17 Resume Tips that Will Get You that Job Interview
A lot of people underestimate the power and the usefulness of the resume, relegating its role to merely being an information or fact sheet about an applicant. They think it is the same as a “bio-data”, where a prospective employer can find out the “important” details about an applicant.
What they don’t know is that the resume can make or break their chances of getting a job. They send in a haphazardly written resume, prepared on the fly, and when they do not get a call back from the hiring manager calling them for a job interview, they wonder why.
They are stumped as to the reasons why they were not given the opportunity to appear for a job interview, while other candidates – who were clearly inferior in terms of skills, qualifications and work experience – were invited for one.
In these cases, there is a great likelihood that the reason lies in the resume that they submitted.
In this article, we explore the role of the resume and the most commonly overlooked tips on improving your resume, so you will get the chance to shine at the job interview.
THE ROLE OF THE RESUME
The resume is seen by many jobseekers as the document where they can put everything about them, and will get them the job. Although the ultimate end is the same – getting the job – the resume is actually designed for something more specific: to get the candidate’s foot in the door by way of an interview.
The recruitment or hiring process ordinarily goes like this: hiring managers will pore over hundreds of application letters and attached resumes looking for a few that stand out. Those that pass the minimum qualifications or are deemed to be a good fit or match to the job description, based on what are written on the resumes, will be the ones who will be called back for the next stage, which is the job interview. Obviously, those who do well during the interview will move on to the next phases of the recruitment process, depending on the hiring company, until such time that the best person for the job has been selected.
The immediate goal of jobseekers is to score that job interview. For many, that is the most difficult part, which is why they pay extra attention on the preparation of their resumes, because that is the document that will decide whether they will be included in the list of applicants to be interviewed or not. In other words, you, the candidate, are the main attraction; your resume is your hook. It is what will lure in the hiring manager to take a longer look at you.
With so many resume templates available, jobseekers seem to rely greatly on these templates in the preparation of their resumes. They follow the form and format provided, fill up the details being asked for, and submit them as is. That may work for many, but hiring companies and recruitment managers are getting smarter now. They can easily spot resumes that are well-written and well-prepared, and these are the resumes that they pay more attention to. In all likelihood, these resumes are the ones that are moved to the side, for consideration for a possible job interview.
But how can you make sure that one of those resumes that will be added to the “to-interview” stack will be yours? We’ll give you some useful tips that you can follow.
RESUME TIPS THAT WILL HELP YOU SCORE AN INTERVIEW
1. Include the key sections of a resume
This is the most important tip: pay attention to the contents of your resume.
While it is true that there is no fixed or standard format for resumes, regardless of the sheer number of templates floating almost everywhere, allowing for applicants to be as flexible with their resume preparation as they want, they should always make sure that the resume contents the key sections that hiring managers are looking for.
The key sections that the resume must contain are:
- Education, which details your education background: the school or university that you attended, the inclusive dates of attendance, degrees earned and recognitions received. This section also covers trainings and workshops attended, as well as certifications and accreditations earned, which will add to your marketability as an employee.
- Work experience and history, which includes your career highlights and accomplishments in the jobs that you have held in the past. Aside from the job title or designation, inclusive dates of employment and employer, this is also the section where the core duties and responsibilities of each position held is indicated.
- Skills, which covers the additional skills and qualifications that are not clearly identified in the work history and experience section. These are often identified into two categories: the hard and soft skills.
There are other sections and information that may be included in the resume, in aid of making you stand out among the other applicants. However, these three are the critical components that every resume must have in order to merit more than a passing glance or a cursory look from the hiring manager tasked to screen applicants according to their resume.
2. Keep resume length to two pages or less
If you ask the experts, however, they would recommend that you keep your resume to only one page. This is because, according to Jennifer Brooks of the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, recruiters and managers have short attention span. This is understandable, considering how recruiters and hiring managers may be dealing with stacks and stacks of resumes on a regular basis.
By keeping your resume short, you are showing consideration for the recruiter, or whoever is in charge of going over the resumes. It does not have to be comprehensive, where all details about you are included. They expect to see only the relevant bits or the highlights, and one page should be enough.
