[Or, alternatively: I’m your recruiter. Don’t make me think!]
The first hurdle in getting your dream job at your dream company is the dreaded resume screen — that moment where a recruiter or a hiring manager spends 30 seconds glancing over your resume before they decide “yes” or “no.”
Most candidates never get past this step. They never get the opportunity to make an impression in-person or over the phone. But you can’t land that dream job if you never meet face-to-face!
So, take time to polish your resume. The 10 tips below — in no particular order — will help you stand out from the crowd.
1. Remove your address
Would you blast out your home address to a bunch of randos on the internet?
I didn’t think so.
So why would you put it on your resume before submitting said resume into the online job application abyss? After all, you have no idea who’s reading on the other side.
As a recruiter, there is absolutely no reason for me to know where you live. Fun fact: it’s actually illegal for me to ask! Plus, including your address can create negative bias.
“Oo, she lives in an expensive area. She’ll probably expect a high salary. Oo, he would have a really horrible commute. He probably won’t want to commute that much.”
An address also takes up valuable, limited, resume real estate.
And if you’re planning to relocate, know that some recruiters may filter clearly out-of-area resumes by default to avoid the hassle of employee relocation.
2. Include your LinkedIn profile URL
When I’m in an intense phase of recruiting, I practically live in LinkedIn. I eat up LinkedIn profiles like a child scarfs down candy on Halloween. Nom nom.
Because my brain is used to the standard LinkedIn profile format, LI profiles are super quick to digest and compare. And in crazy recruiting land, every minute matters. That’s why I always use LinkedIn as a first screen before I even look at someone’s resume. And sometimes I don’t look at a candidate’s resume at all if it’s clear from LinkedIn that they’re qualified or unqualified for the role. Yes I know that makes you die a little on the inside given how much time you put into crafting the perfect resume.
So, add a link to your LinkedIn profile at the top of your resume. The longer I have to search for your profile, the grumpier I become. The more expletives I spew. And that, my friend, does not bode well for your application.
3. Add a highlighted skills section
The more brain power I have to use when reviewing your resume, the more likely it is to end up in a pile of rejects. Help yourself by helping me: don’t make me think.
A list of “highlighted skills” at the top of your resume is a fantastic way to prevent me from thinking too much. You tell me what you’re good at instead of me drawing my own conclusions. You help to shape my impression of you.
I love resumes with “highlighted skills” because they allow me to quickly assess whether or not someone has the necessary skills for the job. If I can say “check, check, check,” you’ll fly through into the next round, so be sure to include any and all applicable buzzwords. Relevant keywords are also critical to get through automated resume screening tools which are used by larger companies.
4. Summarize yourself
Ditch the resume objective. It’s a waste of space.
Instead, add a short, 1-2 sentence summary of yourself at the top of your resume.
Why? See the “highlighted skills” section above. Spoon feed me. Pull the themes out of your experience for me. Frame yourself how you want me to see you.
5. Use months and years to show your tenure at each job
Your recruiter isn’t a bad person. But don’t count on them assuming the best or giving you the benefit of the doubt, either. Reduce the number of assumptions they have to make about you. The fewer assumptions I have to make, the lower the risk of a negative assumption. It’s fewer opportunities for my negative biases to creep in.
What’s the worst thing your recruiter will assume when he or she sees a resume with only years to indicate the candidate’s tenure in each position instead of months and years? If you said that the candidate is “hiding one or more significant gaps or short job stints,” you’d be correct.
So, unless you do have several large gaps or short tenures, use month and year to indicate how long you were in each position. Consistency is critical here. Listing some positions by year and some by month makes me raise an eyebrow. It makes me think. And we’ve already established that that is a bad thing in the context of resume review.
If you do have significant gaps in your employment history, don’t panic. As long as you can explain each one, you should be fine. It just may be a more challenging uphill battle to get in front of recruiters and hiring managers in the first place.
6. Format to pass the “skim test”
What you’ve heard is true. Recruiters and hiring managers spend very little time reviewing each resume. I know this seems like cruel and unusual punishment given the amount of time you spent perfecting the darn thing. Sorry.
So, make it easy for me to take in as much information about you in a short amount of time. A resume that is 95% 12 point Times New Roman font makes me go cross eyed. Where am I supposed to look? What’s important?
Variation in formatting works wonders. Vary your text size. Use bold and italics. (Cautiously) consider using color or even grey on an otherwise black and white resume. Maybe even use all caps (but please don’t scream at me).
Think about what you want to pop out most on the page. Format accordingly.
7. Tell me what you accomplished, not your job description
This is an area where 80+% of resumes need improvement, so take this tip to heart. If the bullet points on your resume give me a description of what you did, it’s time to start over.
Instead, tell me what you accomplished. There’s a difference.
I want to know what you achieved. Quantify the impact you had on your team or the company. Remember that I don’t have the context about your business and team to know why each of your bullet points matters. Use numbers where you can. In other words, tell me why the heck I should care. Hit me over the head with it. I’m going to be a lot more excited about hiring someone whose resume is full of bullet points like “doubled our daily active users over a 6 month period” instead of “owned and improved user engagement on the platform.” Wouldn’t you be too?
While you’re at it, shorten your bullet points. Make them punchy. The longer a bullet point, the more likely I am to stop reading. So, be concise and phrase carefully to put the important stuff first. Break apart longer bullet points to ensure they each get the attention they deserve
Oh, and put your bullet points in past tense. A combination of present and past is a little jarring. If you’re focusing on what you’ve accomplished, this shouldn’t be an issue.
8. Add a company description
If you’ve worked only or mostly for big name companies or organizations where it’s very clear what the company does (e.g. a law firm), you can probably skip this one. But if you’re a start up junkie or are switching industries, pay attention.
Knowing a little bit about the companies you’ve worked for gives me a ton of important context for interpreting the bullet points on your resume. There are a lot of companies out there and I’m way too time crunched to go look up anything about your past companies myself.
Help me out by including a short description of the company, your role, and/or your responsibilities. Tossing in numbers like company and team size is great, too. It instantly gives me a framework to understand how senior you are regardless of title, how your contributions fit in, and the scale you were operating at. It also allows you to skip the “what you did” resume bullet points.
Your company description might look something like this: “ABC Inc.’s global virtual marketplace connects cryptocurrency buyers and sellers digitally. My 9-person team was responsible for the buyer lifecycle on the platform from acquisition and engagement to quality and support.” Doesn’t take much room in a small font.
9. Show me your progress
Have you been promoted at any of the companies where you’ve worked? Show it off!
Resist the temptation to put only your most recent title because it’s the most senior.
Listing multiple titles shows progression and advancement which I love to see. And, if you have to adjust the title a teensy tinsy wee bit to make it understandable to the outside world, I think that’s a-ok. Just don’t go calling yourself a Director if you were actually a Manager.
10. Eliminate jargon
If you’re job searching in your current industry or get lucky and have a super well-informed hiring manager review your resume, you can get away with jargon.
But most people aren’t that lucky. Remember what I said above about not making me think. Instead, play it safe.
A better approach is to assume that the person reviewing your resume is a clueless junior recruiter who doesn’t know very much about your specific functional area. Don’t assume that said recruiter will know the difference between NPS and NPV. (Sorry junior recruiters, don’t take it personally).
Whew, that’s a lot. And if you’re like most people, you have a lot more “to do’s” on your job search list now.
Happy resume editing!
The Distracted Goldfish