Hiring managers know a thing or two about love at first sight. When a resume comes across their desk that highlights the skills and qualifications they're looking for, they can't wait to book a first date — for a job interview.
Since busy recruiters only spend about six seconds on a resume before deciding whether or not to court an applicant, you need to write a resume that will make recruiters' hearts flutter right away. This Valentine's Day, give your own resume a little attention by following the eight tips we've outlined below. Follow them and recruiters will come calling.
1. Make your resume pleasing to the eye
Looks obviously aren't everything, but when it comes to putting together a resume, appearance does matter. Different industries look for different types of resumes. A conservative law firm might seek a traditional-looking style while a design studio might want to read over resumes with more of an artistic bent.
Once you take the industry into consideration, make sure the resume template you use is also easy to scan for both a human and a computer program.
"Make sure [your resume] is easy to read," says Gina Salazar, a talent acquisition consultant for The University of Kansas Health System. "Recruiters can go through a lot of resumes and usually have to skim to find what we are looking for."
Basic elements like bullet points and clearly labeled sections can go a long way here. Helping a recruiter's eyes instantly find your relevant qualifications can only prompt them to send that interview invite faster. Stick with a simple, 10- to 12-point font, and don't randomly jumble your text in columns and rows across the page.
2. Personalize your resume for each job
Imagine hundreds of valentines landed in your mailbox at once. If you were looking for love, how would you start to sort through to find your perfect match?
Recruiters have the same problem since they often receive dozens of applications for a single opening. To sort through all of the hopeful candidates, they use an applicant tracking system (ATS). An ATS is software designed to screen resumes for keywords that help identify the most qualified candidates. These programs scan documents for certain terms, phrases, and other qualifications that the hiring manager has deemed relevant to the position.
Don't be afraid to directly borrow terms picked up from studying the role's description. Tweak each section of your resume until the exact experience and skills requested by the job ad are clearly presented on the page. You can use your professional summary, for example, to reflect the phrasing of the job posting. This suggests you're a perfect fit and that you actually read the ad. And remember, if an ATS doesn't find what it's looking for when parsing the text, even the most qualified applicant can be rejected before recruiters are involved.
3. Add a mix of hard and soft skills
Like anyone looking for a serious commitment, recruiters love to be presented with a well-rounded person. So remember that, even in a highly technical role, soft skills count. Perhaps the most important places to show this versatility are in a resume's professional summary and in the skills section, where the right balance of hard and soft skills tells the recruiter you're qualified and that you have the personal characteristics that will help you succeed.
Why are soft skills so important? While hard skills, like accounting, web design or writing, can be taught, soft skills are innate. Personal qualities, such as leadership and strong communication are more abstract and generally more difficult to cultivate, so candidates who possess them are uniquely desirable to recruiters.
Here are some examples of soft skills recruiters love to see on an applicant's resume:
- Customer service
4. Be honest
When vying for the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager, it's tempting to try to be the person they want you to be. But we all value honesty. So, if you're looking to make your next role a long-term relationship, it's critical to just be yourself.
Lying or embellishing on your resume to make yourself sound more impressive is a dangerous path to tread. Any unverifiable information is liable to be debunked in a background check, which will likely send the offending resume straight to the reject pile. According to background check provider HireRight, while 85 percent of applicants lie to some degree on their resume, 84 percent of employers uncovered lies on resumes in 2018.
If your lies are traceable, expect hiring managers to find out. Even if you land a role by embellishing, you'll be expected to demonstrate these skills on day one.
5. Quantify your achievements
It's never enough to simply say you're a perfect match. Even highlighting specific achievements might not cut it if you don't demonstrate exactly how your achievements contributed to your past employers' success.
"Bullet points with quantifiable results will catch my interest quicker than anything," says Tom Erb, 2020 chairman of the National Association of Personnel Services. "Instead of just saying you are a high-performing salesperson, leader, financial analyst, whatever, provide the proof that you have performed at a high level."
Including hard data and metrics can directly show the impact of your work to a recruiter. Don't just say you "improved profitability," for example. Use your resume to explicitly call out that 10 percent increase in revenue, if that's what you achieved. This weaves a narrative of concrete victories through your employment history. Avoid offering a boring list of vague responsibilities or work results.
6. Leave something for your cover letter
Think of your resume as only a snapshot of what makes you an attractive candidate. You'd never tell your whole life story on a first date; similarly, it's never wise to include unnecessary details on your resume. In fact, many recruiters will tell you they'd prefer you save them time by trimming your resume down only to its essentials.
"I love a simple resume," says Desirée Tarter, senior recruiter at Community Health Network. "It does not need to be jazzed up. It should be easy to read. Unless you are going for a marketing or creative job. For healthcare, I just want to see that you have the licensure and experience required to do the job."
A one-page resume should be enough for most people, though two pages are acceptable for more experienced, senior-level job seekers. If you're having trouble narrowing down which pieces of relevant experience to highlight on your resume, try to separate the more granular details from the broader strokes of your work experience. Unless a specific bullet point is too impressive not to mention immediately, save that nitty-gritty particular for your cover letter.
Your resume could be especially impressive, but if it has any obvious grammatical or spelling errors, its odds of being rejected skyrocket. Don't let overconfidence ruin your chances, especially if you're truly a top-notch candidate. Always try to find another set of eyes to look over your resume, and always give it multiple reads yourself.
The most desirable proofreader could be a friend who understands the industry of your target job, holds that position themselves or hires for that role regularly. In any situation, a second look will be of value. If you can't find another person to read over your resume, easy-to-use online services like Grammarly can be the next best thing. Remember: Every writer needs an editor.
8. Use a professional resume builder
If you're in doubt about how to apply any of these tips to your own resume, using a resume builder can help. LiveCareer's builder offers an array of easy-to-customize resume templates, pre-written text suggestions, a spell-checker and more —all to help you write a solid resume on your own in a matter of minutes.