You can't get the job unless you land an interview, so creating a professional resume that impresses recruiters and hiring managers is an achievement worth celebrating. To grab a hiring manager's attention, you'll need to do more than submit a list of your skills and qualifications.
Before you submit your resume, take another look at it —chances are you can find a few ways to polish it up. Here are six quick tips that will help you improve your resume and increase your chances of scoring that elusive interview.
1. Review your resume format
Review your resume format to see if you are using the most appropriate format: chronological, functional, or hybrid. Consider your industry, work experience, and the position you're applying for to determine if you're using the best resume format to package and sell your qualifications.
- Chronological: The chronological format is best for someone with a long work history, as it emphasizes your summary statement, work accomplishments, and skills.
- Functional: A functional resume focuses on skills and places a lesser emphasis on work history. This format works well for those with a short work history or gaps in employment.
- Hybrid: This combination format blends elements of the first two. This format may be ideal for someone making a career change, as it allows you to highlight transferable skills and past experiences.
Are the details of your education the first thing on your resume? While well-meaning friends and family members might have advised you to lead with your degree, that recommendation is outdated. The economy is changing—and so, too, must your resume.
A decade ago, only 28 percent of Americans had college degrees, so your B.A. still helped you stand out. However, as of 2017, that rate was up to 33.4 percent—and it's expected to rise. With a candidate pool full of degree-holding professionals, you're better off leading with your skills and work experience.
2. Show, don't tell
Rather than just listing your accomplishments, give details. Recruiters and hiring managers see hundreds of resumes and read the same phrases over and over. One way to make your resume stand out from the rest is to skip the empty words and phrases they see all day. Ditch tired terms like "passionate," "communication skills," "results-oriented," and "highly motivated."
Instead, look for opportunities to demonstrate these qualities. Provide details to quantify the results you've achieved in previous jobs. Instead of "highly motivated," demonstrate in your job history some of the innovative projects you've spearheaded.
3. Check spelling and grammar
No matter how qualified you are for the job, be sure to check for spelling and grammar errors, because they might be deal-breakers to a potential employer. According to a recent survey of 500 recruiters, spelling errors can count against you as much as not having the mandatory skills for the position. The same warning applies to low-skilled jobs; it's not just about your inability to spell—multiple errors can leave hiring managers with a poor overall impression regarding your professionalism, intelligence, and attention to detail.
Spell-check features won't save you here. You'll need to edit your resume both for context and to catch sneaky misspellings and typos, such as spelling "manager" as "manger" or "thorough" as "through." Pay particular attention to company and software names with unique spelling and capitalizations. Spelling the company's name wrong will be a serious ding to your credibility. LiveCareer's resume builder can help proofread your resume, offering you peace of mind every time you apply.
4. Font choice makes a difference
Use a traditional, easy-to-read font when creating your resume. Font choice can affect how recruiters and hiring managers view your resume. Times New Roman may be the default for many people (and word processors), but some experts warn against it. Instead, opt for clean, crisp fonts such as:
Font size is also important. Choose a size that is easy to read in a digital format. Some experts consider size 11 to be optimal, as it allows you to fit more information on a single page while remaining clear and readable.
Avoid the temptation to shorten your resume by using a smaller font size. Instead, consider using Arial Narrow, a crisp font that takes up slightly less space and allows you to fit more on a page. With multiple industry-approved templates available, LiveCareer's resume builder makes choosing the right font and formatting simple.
5. Clean it up
A resume that is cluttered, messy, or disorganized can be very difficult to scan, so clean it up. A recruiter won't slow down to make sense of a disorganized resume. If it doesn't tell a story with a laser-sharp focus, it's practically useless. View your resume as you might view would a 15-second commercial — does it have a hook? Does it engage the viewer?
One way to ensure your resume is easily scannable is to keep things visually consistent.
- Make sure all your dates line up on the page.
- Standardize positions and titles – if you bold or italicize one, make sure you do the same for each one.
- Choose one font.
- Utilize the white space in the margins and between headings to make your resume more appealing and inviting to read.
A recent study used eye-tracking technology to evaluate how recruiters look at resumes. The researchers found that "the 'gaze trace' of recruiters was erratic when they reviewed a poorly organized resume, and recruiters experienced high levels of cognitive load (total mental activity)." The resumes they preferred "had less data, were evenly formatted and were described as 'clearer.'"
In the internet age, your resume will need to be a formatting triple threat: logical, eye-catching, and compatible with applicant tracking systems (ATS). Hiring managers use these systems to weed out unqualified applicants, but an ATS might be unable to make sense of a resume with sloppy or confusing formatting. Even if you're the most qualified candidate to apply, formatting issues may mean a hiring manager won't ever see your application. The good news is that LiveCareer's resume builder takes the stress out of formatting. Our professionally designed resume templates are built with ATS in mind, and they let your credentials and professional summary shine.
6. Name your resume to help recruiters
Pay close attention to how you name your resume. Clear, logical naming can be a big help to overworked recruiters. Well-labeled documents make it easy for recruiters and hiring managers to keep track of each of your submitted materials. File naming is an often-overlooked detail that can be a deciding factor in whether you land an interview. Choose a naming convention that includes your name and the job you're applying for.
A naming convention also makes it easy to create multiple versions of a resume and eliminates potential mistakes (like accidentally sending out the wrong resume). Keep a master copy of your resume in the most generic form and make a copy of it to tailor to a specific job. Then, save the copy with a name that indicates the job title you're applying for. For instance, you can:
- Name your master copy "Davidson_Resume."
- When you find a position that you'd like to apply for, save your tailored version of your resume new versions with a name like "Davidson_MarketingManager" or "Davidson_DigitalMarketingSpecialist."
In today's competitive job market, your resume is your best shot at landing your next role, so make it shine! Take advantage of Live Career's free resume builder and let the experts polish it for you. Choose from several industry-specific templates that take the guesswork out of style and organization.