The million dollar question is: is the one-page rule fixed? Not really. There are instances where two pages may be required, and this is often the case with candidates with long work histories or experiences. Keep it up to a maximum of two pages, though, because having three or more pages will be deemed too much. There is even a high possibility that the recruiter or manager will not go beyond the first half of the second page.
Make sure you know how to write a resume.
3. Make sure it is easy to read and understand
This is common sense, really. You want to be noticed, and you want the reader to continue reading the document, you have to make sure it is actually readable.
Much of the issue is already addressed by using a word processor (really, who still prepares resumes in their own handwriting these days?). So it all boils down to choice of words, and how the resume is formatted, styled and designed.
Choice of words and sentence construction.
This is basic in every official document (and yes, the resume counts as an official document). Demonstrating how good you are with words by using flowery words and long, complex sentences may seem like a good idea, but it is not advised in this case.
Through your resume, you want to deliver a message to the recruiter or employer quickly – no frills, no fuss, no complications. The message, of course, is that you are qualified for the job and you deserve to get a job interview. This message is better conveyed using straightforward and simple words.
One advice often given by professionals is to use the exact keywords or wording used in the job posting. Prior to reading resumes, the recruiter or employer already knows what he is looking for, and that is exactly what was laid out in the job posting. Thus, he will have greater recognition when he spots those same words used in the resume.
What about those instances where software or similar tools are used to scan through resumes? That makes keyword use even more important. These resume-scanning tools are programmed to look for specific keywords – most of which are definitely going to be found on the job posting – and if you use them in your resume, there is a greater chance of your resume being picked as one of those who will receive a callback for an interview.
Formatting and styling.
The golden rule in resume formatting and design is simplicity. By keeping things simple and straightforward, you are getting rid of potential clutter that may lead to the confusion (and, worst case scenario, disinterest) of the reader of the resume.
Simple is often equated with “professional”. You may be tempted to use five different types of font styles, in an effort to look creative. However, you may only be making it harder for the recruiter to go over the contents of your resume if the effect of having varied font styles will be too jarring.
The same goes with the font sizes. You want them to be able to read it, so you may be tempted to make the font sizes too big that the recruiter may feel insulted. Or you may also end up choosing a font size that is too small, without taking into account the possibility that the recruiter may have problem reading small fonts.
The rule of thumb in most resume-writing guides is to choose basic but modern fonts such as Arial or Helvetica, using a font size between 10 and 12. If you have to make any detail stand out by using a large font, it should be used on your name, which will appear at the top of the page. The recommended font size for the name of the applicant is between 20 and 24.
Using the bullet-point format for lists is also highly recommended for easier readability and understandability. When laid out like that, it is much quicker for the recruiter to see what you have to offer, instead of having them read blocks of text and long narratives.
There is also the matter of leaving enough white space on the resume to make it look clean. Do not think that having empty spaces means you have a resume that is not so interesting because it looks empty. Filling in the white spaces may result in a cluttered resume, making it overwhelming and, at times, disorganized.
Fortunately, jobseekers now have access to a lot of tools online – often free, or some at inexpensive prices – that they can use to help them design their resume to be attractive and professional-looking at the same time. There are even templates that they can readily use. However, beware not to fall into the trap of letting the template shape the resume. It is your resume, so you should be the one to create and mold it. The template should only serve as a guide.
4. Be consistent all throughout
Consistency is very important if you want the recruiter to keep reading your resume. If you used a black font color, make sure it remains consistent throughout the document, except for the odd color in a personal logo that you may have included. If you used one font style for a section heading and another style for the bullet points under the section, do that for all the section headings and section bodies. This will also help in making your resume look more professional.
The same rule on consistency applies to the structure of the resume. In the work history, for instance. If you listed the details in the order of “Job Title”, and followed by “Company Name” and “Inclusive Dates of Employment”, this order should be observed for the rest of the details or items in the section. If the Education section listed the details in the order of “Education Level”, followed by “School or University attended” and “Dates of Attendance”, this order should also be followed for the rest of the entries on education.
Keeping the structure parallel and the presentation consistent all throughout the resume will give it a neater, and more organized look, and the recruiter or employer will have an easier time reading through it, and spotting the information that he is looking for.
