When recruiters are sifting through hundreds (sometimes thousands - yes, you read correctly, thousands) of resumes there are some simple hacks that can make yours stand out in the crowd. Below are the top five I have uncovered over the years that have helped my clients to land their dream jobs.
1. Treat the first page like the cover of a magazine
When you walk past a newspaper or magazine stand, you will notice the sensational headlines, catchy phrases and strategically placed photos to grab the attention of potential buyers - your resume is no different. Ok, maybe a little different (recruiters don't want to see a blurry photo of two people "maybe" holding hands on your resume). Fundamentally, you want the first page of your resume to grab the reader's attention. Make it easy to read (hello short paragraphs and bullet points!), free from jargon and with a clear snapshot of who you are and what you bring to the table.
(*tip - the top third of your resume needs to give the reader a very quick snapshot of who you are, how they can contact you and a little bit about what you bring to the role or company - this is a great area to include a Personal Mission Statement, a Career Summary, or a Career Objective)
2. Less is more
We know how proud you are of the award you received at school for "neatest in the class", and all achievements are yours to celebrate; however, when it comes to keeping your resume reader (aka hiring manager or recruiter) engaged and wanting to add you to the 'keep' pile -only relevant information needs to be included. An easy to remember rule of thumb is anything beyond 5 years keep it brief, anything beyond 10 years only include if it is relevant to the job you are applying for (and again, keep it brief). You have on average 4 - 6 seconds to make an impression so the shorter and punchier your resume, the better.
(*tip - if your qualifications have expired or are not relevant to the job, remove them. If you have enrolled or started a course but have not yet completed it, include this on your resume with an expected completion or graduation date.)
3. Avoid vague language
When listing your duties or responsibilities of your jobs, words like "assisted", "helped with", "supported" and other vague words don't highlight what specifically your responsibilities were. Hiring managers want to know how you assisted - what was it that you did to assist? The best way to showcase your duties is to use active language for example "coordinated", "managed", "ordered", "delivered", "developed", "trained", "established", or "launched". Be as clear and specific as possible about what it was that you actually did in your role - you know what you did but the reader doesn't, and the clearer you can paint a picture of that, the better.
(*tip - if you are unsure about the language you have used throughout your resume, ask someone who doesn't work in your industry or role to read over it for you and highlight anything they don't get a clear picture of from what you have written.)
4. Pay attention to the details
If you think people won't notice spelling mistakes or inconsistent formatting throughout your document - think again. Sites like Grammarly are awesome for checking your spelling and grammar, or Microsoft Word has it's own Editor function which does the same thing (just make sure it is set to the language of the country you intend to work in). Another thing that might seem like an obvious one when it comes to the details is to include your current contact details (pretty important if you want to get a call back, right?). Last but certainly not least is to include current contact details for at least two recent referees.
(*tip - always contact your referees to make sure they are still OK to provide you a reference, and explain to them what role/s you are applying for so they can be prepared. Also, if your previous Manager/s are no longer with the company you worked for, they can still be included - one way to word this is "Formerly Manager at XYZ Company")
5. Optimise for ATS
What the heck is ATS? I'm glad you asked, this stands for Applicant Tracking System - software that most large companies use these days to extract information from your resume and sort it into a profile to store on their database. The best way to ensure you make it through the ATS and into the hands of an actual person is to ensure your resume is optimised - this means ensuring your resume contains key words required for the job, that you have no images or tables that may lose vital information when passed through the system.
(*tip - although resumes put into columns or tables to fit to one page may look appealing, they do not suit most ATS - stick with a more traditional format.)