In many ways, the digital age has completely reshaped how we apply for jobs. Job seekers know that they can no longer walk into a physical location to make a personal connection, but they aren't sure how to improve their resume so it makes a great first impression instead.
As a professional in any field, it is important to always have an updated resume at your disposal. This doesn’t mean that every new job application requires you to completely reinvent the wheel, however. Whether it’s been a decade or a day since your last job search, there are small improvements you can make to your resume that will make a BIG impact on your job search.
If you want to make some quick adjustments to your resume try one of these ten-minute upgrades to give your resume some new shine.
It's not enough to simply state your work experience on a one-page document. If a resume is not formatted and laid out intuitively, hiring managers and potential employers will be quick to dismiss you.
In this regard, correcting resume formatting inconsistencies can go a long way in helping you make a great first impression. Any formatting errors such as mismatched bullet points, irregular alignment or inconsistent fonts will stick out like a sore thumb. Take the time to go through your resume and clean up these details. Though these updates may seem minor, they can improve your resume in important ways.
For even more in-depth expertise, read our guide on effective resume layouts tips.
Your resume is your first impression. While judging a book by its cover is frowned upon when it comes to meeting new people, it is still common practice. Because your prospective employer doesn’t know anything about you, your CV will be the only thing they have to make a quick decision about whether or not you make the cut. Considering that window opens and closes in mere seconds, you need to make sure every second counts.
Companies receive too many resumes on a regular basis to be able to give them the time and consideration they truly deserve. In fact, many companies have such a high volume of incoming resumes that they use automated applicant tracking systems along with human resource assistants and lower level employees as filters for this process. Before your resume even makes it to a hiring manager or key decision maker, it has to go through other hands first. So, ensure your resume makes an engaging, and eye-catching statement within seconds.
To help deliver a great first impression, look closely at the top third of your resume or what is called “above the fold.” Is it impressive? Is it engaging? Does it immediately convey what you want your potential employer to know? If not, consider some tweaks. This should is the most important section of the resume to improve when you make changes. It is the first section a hiring manager is going to see and if it is filled with a large image or a weak objective statement, then your resume will most likely be passed over pretty quickly.
It’s important to have a hook that draws the employer in, and it is essential that the hook is above the fold. The content at the top of your resume should also highlight your most vital contact information along with a portfolio or professional website link, if applicable. In this section, more tech and creative-focused job seekers should also link professional social media or a networking profile such as a LinkedIn account.
Avoid being long-winded on your resume and do not use long paragraphs full of run-on sentences. Conversely, trying to jam all of your past work experience into a couple of short, but scattered phrases can lead to a resume that is difficult to read.
When crafting your past job titles, aim to impress. Avoid a general title like Writer and be specific with Editor-in-Chief or Content Manager. When you have the chance to impress, take it.
Before adding descriptions to go along with the titles, ask yourself if it will be relevant to the job you are seeking. Focus on writing down your accomplishments as opposed to mindlessly scribbling down a generic job description. Organize the most important responsibilities and experiences into concise, easy-to-read sentences that call attention to your expertise.
Whatever you do, do not write in the passive voice. Using an active voice exudes confidence and expertise. Despite this, the passive voice is the way most job seekers write resumes, primarily because this is simply how formal schooling teaches most people.
When writing in a more assertive, direct tone, you should also use action verbs when summarizing previous experience. Instead of “assisted” or “helped,” use terms such as “managed,” “directed,” or “strategized” as they’re applicable to your former roles.
Also, try not to fill your resume or CV with obvious or cliche statements. For example, it is obvious you will send over additional information upon request, you don’t need to add that into the resume copy.
These days, there can be hundreds or even thousands of qualified applicants vying for a single job vacancy. Because of this, it's virtually impossible for recruiters and hiring managers to go through each and every resume manually. At most enterprise-level corporations and even some medium-sized companies, applicant tracking systems (ATS) are commonly used to sift through the countless resumes and applications received.
However, it's estimated that 70% of resumes don't make it through these systems, simply because they don't contain the right keywords. To pass an ATS, you'll need to think strategically about which words to use in order to make your resume stand out. Read our blog post for an in-depth look at how to beat an applicant tracking system.
In addition to writing in a more direct voice and using action verbs, write your resume with specific statements that clearly state how you took responsibility, showed initiative and developed leadership skills. Before you rewrite your resume, think about the most impressive and quantifiable ways you can convey your work history and experience. Think about what would be impressive to you if you were a hiring manager. For instance, did you "assist in content production and update a client's content calendar"? Or, did you "develop content strategies that increased reader engagement for XYZ Corp by 68%"?
It’s one thing to say that you helped your company achieve success, but it takes your resume to a whole new level if you can quantify that growth.
It only takes a few minutes to read your resume and cover letter out loud to yourself, or to a friend or family member. This will help with the flow of your resume, and will assure that you are not using choppy or poorly structured sentences. Sometimes when we actually articulate what we have written, it can help us catch small errors.
One of the most common themes when talking about resume formatting is correct resume length. Some people swear by one page only, while others say two pages plus is perfectly acceptable. The truth is that your resume should be about one page for every ten years of professional experience you have. If you have had multiple positions over the last ten years, make sure to feature the ones that best highlight your career aspirations and achievements. It is important not to overload hiring managers and PR professionals with information that doesn’t pertain to the position you are applying for, so make sure you really do your best to highlight the most pertinent information.
There is nothing more important than crafting custom resumes and CVs for each new job application opening. This is all done with the written word.
The Internet has left people with shorter attention spans than ever before. But at the same time, it has engaged readers like nothing else in history. Everywhere you look you will see people buried in their phones scanning articles and reading updates about their friends. This constant barrage of written content - in various forms - has conditioned people to read quickly, searching for the content that truly stands out.
This rings true even with those reviewing resumes and CVs, even if they don’t do it on purpose. Even if you're not a professional resume writer, using these tips to improve your resume can help you win them over and ensure that your resume puts you in the callback pile, far from the pile of candidates that didn’t focus on the great importance of the written word.
For even more insight into developing the perfect resume and CV, read our ultimate guide to CV writing and explore some of our resume and CV templates.
Co-Founder & Director
James is an entrepreneur and the Co-Founder of VisualCV. He has spent the last 10 years building businesses, from window cleaning to software. His passion is helping individuals create the careers they want.
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