I’m not going to sugarcoat it – ‘fun’ and ‘resume’ don’t blend as harmoniously as Batman and Robin or the scrumptious combination of peanut butter and jelly. It’s safe to say that some people would rather endure a 2-hour cavity drilling session at the dentist’s office over investing time in perfecting their resume. But the reality is, your resume and cover letter are valuable collateral and can greatly impact the career trajectory you envision for yourself.
Whether you’re a recent college graduate just beginning your job search or an experienced worker who could easily whip up an ego-boosting outline of their credentials, scoring an interview with a company that makes your pulse race requires a well-written resume. And for the newbie workers out there, don’t be intimidated by your inexperience; a 3-page brag-fest isn’t a guaranteed foot in the door. Resume formatting has evolved over time and regardless of what stage of your career you’re in, it’s important to check off all the boxes of what’s acceptable by today’s standards.
Let’s start with 3 basic guiding principles:
- Wacky formatting and flashy fonts will surely capture the hiring manager’s attention, but not in a good way.
- While it may be tempting to use gimmicks when crafting your resume, it will most likely earn you a spot in a pile of tacky, rejected resumes. Use professionalism, integrity, and transparency to spearhead your campaign for an interview.
- Unless you’ve got over a decade of work experience under your belt, your words should not book an excursion to the city of page two.
You may be revamping an outdated resume, building one from scratch, or simply looking for fresh ways to make your candidacy stand out from the competition. Whatever the driver may be, here are 7 tips for crafting an impressive resume.
The Blitzkrieg Strike
Maybe history isn't your forte. So as a quick recap, blitzkrieg is a military tactic and German term for ‘lightening war.’ Wondering how this could possibly be applicable to your resume? By mimicking the elements of surprise and speed, which are emblematic of this method of warfare, you’ll create a powerful and irrefutable portrayal of your candidacy.
The top of your resume should be clear and concise, sporting your name, contact information, and any relevant links, such as your LinkedIn profile, a personal website, or digital portfolio. Traditionally, hiring managers and recruiters looked for an objective statement that outlined the type of position the applicant was seeking. Today, the objective statement has become obsolete, now replaced with a short, enticing paragraph that’s comparable to the summary section of a LinkedIn profile. Like an elevator pitch, these two or three sentences should provide a quick synopsis of your experience, achievements, skills, and why you’re a strong candidate. Only incorporate relevant information, aligning your strengths and successes with the needs of the position you are applying for.
Showcase Your Measurable Impact
Hiring managers aren’t interested in reading a job description; they want to see you demonstrate how your efforts drove profitability or erased procedural inefficiencies. In other words, rather than listing your daily responsibilities, you need to include quantifiable data to highlight your accomplishments. Give specific examples that highlight how you contributed to the success of the company – no matter how big or small you think that achievement may be. Here's an example:
Before: Oversaw training programs for staff members.
After: Implemented a new training and development program for a 50-person team, decreasing labor costs by 17%.
Put Your Soft Skills on Display
Soft skills are a vital piece of your success. Over the course of your schooling or career, you’ve exercised certain skills, such as your chameleon-like adaptability, knack for communicating effectively, and power to thrive under pressure, to achieve certain goals. Mimicing the approach you used to quantify your day-to-day responsibilities, show specific examples of how your organization or time-management skills led to results.
For example, maybe you were tasked with garnering attendees for a last-minute event. You could describe how your problem-solving skills and ability to thrive under pressure led you to craft a social media campaign that drove a 25% increase in ticket sales. Hiring managers evaluate soft skills as a way to predict the degree of harmony between you and the company’s culture – i.e. are you able to fulfill the needs of the role in a manner that's conducive to the company's success.
Digital Times Call for Digital Knowledge
Staying current in an era marked by technology requires the consistent expansion of your technical prowess. Your resume is the perfect stage to strut your technical skills and cite any software-related certifications you may hold. The job description of the role you’re applying for can serve as a guide for the types of programs and proficiency levels the employer considers important. This includes listing your level of knowledge and any training or certification received for Microsoft Office.
Highlight Any Specialized Talents
Your resume should include any specialized skill sets you’ve developed over the course of your schooling or career. An employer with a large international presence, for example, may be intrigued by your fluency in a foreign language. In a similar fashion, showcase any awards or recognition you’ve received as it relates to the position you’re applying for.
Save your hobbies and personal interests for your Facebook profile. Only include these areas if there’s a direct correlation between your recreational pursuits and the company or position you’re vying for. For instance, if you spend your Sunday mornings with some furry, four-legged friends at your local animal shelter, your volunteer work is certainly commendable – but not relevant to your career as an Accounts Receivable Specialist. However, if you’re after a position in the Accounting department of a veterinary hospital, the hours you’ve spent playing fetch with Stella the Bulldog is definitely worth noting.
Use Attention-Grabbing Keywords
The average recruiter or hiring manager spends a mere 6 seconds scanning your resume. The formula for passing through their filter is simple: mirror the language used in the company's job listing when crafting your resume. It’s extremely important to customize your resume every time you apply for a new position - synchronizing your work experience with the key words and phrases that complement the unique needs of each employer. By doing so, you are illustrating your attention to detail and the emphasis you place on tailoring your experience in a way that speaks to each individual employer’s needs.
Review Your Work
A resume that is riddled with typos is a major job seeker faux-pas and will kill your chances of scoring an interview. Double, triple, and quadruple check your work like a detective looking to unearth game-changing evidence for a deadly crime. After you’ve proofread your work for any grammatical goofs, enlist the help of a trusted friend to review your work for you.
Hiring managers receive dozens, even hundreds, of applications per opening that they are seeking to fill. A resume that is smothered in spelling errors, difficult to read, or completely irrelevant to the role you are applying for will be instantly chucked into the trash. Employers are hunting for candidates that show initiative and have a successful track record of making an impact. Crafting a professional resume is essential for demonstrating to a potential employer why’d be a great fit for their company, and will ultimately give you the opportunity to sell your candidacy during an in-person interview.