5. Be specific when detailing accomplishments
Vague and ambiguous details are sure to turn anyone away from continuing on reading your resume. Specificity means providing the barest details about the accomplishment or task that gives it more impact. Joy Haugen suggested that you should also include how you performed your duties, and how you were able to provide an impact to the job and the organization as a whole.
For example, writing that you “acted as social media manager for the company” raised more questions than clarifications in the eyes of the recruiter. Be more specific about it. Perhaps you can rewrite it to “created social media content and managed social media accounts of XXX company, increasing social engagement by 50% in six months”.
6. Tailor your resume to the job
Avoid preparing a one-size-fits-all resume, where the only thing you will edit is the company name and job title. Make an effort to customize the resume to be tailor-fitted to the specific job that you are applying for. Believe me, the recruiter will immediately know whether you made the effort or not.
The key here is to write with the recruiter or employer in mind. It is similar to when you write a personal letter to a friend or an acquaintance. You write your message with them in mind, hoping you will be able to connect with them. When writing your resume, think about what the recruiter or employer will feel once he starts reading your resume. Will he feel like the resume is appealing to him directly, or will he think that the resume is something that is directed to him, and a hundred other recruiters for other companies?
You may be applying in two companies at the same time, as a PR manager in company A and as an office administrator in company B. Your past work experience shows that you have more experience in PR, so it should not be a problem highlighting your PR skills, qualifications and experience in your resume, putting them above the fold. However, for the resume for company B, it would be better if you put your PR background on the backseat and highlight your administrative skills on the first part of the resume instead.
By reviewing the job description of the open position, you will be able to tell which skills and qualifications are going to be prioritized by the recruiter. Take your cue from there, and choose what to put in your resume, and where to put them. In fact, it would be a good idea to use the actual words and phrases used in the job description to write in your resume.
You can use those free resume templates.
7. Put your best stuff on the top third of the resume
You have to get over the desire to put EVERYHING on the resume. Remember, you are not writing an autobiography in bullet point form; you are writing a resume that will hook the recruiter and reel him in, strong enough to call you up for an interview.
Think of the resume as a summary, not a comprehensive record of your work history, experience, and education. You are supposed to put only the highlights on there, which means that you have to include only the best information about yourself.
It’s also important to note that choosing what to include is not the only concern you should have; even the placement matters. Applicants are advised to put the highlights of their accomplishments and skills, specifically those that are deemed to be most relevant to the open position being applied for, in the top third of the resume or, as marketers put it, “above the fold”.
This is because the top third of the resume is the first portion that the recruiter or manager will see. He reaches for your documents, scans your cover letter, then moves on to the resume. His eyes will automatically be drawn to the top of the document, and that is where you will grab the opportunity to engage their attention. That is where you should put your most appealing or attractive points.
8. Exclude the objective statement
In the past, the objective statement used to be one of the critical parts of the resume. However, that is no longer the case. Unless you are in the process of making a major career change or transition where an explanation is called for, you may choose to ditch the objective statement altogether.
First reason: the objective statement may take up space in the resume that you can use for other more important and relevant information instead. Second reason: the recruiter does not really care what your objectives are. His main concern is to evaluate whether your resume has been written specifically for the job, and that you have the required qualifications and skills for the open position. Third, objective statements are all starting to sound and read the same, and if this happens to you, then it totally defeats your purpose or aim of letting your resume make you stand out.
9. Keep only the recent and relevant work experience and skills
This is in keeping with the principle of keeping your resume short yet meaty at the same time. You are applying for a PR job. That means you should put work experience, history and skills that have to do with PR. Bookkeeping skills and machine operation skills are not relevant to that PR job, so feel free to exclude them from the resume.
You should also keep only the recent ones. Some companies may not care for the technical trainings that you have undergone while you were still in college at university, especially if that was more than ten years ago, and you’ve held at least two or three jobs since then. The fact that you were able to land those recent jobs and earned certifications will be enough, so they will only look at recent records.
The temptation to put all the skills that, for you and many others, make you impressive is going to be very high, and you may find yourself caught between wanting to put them and keeping them out of the resume because of the question on relevance. Keep in mind that the main focus of recruiters and employers is to look for those relevant information, not only those that prove you are a great individual all around.
