It may have taken hours to get it just right, but on average, a recruiter will spend a mere six seconds scanning each resume before deciding whether it deserves a closer look, or if it should go to the bottom of the pile.
Six seconds may not sound like a lot of time to make an impression, but happily, there are certain things you can do — and things to avoid — that will improve your chances of catching the recruiter’s attention so they will keep reading.
Here are 10 tips to help take the guesswork out of writing your resume:
- Pay attention to formatting.
When it comes to formatting, less is more. Keeping your text clear and concise, limiting yourself to a single font and font size (ideally 10-12pt), and using white space to your advantage will help to avoid a busy, cluttered page and make for a clean, pleasing reading experience.
- The Job Description is your road map.
Knowing exactly what should and shouldn’t go on your resume can be daunting. Happily, nearly everything the recruiter wants to see is laid out in black and white in the Job Description. A careful read through of the Job Description will identify the precise skillset and experience of the ideal candidate, and you can tailor your resume accordingly.
- Use bullets instead of paragraphs.
The simplicity of bullets help to focus your words, honing in on exactly what you want to highlight and presenting it front and center, rather than burying it in a wordy paragraph that the recruiter has to sift through. It is also an opportunity to prioritize your accomplishments, skills, and responsibilities according to what is most significant to the job at hand. (Formatting bonus: They also make for a much cleaner resume page!).
- Focus on accomplishments, not responsibilities.
Anyone can throw an array of adjectives or general responsibilities at the page. What really catches a recruiter’s attention is what you’ve achieved! Use such details as budgets, team size, and key performance indicators to illustrate the significance of your responsibilities, where you exceeded expectations, and how your actions added value to the organization. Highlighting your track record illustrates what you really bring to the table.
- Do not explain what an organization does.
Keeping your resume as lean as possible means that every word counts. There’s no reason to bog your resume down in unnecessary detail, and one thing that can be cut altogether is a description of a previous employer’s activities. If the recruiter wants to know this they will Google it. Use your resume real estate wisely.
- Omit the phrase: “references available upon request”.
Once common practice, this phrase has now become outdated and simply isn’t necessary. It goes without saying that when they want to see your references, they’ll ask for them.
- List your skills at the top of your resume.
Remember, you don’t have much time to catch the reader’s eye. Tailoring your skills to the Job Description, placing them at the top of your resume, and listing the most important ones first will ensure that the reader identifies you as a candidate with the skills that are essential to the job.
- Don’t exaggerate!
It can be tempting to overstate an accomplishment or the responsibilities held in a previous job. We all want to stand out and to demonstrate that we are the ideal candidate. But exaggerating what you’ve done can backfire when a reference is followed up on or when you find yourself unable to support a previous claim with hard facts or detail. It’s much better to be honest about your experience and avoid the anxiety of something that may come back to bite you.
- Label your resume file correctly — ideally: “FirstName LastName”.
It might sound small, but remember that every detail counts. Avoid including version numbers and dates in the file name to keep things clean, organized and professional.
- Proofread and spell check before sending.
It should go without saying, but all too often a spelling mistake, typo or formatting error will spoil your chance at advancing to the next stage. Spellcheck is so easy to use that there is simply no justifiable reason not to. And if proofreading isn’t your strength, send it to a detail-oriented friend. You’ll be glad you did!