15, November, 2017
The average recruiter spends six seconds with each resume. Here are 10 ways to make sure yours gets noticed.
Ah, the resume: in many ways, it’s the most important part of the job application and interview process. A good resume alone probably isn’t going to single-handedly win you your dream job, but you need a strong resume to get your foot in the door. Consider the resume the key that unlocks every other part of the pre-employment screening process.
Of course, simply having an impressive list of past jobs doesn’t make a resume worthwhile. You can have the best work history section in the biz, but you still won’t get an interview if recruiters are put off by the formatting or can’t easily scan your CV for key details. With that in mind, we have compiled a list of the 10 strategies you can use right now to make sure your resume gets noticed.
Use a simple, readable format
According to a study conducted by job search service The Ladders, recruiters spend an average of six seconds looking at each resume. You have a very, very small window of time to make an impression, so you need to make sure that hiring managers can glean as much information from those six seconds as possible. Formatting your resume in a highly readable fashion—with bold headings, bullet points, and plenty of white space—will increase the likelihood of your resume being flagged as one of interest.
Don’t get adventurous with your font choice
If you have six seconds to make an impression, you don’t want your recruiter to spend three of those seconds wondering why the heck you wrote your resume in Papyrus. Choose a standard, easy-to-read font like Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial. You might find those fonts “boring,” but in this case, “boring” means “trustworthy.”
Keep the font size in the 10-to-12-point region
Speaking of readable fonts, most documents are typed out in 11- or 12-point font for a reason. You can drop your resume font size to 10-point if you have no other way of keeping everything on a single page, but don’t go smaller. Small fonts are harder to read, and most hiring managers are just going to move on rather than exerting extra effort. Larger fonts look obnoxious and limit the amount of content you can fit onto one page.
Condense it to one page
In the clear majority of cases, recruiters are expecting to see a one-page resume. If you are applying for a high-level scientific research role, you might be asked to include a more detailed CV. Unless specifically asked, you should plan to submit your resume as a one-sheet. If a recruiter is only going to look at your resume for six seconds, they almost certainly aren’t going to turn the page. Moreover, they might be offended that you think you are an exception to the widely-recognized one-page rule.
Send in a different resume for each job
It can be a lot of work applying for dozens of jobs each day, but you still need to customize your resume to suit each job. There are two reasons that this strategy is important. First, recruiters are more likely to notice resumes that are extremely relevant to the job at hand. In most cases, you can’t expect this kind of perfect-match relevance to occur by coincidence. Second, most employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan resumes and flag the ones most relevant to the position. If you aren’t tailoring your resume based on the job description, you are going to miss the keywords that the ATS is looking for during a scan.
Focus on accomplishments, not just responsibilities
While you should write your resume based on the job description, don’t just parrot the job description and hope you get noticed. Job descriptions are usually lists of responsibilities that you will be expected to take on if you get hired. By reading the work history section of your resume, recruiters should get a sense of what your responsibilities were at your old jobs, but they should also get a sense of what you did with those responsibilities. Use those sections to brag about your professional accomplishments. Recruiters tend to love quantified accomplishments, such as the number of accounts you managed or the dollar value of the sales you closed. Numbers are easy to scan quickly, so include them!
Consider adding a skills section
Particularly when applying to jobs that demand a slew of technical skills—such as experience with different software programs or programming languages—consider adding a skills section to your resume. This strategy will give you a chance to fit more relevant keywords into your resume without trying to shoehorn them into your work history.
Steer clear of clichés
“Self-starter”; “personable”; “strong leadership”; “results-driven.” These are just a few of the terms that have appeared on so many resumes that recruiters are sick of them. The issue isn’t that recruiters aren’t interested in these qualities; it’s that most people just toss them onto their resumes with no explanation or support. Instead of claiming you embody one of these qualities, describe work accomplishments that prove you do. In other words, show, don’t tell. Recruiters will get the message.
Have a friend check for typos
Obviously, you should read your resume half a dozen times before you send it to an employer. However, the fact is that most of us are just not very good at recognizing flaws in our own writing. Have a friend or family member check the resume for typos or an awkward turn of phrase. Spelling errors or Freudian slips are silly reasons to miss out on a job.
Tell the truth
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, you need to be honest on your resume. There is an immense temptation these days to pad your resume to give yourself a better shot at being noticed. While embellishing your work responsibilities or tweaking job titles might help your resume get through the ATS, remember that most employers conduct reference checks and background checks. Everything you put on your resume can be verified or disproven through a third-party source—be it an ex-employer or the university from which you didn’t actually graduate. If you lie, your prospective employers will probably find out, and it will probably cost you the job.
There is no such thing as the “perfect” resume. Every person brings different skills and experiences to the table, and every employer is looking for slightly different qualities. However, by crafting your resume based on the 10 strategies we described above, you should be able to beat the ATS, make a good impression on recruiters, and score more job interviews. The rest is up to you!
Michael Klazema has been developing products for criminal background check and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.