When you’re out of work or looking for a better career, searching for a new job can seem like an overwhelming challenge. The job market is more competitive than ever, and the interviewing and hiring process has gotten longer, more complex, and more involved than it was in the past. Scanning the newspaper classifieds for a job listing and getting hired on the strength of your college degree just isn’t how it works anymore, unfortunately. You’ve got to get out there, advocate for yourself, and stand out from the scores of other people trying to get hired if you want to land an excellent job.
The first and most important thing you can do for yourself to catch a company’s attention and secure an interview is to have a well-written, concise, and compelling resume. Your resume is the passport to your future career, and it’s worth taking all the time and effort you can spare to make it as good as possible. If you’re not sure how to start or what you can do to make your resume truly exceptional, here are a few pointers that can guide you along the way.
Nail The Format
Your resume is a place to show off your qualifications and accomplishments, not your creativity. Stick to a tried-and-true format – either chronological, functional, or combination – to ensure that hiring managers can easily find your relevant skills and experience. If you’re not sure how to format your resume, there are plenty of resources online that can help you. Many sites will have a resume templates page with examples you can use and adapt to your needs. Remember to use wide margins, easy-to-read fonts, and bullet points to keep your resume clean and concise.
Hit The Right Keywords
Personalization is key. If you want to stand out and get noticed, don’t send every company the same resume. You can and should tailor your resume to fit the specifications listed in the job ad to which you’re applying. Obviously, you don’t want to fabricate things or mislead anyone, but you can choose to emphasize the relevant skills, experience, and accomplishments that pertain to you. Look at how the job ad words the critical skills and experience for the role and mimic it exactly. Many companies scan resumes for keywords using applicant tracking systems, so echoing the language of the job ad will give you a better shot at making it past this first gatekeeper.
Focus On Accomplishments
Hiring managers don’t just want to see that you have “experience” with certain things, they want to know what you were able to do and accomplish. When you’re listing a job or skill on your resume, back up your stated experience by adding data and numbers to show what you achieved through your efforts. Demonstrating what your actions and initiatives accomplished and how your company benefited is key to being a standout applicant. Be as specific as possible. Tell them how you solved problems or challenges that your previous employers faced, and then use data to demonstrate the results.
Your resume shouldn’t be a laundry list of every job you’ve ever had and every software program you ever learned how to use. For example, if you’re applying for a job in the accounting industry, you probably don’t need to include the six months you worked as a line cook. Omitting irrelevant experience isn’t deceptive, it’s just a way to present a cleaner resume to prospective employers that highlights the experience and qualifications that will actually make them want to bring you in for an interview. If you lack significant work experience or have gaps in your employment history, switching your resume format from a chronological format to a functional or combination format can help.
Let Them Know How to Find You
It may seem obvious, but make sure the contact information you provide on your resume is complete and accurate. You should include a professional email address, and if you set up a separate account for your job search, make sure you’re checking it every day. You probably shouldn’t include social media handles (unless it’s a social media-related job you’re applying for), but make sure your social media postings are clean, professional, and uncontroversial when you’re in job hunting mode. List the phone number that’s the best and most direct way to reach you. You don’t want to miss attempted contact from a company that’s interested in interviewing you. On modern resumes, there is no need to list your physical address.
Get It Out There!
Finally, once you’ve got a great-looking, polished resume, make sure it lands on as many desks as possible! Network with friends, family, former colleagues, college alumni, LinkedIn contacts, and anyone else you think might be able to connect you with the type of job you’re seeking. There’s nothing a hiring manager wants to see more than an excellent resume from a qualified candidate, so don’t be shy about getting your standout resume in front of as many pairs of eyes as you can!