Polishing Your Resume: The Basics Still Apply

My students always ask me for advice on their job search. I decided to offer some resume tips that are effective based on what some experts recommend, but also based on feedback from my students and clients. Seasoned professionals may recognize these basic tips (nothing wrong with a friendly reminder), and those of you new to the job market should find them helpful. Surprisingly, the basics still work, but with a few tweeks.

Recruiters, whether internal or external, on average, will give your resume 6 seconds for their first screening. However, if your resume is not crafted correctly there is a chance it may never be seen by a human being because of the various kinds of software used to scan your resume. These “bots” pick up on predetermined key words that employers have deemed as qualifying characteristics of the ideal job candidate. The basics still apply, but because of these aforementioned factors, here are some reminders about what to consider when crafting your resume:

1)  Job specific key words. Employers literally receive hundreds, if not thousands of applications. And job seekers may submit hundreds of resumes for only a few job replies. That is why it is important to focus your job search. A cookie cutter approach will not work, and your resume must reflect the skill set that fits the job you are seeking. “Bots” in recruitment software will scan for key words so a great place to start with your resume is to make sure that words in your resume reflect the job description. Also, some resume formats translate better than others. Because Linked In profiles can now be uploaded to many electronic applications, following a format that Linked In uses might be helpful in some cases.

2)  Time. Your time is valuable, and it should be spent wisely to ensure the maximum return on your time invested. Although many hiring managers seldom read cover letters, or do so only after reviewing your resume, it will set you apart from other candidates if you take the time to write one. A cover letter may also be a tie- breaker for you. However, because many jobs currently ask for optional cover letters, I advise you to write cover letters only for jobs for which you know that you are extremely qualified or that you really, really want. Feel free to apply to jobs that list “preferred skills” even if you do not have those skills, but do not waste time applying to jobs that ask for “required skills” that you do not have.

3)  White space. Because recruiters may glance very quickly at your resume, you want it to be easy to read quickly. This can be accomplished by reducing as much clutter and creating as much “white space” as possible. Some other rules of thumb to make your resume look polished include using no smaller than 1 inch margins and using no smaller than 10 pt font. Avoid fonts that are too fancy. I recommend Arial or Times New Roman.

4)  Achievement oriented language. Your resume must include language that signals success and recognizes accomplishments. Your goal is to quantifiably prove that you can perform the job. Employers already know what the role does and do not need a job description submitted by you. Every bullet point spent on describing historical circumstances, promotions, or scope of responsibilities is wasted and lost on a hiring manager. Employers want to know if you’ll be any good at the job. In order to do this, the language in your resume must reflect accomplishments using action verbs and metrics whenever possible to be persuasive.

Please comment with any more tips that you find useful that will assist Linked In followers.

For career tips and updates or to discover more ways you can better your career email me at jlambertphd@gmail.com.

Be Sure to follow Dr. J!




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