Assuming you have a solid career, strong skills, and academic credentials, mastering the resume will bolster your status as a serious candidate for each position to which you apply. You will no longer have to rely on “spray and pray” techniques that leave otherwise well-qualified candidates flustered about why the job search process isn’t producing expected results.
Make no mistake about it; resume-scanning artificial intelligence software has changed the game. An estimated 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies currently use this software to screen and manage applicants. If your resume can’t make it through applicant tracking systems (ATS) filters, it will never be seen by the human recruiters and hiring managers who decide which candidates to interview.
The following 20 tips will help you to create a resume that is substantial, visually appealing, easy to scan, and optimized for both human and AI audiences:
Design & Structure
- Use a clean, sleek design mixing headlines, subheads, paragraphs, and bullets. Avoid embedded images and charts, intricate bullet lists, and custom font styles. Restrict use of italics, bold, all-caps, and underlining for emphasis. Limit your resume to 1-2 pages.
- Align down the center. A vertical appearance, in which the content is most dense in the middle makes the resume easy to read. Consider centering headlines and subheads.
- Don’t use headers and footers. Contact information can be missed by some ATS systems that are not able to read these Word document sections.
- Avoid using custom font styles that may not show up correctly on the viewer’s screen, and use a type size of 11 or larger.
- Let the content “breathe” and make it easy on the reader’s eyes with plenty of whitespace and margins of 0.7 or greater.
- Design for both screen and paper. HR personnel and hiring managers often print out the resumes that made it through their ATS, so your resume should be visually appealing and easy to scan and read, whether it is viewed on a screen or printed.
- Test templates against your unique design. In your field and role, you will find many online templates that may be ideal for organizing and presenting your resume. However, a cookie-cutter template may suggest to some hiring managers that you would cut corners and take shortcuts as an employee. Google the templates for your role and study them. Choose a less common template that meets your needs, and plan to test it against a design of your own creation.
- Customized versions. Customize your resume to specific types of jobs to which you will apply. Make minor edits in the sequence of qualifications, skills, and experiences you present for these different roles, so that the most relevant content is presented first. Remember, when your resume reaches human eyes, you have 4-6 seconds to capture the reader’s interest. The more closely your resume matches the job description, the more likely it will be read to completion. Save each version with a customized title that matches the position for which it will be used.
- Use a summary statement, not an objective: A summary statement succinctly describes why you are an ideal candidate for the job. Summary statements should be modified to fit each position.
- Focus on achievements, not responsibilities in your experience section. Responsibilities show what was expected; achievements demonstrate that you outperformed expectations.
- Focus on concrete skills and be selective with soft skills. Research the concrete skills that are most important to the position and present these (more on this in keywords) with data points such as revenue, profitability, and client gains. Try to validate each skill with proof. Know the most important soft skills to highlight for each position and use them in moderation.
Wording & Keywords
- Save and study your favorite job postings. Find the job postings that are the closest match to your ideal job. Source 20-30 of these postings from all over the country to familiarize yourself with your ideal employment scenario and what it requires and entails.
- Analyze your postings. Paste the text from each of your top five saved postings into WordItOut. This will generate a “word cloud” of the most important keywords, including skills, qualifications, software, and technologies to use in your resume.
- Beat the bots using your researched keywords. Back up each insertion with meaningful validation. Application tracking systems filter resumes based on keywords, synonyms, and common abbreviations, so use them all with discretion. Use the most important keywords two or three times, once in each section. One caveat: If your resume seems artificially stuffed with buzzwords, it won’t pass the human smell test, so make sure your use of these terms reveals the truth about your qualifications.
- Use compelling action verbs like “launched,” “cultivated,” “negotiated,” and “evaluated” at the start of each bullet point to add resonance to your achievements.
At Imprimis Group, we see hundreds of resumes each day and we have made a science out of observing what works for our candidates and our employers. If you have been gradually updating your resume, it’s time for an overhaul. Your future is worth this effort.