In the past two years, there have probably been more changes in resume writing than the past two decades, according to Paula Nothstine, MRW and senior resume writer for Jody Michael Associates.
“There’s always been a lot of pressure to create a resume that will make a candidate stand out from a sea of competitors. But now, a resume needs to do even more if you want to rise to the top, and get an invite to that first interview.”
Turning it ‘on’ online — According to Paula, online Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and LinkedIn are playing a larger role and making the screening process more challenging.
With ATS, unless certain content and format parameters are met, a resume will get tossed out of the system, so it may never get seen or read. You’ve got to know the parameters, and work within them if you want to get in the door.
And keep in mind, LinkedIn profiles should be written in a conversational way to get recruiters interested in who you are—never an online version of your formal resume. You want to entice recruiters to call or email you for more detailed information, Paula says. Give them a reason to engage. And use that as an opportunity to sell yourself.
It’s not about you; it’s about what you can do for me — Today, it’s much less about what the candidate’s looking for, and more about employers’ requirements—in terms of skills, knowledge and abilities. “We stopped using ‘objective statements’ years ago,” she adds. “Now, there’s always a professional summary statement toward the top of the resume that clearly summarizes what the candidate is bringing to the table. That way the employer reads ‘value’ from the start.”
Accomplishments trump responsibilities — Because employers want to know how you’ll strengthen their organization, always highlight achievements. They’ll be far more impressed that you “increased sales by 32 percent over a one-year period” than by the actual responsibilities you held. A brief summary of responsibilities (a short 2-4 sentence paragraph for each job) is all you need. Focus on how you made a difference and the success you created. It works.
Keywords are key — Now, especially, it’s critical to use keywords that showcase your knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA), making sure they align with the knowledge, skills and abilities listed on the job posting. It not only proves to the employer you’ve got what it takes for the position, it will get your resume past tight ATS screening.
The devil is in the details — Detailing work history beyond 15 years can set you up for age discrimination. Sad, but true. And getting into specifics about sensitive subjects—like political and religious affiliations, terminations, disciplinary actions—can take you out of the running, before you even get started. Paula says, “Save topics like these for an interview. And only if they come up.”
Spellcheck won’t check everything — A resume with improper grammar, incomplete sentences, poor punctuation and incorrect word usage is just one more reason candidates never get a call. And remember, you’re introducing yourself, so always use the first person.
It’s got to sound good. And look good — The good news is certain fonts and formats can help a resume squeeze through the ATS screen. The bad news is that many lack visual appeal, so you won’t catch your reader’s attention. Choosing a type and treatment that will get past ATS and still look attractive is part art, part science, and few of us are masters.
The DIY Resume? Don’t. — “Most people are just too close to their careers and their contributions to write effectively about themselves,” according to Paula. You may think a contribution was amazing because you were so emotionally invested, but it may be irrelevant to a potential employer. And if you’re proud of your accomplishments, chances are you’ll have a tough time editing them down. Remember, a resume that’s too long or lacks any quantifiable, impactful information won’t get a call back—much less even read.
Keep in mind, between today’s online hurdles, more demanding employers and an increasingly competitive job environment, it’s tough to know what it will take to create a resume that stands out and cinches the interview. But with the help of a professional resume writer, you’re a lot more likely to transform that simple piece of paper into a key that unlocks the door to your next dream job.