5 Smart Tips That Will Get Your Resume Shortlisted!
In order to stand out in the eyes of hiring managers and recruiters like myself, your resume is an extremely important tool. I have reviewed a tremendous number of resumes and CVs over the years and I would like to share five important recommendations that will help you stand out among other candidates applying for the same position.
1) Research the company
Research the prospective company’s website, annual reports and social media profiles. Seek out common words they use to describe their organizational culture and teams, and incorporate this into your resume and cover letter where appropriate.
Reference the job advertisement and look at the wording the company has used to describe their ideal candidate for the position. When writing your story and your achievements match the language used in the job advertisement with your resume so that you stand a better chance of ranking higher in the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), platforms that many companies use to auto-read and rank resumes by keywords.
(On a side note, I am not a huge fan of ATS software that scans resumes. I much prefer to read them for myself. However, I can understand how some hiring departments of larger organizations may employ them when receiving large numbers of applications.)
Now if you are working with a recruiter, it is likely you do not yet have the name of the company, so you will want to ask the recruiter enough questions to have a comprehensive overview of the organization. Please read my article, “Interview Tips: What Are Your Strengths?” for the types of questions you would want to ask:
2) Quantify Your Resume
When recruiting for positions, recruiters or hiring managers are ranking resumes based on both the technical competency as well as the value you may add to an organization.
Being able to perform the duties required is one thing, whether you are the right fit to drive performance and achieve goals is another. To separate yourself from the pack, highlight your achievements by providing insightful metrics and commentary of your achievements.
For instance, you might state the amount of revenue you generated, the costs you reduced, or the processes you streamlined for greater efficiency. Here are some of the best ways to quantify your resume:
- Revenue, profit, or sales generated
- Increased (or reduced) [X] by [Y]%
- Time saved
- Project or data size
- Quantity of work
A simple formula I would recommend is:
DESCRIPTIVE ACTION + MEASURABLE POSITIVE RESULT
Let’s take a look at some examples of bullet points hiring managers and recruiters love to see!
Designed and executed company-wide digital marketing strategy that drove $500,000 in product sales
Organized a series of community fundraising events with 250+ attendees; generated $100,000 in donations
Led intensive customer service trainings for all sales staff, creating a 65% reduction in customer complaints
Provided individualized coaching and feedback for employees on a quarterly basis, leading to a 25% increase in workplace satisfaction
Led 2 business analysts to automate repetitive process flows using Excel Macros / VBA and reduce analysis time by 10+ hours per week
Built Tableau dashboard to visualize core business KPls (e.g. Monthly Recurring Revenue), saving 10 hours per week of manual reporting work
Developed a prototype to identify key influencers on Twitter using clustering techniques over 100,000 data points in Python
Managed a process re-engineering project to improve and consolidate end-to-end service processes; restructured communication flow among 10 departments, and cut down paperwork by 75%
At times, you may just state the measurable action or accomplishment:
Directed agency fundraising revenue generation, daily program business operations, community outreach membership recruitment, and human resources in 30 suburbs in the city for organizations with assets of $8M
Hired, trained, and managed over 355 part-time workers per year
Coordinated mailing over 40,000 invitations, formal letters, and information packets annually
Promoted within 12 months due to strong performance and organizational impact (one year ahead of schedule)
Worked 16 days nonstop to ensure all KPIs were met for on-time product launch
Please know that even if you are in the earlier phases of your career and you haven’t yet had “major” positions, you can still quantify your achievements and responsibilities using reasonably accurate estimates. For instance, if you were a cashier at a clothing store:
Balanced more than $7,000 in cash daily
Managed the store’s social media accounts resulting in an approximate 40% increase in weekday traffic and 65% increase in sales.
Sold an average of 133 percent of upselling goal over a six-month period
So I believe you can see the value of quantifying your bullet points will demonstrate what unique value you bring to a position, to a team, and to a company.
Lastly, please remember that honesty is always the best policy. If you state it on your resume, you will more than likely be asked about it by the hiring manager if you get to an interview. Or worse, you may get the job and you can’t perform!
3) Tell your story
Storytelling is a powerful way to connect with your audience, in this case, a recruiter or hiring manager. It gives you an opportunity to share milestones in your professional journey in a way that creates trust and interest, and is a great way to keep your resume at the top of the pile!
I recommend that you include a cover letter and a brief Executive or Career Summary at the beginning of your resume to give some insight into who you are professionally. This should provide an intriguing overview of what led you to your position today and helps to frame the dialogue, tone, and flow of your resume.
Be clear on what you want (and what you do not want) in your career. This is a commonly missed step in career storytelling. Illustrating an understanding of how your personal goals and values align with the position, company culture, and values will be sure to capture the intrigue of your reader and help you land an interview.
Put yourself in the mindset of the hiring team. As they read your resume, visualize the person they are creating in their mind through your use of language. You want them to be pleasantly curious — “Who is this person? I need to call them!”
4) Make your resume visually appealing
With most resumes being submitted through digital job portals and being read on mobile devices or monitors, their visual appearance matters more than ever.
Not only does your resume need to have a compelling message, it needs to be easy to read and draw the reader’s eye to your key achievements and unique selling points as a candidate.
When you are formatting your resume use a bold typeface throughout the document, particularly with your resume section titles.
This can help break up information or create sections on your resume making it easier to read allowing the recruiter or hiring manager to quickly identify what they are looking for.
Avoid overly fancy or outdated fonts like Comic Sans, Papyrus, and Wing Dings. Instead, stick to a san-serif font like Arial, Calibri, or Helvetica for a modern look, while serif fonts like Times New Roman, Georgia, or Garramond can give a classic professional look.
Also avoid using graphics like fancy charts, logos, and complicated layouts in your resume.
Although they may look impressive, they could cause Applicant Tracking Systems to not effectively read them and can potentially distort your entire resume. This may end in you missing out on that opportunity you are dreaming about!
Please know that you can create a simple yet attractive resume through Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. Each program has free templates that you can edit and use. There are also plenty of online platforms with free and paid professionally designed templates available. Some of my favorites are Resume.io and Canva.
You can use subtle colors and shading for other key parts of your resume to naturally draw the reader’s eye to them. White is always the most appropriate background color for a resume, stick to black for your text, and an accent color such as a pastel blue or mint green to highlight important details on your resume while not distracting the reader.
If you are applying for a design or creative industry-related job, you can be a bit more creative, don’t forget that your resume is the first sample of your portfolio. Make sure you display your unique style and creative instincts, however, be very mindful to ensure that your creativity does not distract from the content of your resume.
5) Seek constructive feedback
Send your resume to a friend, a former college professor, or a colleague. If possible, find about three of these trusted associates. Ask each of them to write down three to five things that stood out to them from your resume. It could be the formatting, design, content, or whatever catches their attention.
When you receive feedback from each of them, see if there are any common issues pointed out among them. If so, this will give you a good idea of what may need to be edited or improved for the final edit.
And, if they were helpful in giving you constructive feedback without making you cry, offer to buy them a coffee or ice cream!