Are you tired of slaving away at a job you hate for far less money than you really deserve?
Now is the time to finally get the job of your dreams, and the first step towards making this a reality is having a resume that really stands out and speaks to potential employers.
If it’s been a while since you’ve sent out resumes you need to be aware that just like everything else, technology has changed the world of resumes. What passed for a good resume just a few years ago simply doesn’t cut it anymore. These days, potential job seekers need to make sure they use relevant specific keywords when they are crafting their cover letters and CVs.
Failure to do so, and the resume ranking software that most top companies use to sort through the incredibly large volume of resumes they receive may automatically pass you over, without it ever being seen by a blood-and-bones human being.
In other words, it’s not only important that you write your resume to impress the hiring managers, you also need to write for the applicant sorting and tracking programs that companies today are using—and they are using them; whereas only five years ago only 30 percent of companies over a certain size used these programs, today it’s almost 90 percent
Fortunately, what we have here are five winning tips that will help you write a resume that impresses man and machine alike so you can get your foot in the door and land that crucial job interview.
1) Identify The Right Keywords
Although different companies use different applicant tracking software, all of these programs use algorithms that scan through the electronic text looking for certain keywords.
But how does one go about determining what these ‘certain keywords‘ are exactly?
Well, a good place to look first would be the job description itself. For instance, if it’s a position in IT and the word ‘developer’ (or a variation of this word) is used twice, then you want to also include it in your resume. You also want to look through the company’s web pages and other online materials.
Are there certain keywords or keyword phrases that are often repeated throughout their copy?
If so, you definitely want to think about how you can cleverly insert them into your resume. Besides, you should be researching the company thoroughly anyway as part of your application process!
The trick with keywords is not to overdo it as this can actually have the opposite effect. Also, you want to avoid overused buzzwords such as “self-motivated“, “team player” and the like; they’re cliches that have proven to be essentially meaningless, and companies are even using resume sorting programs that penalize the rankings of resumes that include them.
I wrote a guide on how to tailor a resume if you need more help with this.
2) Never Have Time Gaps In Your Employment History
Job application tracking programs are also designed to detect any empty blocks of time, so make sure you account for every moment from the beginning to the end of your chronological work history.
This doesn’t mean that you have to lie. It just means that you actually have to account for the time gaps. For instance, if you were out of work for a few months while you attended to a personal and/or family situation, you could put it like this:
I took time away from being a database professional to travel with my family.
Nobody’s perfect, of course, and hiring managers appreciate the candor. Also, you’ll notice how in the above example you can even manage to shoehorn in a potentially helpful keyword phrase (‘database professional‘).
Just make sure that you never leave a chunk of time unaccounted for as this could lower your resume in the automated rankings to the point that you’re not even a contender.
3) Hook Them Fast With A ‘Value Proposition’.
Our first two pieces of resume writing advice centered on how to get past the first barrier presented by the computer programs that companies with a high volume of applicants use to automatically weed out the majority of the resumes they receive.
However, once you’ve cleared this hurdle, you still need an effective resume that captures the attention of management and ownership. You need to capture their attention quickly too; plenty of reputable studies have shown that you have approximately 6 seconds to make an impression.
This means that the opening paragraph of your resume is extremely important (arguably more important than a cover letter).The best way to make use of this key portion of the resume is to write what’s called a ‘value proposition’.
This is a 3 or 4 sentence summation of the qualities that make you a valuable acquisition for a potential employer. With a value proposition, you want to link your strengths to the position you are applying for. I wrote a lengthy guide on how to write a resume summary should you need more help on this subject.
Experienced project manager with a proven track record for completing tasks on schedule. Save money by having someone in charge who can identify and remedy budgetary discrepancies. Increase efficiency with a skilled motivator that brings out the best performance from all of your staff.
4) Stress Your Accomplishments
Once you’ve reeled them in with a strong opening that’s an effective value proposition you want to reinforce the notion that you’re a great hire by pointing to concrete examples of your achievements from your work history.
Be specific too, with actual numbers and time frames (“increased sales by 33 percent over the course of six months”, “has received 11 sales awards” etc.)
The most effective way to layout your accomplishments is with a list of bullet points.
If your past work evaluations have impressive metrics you should most definitely include this in your resume along with your other listed accomplishments.
Then, of course, there is the power of having favorable references (some things never change!).
If a past employer has gone on record saying something positive about your performance, by all means, use this. Just make sure that it’s someone who you’re confident will vouch for you should the hiring manager reach out and contact them.