At Myreete Wolford's first job interview—while she was still in college—a humiliating experience led her to create a new resume.
The hiring manager made notations while he asked questions, starring things he liked on her resume and crossing out others. He slashed a big “X" over her picture.
Though she managed to keep her cool and get the job, she knew then and there the resume had to go.
“I went home and pretty much changed everything," she says.
No more picture. No more long introductory paragraph with little mention of her skills. No more “filler" words.
Think Like a Recruiter
Creating a great resume means shifting the focus from what you think is important to what the employer thinks is important, says Martin Yate, an executive career coach and author of the best-selling Knock 'Em Dead: A Killer Resume Gets More Job Interviews.
It should begin with a well-researched target-job title—but instead, 70 percent start with an “Objective."
Ditch it, Yate says—hiring managers don't care what your objective is; they're too busy trying to fulfill their own, which is finding the right match for a position as efficiently as possible.
A resume should be focused on a particular job, and should use keywords and phrases related to it.
To find them, Yate suggests collecting six job postings for the type of position you want, finding a word or phrase they all have in common, and pasting it into a new Word document. Then find another word or phrase common to five of the jobs, then four, and on down the line, pasting into your document the longest version of each qualification.
“You now know that when employers are looking to hire someone with your job title, this is how they prioritize their needs, and these are the words they use to describe them," Yate says.
Six Lines for Six Seconds
After the title on your resume, create a “Performance Summary" of no more than six lines using the target-job words to describe your experience, Yate suggests. If you're fresh out of college and don't have the skills yet, talk about your desire to develop them. That way, important keywords will appear to search engines doing the initial selection and hiring managers doing a brief scan once they find your resume.
And we do mean brief. The average recruiter takes just six seconds to decide whether to reject or accept a resume, according to a survey by TheLadders.
With so many postings, recruiters are forced to hustle. “We have over 50 million resumes in our database," says Ryan Hunt, senior career manager at CareerBuilder. “Resumes came into being decades ago and haven't changed that much, but the media we use to find them has changed a lot."
Those who tailor the message to the medium have the best chance of success.
Show, Don't Tell
If he had known that, Elias Rassi wouldn't have sent out 40 resumes filled with what he now calls “wordy gibberish" after being laid off from a Canadian government job three years ago.
Elias' resume began with the dreaded Objective. He didn't target the particular jobs he was seeking—all his resumes were the same, and they all got the same result: no call, no interview, and no job.
Finally, he went to see a career counselor, and within 10 minutes she straightened him out on several points, including keywords. They're necessary, but his resume was overstuffed with them, making it a poor read. “People were falling asleep," Elias realizes now.
He created a succinct, readable resume focused on his skills. Instead of describing himself as an “excellent communicator," he demonstrated his expertise by linking to press releases, articles, and blog posts he had written. In two weeks, he had an interview, then a job.
Easy on the Eyes
If you can't link to your skills, list them in three columns. That's the best visual format for presenting a lot of information in a condensed space, Yate says.
After the skills section, list your professional experience, using the researched keywords again.
Doesn't all this take up a lot of real estate?
“It almost always takes more than a page or two," Yate says. He believes the two-page rule is a relic of the past. “As long as your story is focused properly in a visually accessible layout, if you capture their attention on page one, they'll read it through," he says.
Bullet points highlighting achievements for each job make you stand out and help recruiters scan. Using InDesign, Myreete created her own resume template, with bulleted accomplishments for each position on the left, and education, activities, and other information on the right.
When she applied to a prestigious PR firm, she also researched the company and sent an infographic showing what she had to offer them.
It worked. Right out of college, she landed her dream job—thanks to a big, black “X", and her determination to improve.
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