The first thing a prospective employer is going to read on your resume is the top quarter of the page. Peak enough interest there and they will then scan the rest of your resume to determine if you go in the keep or go pile.
What is it that they are looking for in that top quarter? The answer to two questions:
What do you want?
What can you do for me?
If you fail to answer two questions, or make it difficult for the reader to find the answers in your resume, you get assigned to the no pile.
What Do You Want?
Put simply – what job are you applying for? Too often job seekers use a one-size fits all resume. The problem with this is twofold: one resume does not meet the qualifications for every job and using the same resume does not synchronize with an exact position.
State simply and early what position it is that you are targeting. The reader does not have the time or inclination to make the determination as to where you fit in the organization. They may have advertised for many different positions at the same time, so make it easy for them to know exactly what you are going after.
How to answer this question:
1. If you are applying for an Operations Manager position and have held this same position then use Operations Manager as the title for your resume, right underneath your letterhead.
2. Use the position title in your opening statement. “Operations Manager with 15 years’ proven success in….”
3. If you have not held this position title in the past or the desired position title is vague but have relevant experience, make a broader title statement. “Senior Management – Operations”
4. Use a tag line to expand upon and align your experience. “Executive Leader Proven in Improving Efficiencies and Production in Operations, Finance and Inventory.”
What Can You Do For Me?
This is the most important question that the reader has and it is vital that you answer this question first and foremost. The job market is not like the stock market in that past performance is not an indicator of future success. If you have provided value for another organization, odds are you are going to be able to transfer those skills to a new company, team and their clients.
How to answer this question:
1. In your opening statement make it clear who you served, how you served them and the value they received from you doing what you did.
- Who you served can include specific or general industries, teams, clients or products.
- How did you serve them incorporates your skill set both technical and soft skills.
- The value the received is the win, increase revenues, expand territories, improve efficiencies and the like.
2. Incorporate the above points into your bullet points to demonstrate your worth.
3. Utilize key words for an Areas of Expertise or Proficiencies section. Zone in on the key words from the job posting and industry specific words. A great tool to determine the key words in a posting is www.TagCrowd.com. Copy the job posting and paste it into this site and it creates a visual word cloud to easily see the most used words.
Make It Easy to Find the Important Information
This is the visual aspect. It is human nature to be drawn to things that we find attractive. The key to an attractive or eye catching resume is balance.
How to visually improve your resume:
1. White space – Too much looks like you do not have enough value to fill a page and too much makes it difficult for the reader to read. A good rule of thumb is margins should be between .5 – 1 inch with the majority of the font between 11-12 point.
2. Spacing – Make sure there is a visual space between sections, headings and positions.
3. Titles – Use a larger font and bold for section headings and the title under your letterhead if using one. Borders are also recommended for a visual break.
4. Take it easy on the creativity – using a mishmash of different fonts, unique bullet points and overdoing the bold and italic throughout the resume may be immediately eye catching; however, someone has to read it in more detail and all of those visual differences may make it a strain on their eyes.
5. Create a letterhead – This is your personal branding statement, it is about you and therefore your contact information should be clear, visible and stand out from the rest of your text.
One caveat here: when applying online the company may utilize an ATS system – Automatic Tracking System – a scanning software of resumes to quickly determine the compatibility between your resume and the position. Some of these systems are key word driven, others are more advanced and able to determine context.
The original systems were only able to read only characters that appeared on your keyboard and would misinterpret any other formatting. (This of seeing an article title that has “&” in the middle of it.) To be safe, format your resume in an ATS friendly version removing borders, shading and non-standard characters. For tips on formatting resumes for ATS systems, click here: 15 Resume Tips to Hate Applicant Tracking System (ATS) a Little Less.
Tweaking your resume with these three key points in mind may just give you the edge to stay in the “yes” pile, rather than being relegated to the “no” pile.