This morning I finally finished building a two-hour training session for new employees, and the last task was condensing everything into a 4×6 note card to include in a stack of the same cards from other sessions. Sort of like a cheat sheet professors let us use in college. Or a “If you remember one thing from today’s presentation” kind of thing. Short, sweet, easy to remember.
Then over lunch a friend asked me what her son should do to help him find a job. Broad question, I know, but we got to talking about his resume. And I thought back to my 4×6 cards and decided to record my top 5 tips to easily improve a resume. And I do mean easily. Completing this list should take no more than 20 minutes.
1. Change titles, skills and headlines to match the job description
If the last job you held was Customer Support Lead, and you’re applying for a Customer Support Analyst, make the change. Exact keyword matches are a must when submitting a resume, and not just because computers are doing some of the work. If the hiring manager is reviewing a stack of resumes, anyone who already held the same position is automatically interesting. The same is true for skills. If the new job requires process mapping, but your resume says flowchart analysis, it might be overlooked. But they’re the same thing, so change it. Always remember: the resume is only designed to get you an interview, not to get you the job. You get the job in the interview. You’ll increase your chances of getting the interview if your resume presents a clear match to the job’s requirements.
2. Don’t bury the lead! Move important skills to the top.
I like the idea of a technical skills section, but some people think it should be at the bottom of a resume, even when applying to a technical job. Like there’s some rule to follow, yet no such rule exists. Not even a guideline. Put tech skills at the top if they’re part of the job description. The same applies to education. If you’re a college senior and your university and degree is part of the requirements, and one of your highlights, pull it to the top. Education is often at the bottom for more senior candidates, but shouldn’t be for recent grads.
3. Check the format and file type of your resume.
I won’t even tell you what happens to resumes that will not open the right way, or that have jumbled or messy text or formatting. This seems like a no-brainer, but make sure you’re using a file type that’s easily opened by the recipient, and formatting that remains intact when opened on a different machine. Never use:
- Non-standard fonts
- Complex tables, margins, headers/footers
- Special characters or unique bullets
Even though compatibility is getting better across platforms, there are still lots of issues when a 2004 Mac opens a 2010 Windows Office file. It’s an easy thing to change. If you do need to use something unique, save the resume as a .pdf file to make sure it converts properly.
4. Delete your TMI
In most cases, it’s illegal for a recruiter to ask about your marital status, age, religion, sexual preference, race, and health, so delete anything that either directly states or implies any of those. It puts the recruiter in a tough spot, and you don’t want them to deal with it by just not interviewing you.
5. Standardize your fonts
Before you finish, hit Ctrl-A and make the font the same type and size. I don’t know if people copy and paste from the web, or their old resume used a different font, but I occasionally see resumes half in 12-pt and half in 11-pt font. Or part Ariel and part Century Gothic. Not cool, but it’s an easy fix.
Checking for these 5 things should take no more than 20 minutes. While the content of your resume is still the star, these tips will help ensure the content remains the focus.