In today’s competitive job market finding a way to stand out among the scores of other candidates is getting harder, especially when some employers will spend as little as 6 seconds reviewing your application.
So how exactly do you make your resume so amazing that an employer simply can’t help but notice it? No, the answer does not involve glitter and pictures of unicorns – it’s much easier than that!
1. Tailor your resume
When reviewing resumes employers want to know one thing and one thing only – does this applicant have the skills and abilities to be successful in this role? They don’t care about where you went to high school 10 years ago, the incomplete qualification you started in a completely different field or your marital/health status.
Your job is to make sure that your resume contains only information that is relevant to the role you are applying for and is presented in a way that is clear and easy for the employer to read. The best place to start is by carefully reviewing the job ad and/or position description (if applicable). This will help you gain an understanding of exactly what the employer is looking for and which of your key skills/experiences you need to draw attention to.
2. Keep it short and sweet
The ideal length for a resume in Australia is 2 pages. If you are having trouble sticking to this length, one easy way to save space, particularly if you have a comprehensive work history, is to only go in to detail of what the role involved for positions you have held for the past 15-20 years. For roles held prior to that time frame you can simply list the position titles and employers (no dates required) under the heading “Positions held prior to (relevant year)”.
You want to ensure that the layout of your resume helps the employer find whatever information they are looking for as quickly and easily as possible. To do this, make sure there is lots of white space, that your sections (e.g. Summary, Employment History) are clearly defined and that you use dot points throughout.
3. Mirror the language used in the job ad/position description
Not only will this help get your application past any Applicant Tracking System (ATS) the employer may be using, it is also an easy way to draw their attention to your suitability for the role. For example, if the job ad asks for someone with the “Ability to maintain up to date documentation” then highlight when previous roles have involved this (e.g. you may have as a responsibility “Created and maintained up to date documentation outlining the department’s Customer Service policy.”)
If the requirements of the role involve specific technical experience or software, and you have that experience, make sure you use the exact same wording in your resume as is in the job ad. There is always a risk that the person reviewing your application does not have any experience in that role and has simply been given a checklist of skills/experience to shortlist against. If, for example, you were applying for a role that involved welding, the person shortlisting may not have the technical background to understand that your experience with MMAW (manual metal arc welding) is the same as having experience with SMAW (shielded metal arc welding).
4. Always include a cover letter
I really can’t stress enough how important it is for you to include a cover letter with your resume – even if the job ad does not ask for one. Not only is this your chance to inject some personality in to your application and create a point of difference between yourself and other applicants, including a cover letter automatically makes your application stronger than those that have only submitted a resume. The cover letter offers a great opportunity to build on the information in your resume and clearly state what you have to offer that specific employer and why you want to work for them. It also offers a chance to highlight any values or community involvement you share with the employer.
5. Quantify your achievements
Which sounds more impressive – I increased traffic to our social media accounts by 68% over a 6 month period OR I increased traffic to our social media accounts? Hopefully your answer was example number 1! By providing actual figures around your achievements you paint a much more complete picture of your capabilities for the employer. You also save them wondering “well, how much did they increase traffic by? How long did this take?” Again, this is about giving the employer the information they need in the quickest and easiest way.
By creating a streamlined, easy to read resume you are making the employer’s job that much easier and increasing your chances of being invited for an interview. And that, after all, is the whole purpose of your resume – to get the opportunity to stand in front of the employer and convince them you are the best person for the role.
Written by our resume queen, Christina. If you need help with your resume, make an appointment to see Christina or any of our helpful advisors.