out fluff that is irrelevant or that does not showcase any specific talent or skill. It is also a good idea to cut down lengthy project descriptions, keeping them limited to your role and achievements in the said period.
2. Start your descriptions with verbs
Action always gets the interest piqued, even that of your potential employer/hiring manager. Here is an example. If in a certain project that was live for 3 years, you detected and fixed a defect that reduced the cycle time from 1 minute to 10 seconds, you can write a single line in the resume, “Reduced the cycle time by 10 times within a week”. It will keep it short, crisp and the hiring manager would want to hear all about it.
3. The “objective” section
If you are an experienced job seeker, before you send out your resume, research what the employer is looking for at the moment. Write 1 line at the top how your experience aligns with the goal of the potential employer. Do not however name it your “objective” for you might be equally qualified for another opening with the same potential employer for which you might just as easily be considered provided the skills section of your resume is clear and crisp with related experience and achievements. If you are looking for how to improve your resume with no experience, write down how your educational qualifications meet the potential employer’s requirement.
4. Focus on the accomplishments
The most important thing in a resume is the position you held and the name of your previous / current employer. Another most important thing is that the potential employer would like to see why you are better suited for the current opening. Your accomplishments with your previous employer matter more than run of the mill “responsibilities” attached to the position. So, if you were a quality checker, great! Your accomplishments for resume would be how much cost you saved in returns and rejects from the storefront and how much rework was reduced because of your efficient communication with the back-end.
5. Frequently update your resume
If you possess experience in a variety of fields, only keep the relevant information on your resume when you select a specific employer to send your resume to. Emphasize on that experience that will get you under the scanner instead of squeezing every little detail of your work into the resume. You can briefly mention your varied experience in the resume summary statement but keep the top sections for the important / relevant stuff.
6. Educational qualifications
Whether it is your first job hunt or you are an experienced professional looking for a better or a different opportunity, your educational qualifications matter. However, the location on the resume you choose to present that information is critical. If you are an experienced professional, potential employers will be eager to understand what position/s you have held in the past and what you have accomplished. So, your educational qualifications take a back seat making space for your accomplishments for resume. If on the other hand, you are hunting your first professional position, you must highlight your educational qualifications and details of your academic performance.
7. Weed out extraneous/unsubstantiated information
If at some point in time, you used a back door to get into the sights of potential employers, now is a good time to clean up your resume. Since then, you might have gained experience in a different area of expertise, remove the unsubstantiated claim from the resume or cite experience and recognition that will support the claim.
8. Take time perfecting your resume
Review your draft several times to ensure the following
- All information you provided is true / substantiated
- Sections are logically located on the resume
- Appropriate keywords pertaining to your job search and opening with the potential employer
- Formatting of all sections is consistent (like all “positions held” in italics and all “references” numbered etc.)
- Uniform font throughout the document
- There is enough white spacing to make the document legible
- Spelling and grammar are above reproach
- The resume is the appropriate length (for under 5 years, a single page should suffice)
- Clear, brief and concise summary of skill and accomplishments
- Use of industry specific verbiage to prevent being eliminated by applicant tracking systems (for instance words like “energy efficiency” instead of “power saving”, “drawings” instead of “pictures”, nouns and verbs such as “manager” and “supervised” instead of lengthy descriptions etc.,)
Ensure your resume summary statement is clear, reinforces your objective (whether you called it that or not), and also sheds light on any other experience that is directly or indirectly relevant to the position you are applying for. The most important question you must be asking yourself though is, “how long should my resume be” and edit your resume every time you apply for a different position with the same employer or a different employer. This will certainly improve your resume.