For every job opening, an average 250 resumés pour in from candidates with their own unique skillsets, past professional experiences, and educational background. Although daunting to consider when applying for your dream role, it’s a reminder of just how important it is for your resumé to grab hiring managers’ attention.
The good news is: You have your own distinct traits and qualifications that employers will value. The trick is effectively communicating those abilities on your resumé.
While the thought of revamping your entire resumé might seem overwhelming, there are small actions you can take to better optimize your professional experience without having to start from scratch. Here’s how to improve your resumé in seven simple steps.
1) Make Your Content Skimmable
Before you start tweaking each individual word, take a step back and look holistically at your resumé. Are there dense blocks of copy? Is the most important information hard to find?
Recruiters spend only seven seconds reviewing an individual resumé, according to careers site Ladders. In those six seconds, they’re primarily scanning for your:
- Current title and company
- Previous title and company
- Previous position start and end dates
- Current position start and end dates
This is where you want to bold and italicize text strategically. If your job titles properly convey your experience and career trajectory, for example, consider listing those before your current company and emphasizing the text this way: “Job Title, Company Name.” If several of the titles on your resumé read “intern,” however, you might want to lead with the employer instead.
As you’re making style decisions, be sure to stick to one or two fonts, so as not to distract from key information. You also want to avoid underlined text, which is harder for recruiters to read.
To further improve readability, break your experience down into bullet points. Just be sure that each bullet point highlights a different skill or achievement and that it doesn’t exceed two sentences.
2) Use Action Verbs
Another way to improve your bullet points is by starting each one with a strong action verb. Instead of stating that you were “responsible for” signing on a valuable client, try words like “acquired,” “negotiated,” or “secured.” By using an empty phrase like “responsible for,” you detract from what you actually achieved; the work starts to sound like something that happened to you instead of something you spearheaded yourself.
Other examples of action verbs you can use on your resumé include:
3) Add Important Keywords
Once you have the proper action verbs in place, make sure you’ve incorporated important keywords from the job description. Beyond helping highlight that you’re the right fit for the role, keywords improve the chances of your resumé passing through an applicant tracking system (ATS)—software that helps companies pre-filter resumés by scanning for phrases most pertinent to the job.
For example, if hiring managers are looking for a developer, they might program the software to search for words like “Java,” “Python,” “Coded,” or “Programmed.” To prepare for this, comb through the job description and take note of any themes that emerge. Perhaps the company wants a “data-driven decision maker.” If so, you want to highlight your data and analytics skills.
One way to increase the number of keywords on your resumé is by swapping out your “Objective” section with one about your “Qualifications” or “Skills.” After all, employers already know what your objective is: it’s to land the job. Use that space instead to highlight why you’re the most qualified candidate for the role.
4) Quantify Your Achievements
Employers don’t just want to know that you did something, they want to know how well you did something, which is why it’s important to quantify your achievements. For example, which sounds better:
- Instituted environmentally friendly policies at work or
- Saved company $200,000 per year by instituting environmentally friendly policies
Whether it’s the number of deals you’ve closed, dollars you’ve raised, or employees you’ve managed, try to tie a figure to the work that’s been done. Showing results helps support the skills you claim to have.
5) Remove Irrelevant Information
Because you only have six seconds to capture a hiring manager’s attention, you want to rid your resumé of any irrelevant information. Highlight the work that’s specific to the industry or role you’re applying to. That summer lifeguarding job likely no longer applies.
You can also remove the phrase, “References Available Upon Request.” If hiring managers want your references, they’ll ask for them. Create a separate sheet with your references’ name, relationship to you, and contact information that you can hand to the interviewer if he or she requests it.
6) Tailor Your Resumé to the Job
Each role requests candidates fulfill specific job responsibilities, and so you need to tweak your resumé accordingly. There are certain aspects of your work experience that will resonate with some jobs more than others. You want to lead with the most relevant information.
As you’re scanning the job description for keywords, jot down additional pieces of information. Is the company looking for someone who can lead a team? If so, emphasize your leadership skills and list any supervisory experience you have.
It’s likely the role will feature more than just technical skills. For example, hiring managers often look for “detail-oriented” candidates who “can effectively collaborate across teams.” Use those descriptions to your advantage when trying to tailor your resumé.
The overall question you want to answer is: “Will someone know why you’re applying for the role by looking at your resumé?” If not, keep tweaking until it’s personalized.
7) Check for Grammar Mistakes and Formatting Inconsistencies
Before submitting your resumé, triple check for any grammar mistakes. Seventy-six percent of employers said one or two typos rule candidates out from consideration, while 40 percent said all it takes is one error for applicants to get passed over. Ask a friend to proofread your resumé or, if you’re tight on time, try a service like Grammarly, which scans text for common and complex grammatical mistakes.
While you’re editing for grammar, double-check that your resumé is formatted consistently throughout. Are all the headers the same size and indented identically? Any inconsistencies will force the employer to question your attention to detail.
By following these seven simple steps, your resumé will have a better chance of making its way into a hiring manager’s hands. All you’ll have to do next is start preparing for that job interview.