Due to all the considerations that come with job hunting, it can be a chaotic time for candidates. There are so many important questions we ask ourselves: which jobs do we really want? What will make an organization a good fit for us (and vice versa)? How many interviews until we become master interviewees?
Because there is so much to think about, we sometimes let our resume fall by the wayside. This is not intentional, but because of all the little details piling up, we tend to take this most basic piece for granted. Sure, it’s likely updated with recent experience and skills—but is it really getting the attention of potential employers?
The resume is the starting point, it’s our first introduction to the employer and it communicates volumes: not only about our education and experience, but about our approach to work. So, before you go on a mass-applying spree, think about these six little changes you can make to your resume to really help you stand out from the pack.
- Spelling out terms related to your skillset instead of using abbreviations.
On a basic level, employers will be looking for keywords to make sure you are a match for the position experience-wise, so you want to make sure the essentials are accounted for. Something as simple as spelling out key terms rather than using the abbreviations could make a difference. It may seem more time-effective to simply put “NP” instead of spelling out “Nurse Practitioner”, but your resume may be falling through the cracks if the employer is using a keyword search. As an extra measure, you may even want to use both! Why not pull out all the stops and include that you have experience with Customer Relationship Management (CRM), to show that you are familiar with industry lingo?
- Researching the job you are applying for and reflecting their needs.
If you are serious about your job search, it is very likely that you are applying to lots of jobs. This can be a good approach, especially if you are at a crossroads and not quite sure which direction you are headed in your career. Perhaps you don’t have an ideal position in mind that you can tailor your resume to, but you can always tailor it as you go. It’s as simple as checking out the job description, identifying some key skills the ideal candidate would have, and then making sure your resume paints you in that same light. They are looking for someone who can effectively multi-task? Highlight the facets of your job in which you’ve had to use time management and incorporate the terminology they use in the job posting. After all, it’s likely you’re perfectly capable of doing all these jobs, but if your resume is not specific enough, it’s not doing you any favors.
- Get rid of redundancies.
It’s important to keep your resume as concise as possible. The idea is to demonstrate that you have a range of relevant experience without reiterating the same facts repeatedly. While it is not necessarily true that you should keep your resume down to one page (especially if you have more than one page’s worth of valuable experience), you also don’t want to get overly-wordy with it. A lot of things can end up getting lost in the jumble this way. Simply state the important aspects of each position you’ve held and let your experience speak for itself.
- Look for opportunities to use strong verbs.
You can make your experience stand out by using more powerful verbiage. Instead of saying “Worked on networking strategies” you could say “Oversaw networking strategy efforts”. Instead of “Writing weekly blog content”, you can say “Spearheaded company blog”. Use verbs that highlight your leadership skills and ability to take charge. Go through your existing resume and re-work some old phrases to make the language more powerful and appealing to potential employers.
- Experiment with different formats.
When looking for candidates, employers go through a lot of resumes. Making yours look different can only help to catch someone’s eye. There are many ways to re-format your resume, but you should probably start by making a brand-new draft, just to be safe. There are a hundred creative ways to approach this, but keep in mind what it is you want to communicate. Try including more personable language, write everything out in a list or a letter format and then restructure by removing first person articles. Have fun with it and take the opportunity to be creative if that really reflects who you are and what type of job you want.
- Emphasize hard skills over intangibles.
Essentially, you want your resume to reflect you: who you are as an employee and a professional. While soft skills, such as “team player”, “self-starter”, and so on have their place—what employers are really looking for are hard skills. It is simple to add value to your resume by including some of the tangible or quantifiable details that describe your work history. Some examples may be the types of environments you’ve worked in (such as start-up, publicly held, non-profit, etc.) You may also want to include specifics of how you’ve impacted certain efforts. Rather than just listing “sales experience”, you could include something tangible that you were able to show for your efforts, like: “increased skin care product revenue by 30 % within 1 year”. Employers do want self-starters and team players, but anyone can qualify themselves that way. Instead of simply stating these assets, you will go much further by showing them.