Another thing you should remember: if your resume has too much content, and it becomes too long, it will also end up looking boring in the eyes of the recruiter.
10. Give them the numbers
You will be amazed at how opinions can change if you give them facts, figures and numbers, especially in relation to your accomplishments. How much did your previous company’s income or sales increase due to an innovation you introduced? How many employees benefited from a project that you were able to successfully lead and complete?
Measurability adds credibility to your resume. If you can give them numbers – real ones, not fabricated or padded – then you will definitely get the attention of the recruiter, as well as an invite for a job interview.
11. Keep things reverse chronological (if you’re using the Chronological Resume format)
This applies to the work history and experience and, in many cases, the education background. The details of work history and experience will be listed in chronological order, but in reverse, meaning the most recent employment will be the first on the list, while the oldest work experience will be the last.
Oh, and when dealing with dates and exact figures, make sure you get the details correctly. Some digits in the years may slip, so instead of saying you worked in one company from “2001 to 2015”, you may have written it as “2010 to 2015”. You just shaved off 10 years from your work experience, and even left a 10-year employment gap.
12. Observe professional industry standards
There are instances when specific industries may have expectations on what applicants’ resumes should look like. For example, in the IT industry, more emphasis is placed on the skills of the candidates, more than their education background. This is why it would be more advisable for candidates to list their skills and qualifications first, before their work history and experience.
When you organize the details on your resume, see to it that they are in accordance with professional industry standards. Not only will this gain you a lot of points from the recruiter or employer for compliance, but it also shows that you have done your research and made the effort to follow the norm, or what is generally accepted.
13. Pay attention to the skills section
Sadly, many overlook the Skills section, thinking that it is only a supplement to the Work History and Experience section. Well, in a sense, that is true; but you should never underestimate the usefulness of this section. After all, it will underline or elaborate on the details that you cannot expand in the experience section.
This is your opportunity to stand out. By listing the hard and soft skills that you possess, and that are relevant to the job, you are informing the recruiter how much they will benefit if you are made to do the job.
14. Proofread, proofread, proofread
Even a misplaced letter or typographical error can change the impression of a recruiter reading the resume. Make sure that you proofread your resume as you go along. You may have someone else go over it with an objective eye. A grammatical error, a typo, a misplaced punctuation mark… all these can have major effects on the content of your resume.
15. Update regularly
Keep your resume updated. You may keep a separate master list of all work history, experiences and other relevant details. That is all right, as long as you keep it updated. This would mean that it would also be easier to update your resume from time to time.
Regular updating calls for regular review of the resume. This is very important, especially if you are applying for different jobs, and you have to ensure that the resumes you submit are tailored for the respective jobs being applied for.
You should also prepare and update your resume in different file formats. Save and check them in DOC, PDF and other formats. Some companies may have preferences on what file formats you should submit your resume in, and by doing this, you will have an easier time updating your resume, ready for submission to the company of your choice.
16. Pay attention to the cover letter
Many do not pay enough attention to what is written on their cover letter, thinking that they should focus all their attention to the resume. The cover letter is the first thing that the recruiter or employer will see, and if they like what they see first, they are going to be more interested to turn the page and check out your resume.
It is in the cover letter where you will make your pitch for the job opening. It is where you will express your interest for the position, and let the employer know what you can do to fill their need and help them out.
Again, research will serve you well in the preparation of the cover letter. Find out as much as you can about the position and about the company, and use the information when writing your cover letter. The focus of the cover letter should be on what you can offer them as an employee, and not your expectations.
17. Get help from the professionals
In some cases, jobseekers even pay resume writers and professionals to give their resumes the once-over. The expertise of these professionals may be relied on to spot areas on the resume that need more work, or areas that have to be scrapped entirely.
This begs the question on whether to have a professional prepare your resume for you, instead of you preparing it yourself. There are several pros and cons to this, and the decision will depend on a lot of factors. Whether you get the services of resume writers or you write your own resume, you have to make sure that you proofread them, just in case there are errors that slip your eye the first, second, third, or even the nth time.
Follow these tips, and you will find yourself fielding more calls from recruiters, asking you to appear at a job interview with them!