Over the course of your professional career, you’re going to send out hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes. Most of us won’t have a high success rate when it comes to getting a response, let alone an interview. You might do your homework, carefully crafting your resume with all the latest tips and tricks and even optimizing for SEO. Yet, it still might not secure you any interviews.
It’s hard to tell what you might be doing wrong — if anything at all. Just remember this: There’s always room for improvement.
We worked with Zipjob, a resume writing and review service, to flesh out some of the easiest and most efficient ways to improve your resume. To date, the Zipjob team has reviewed and improved hundreds of CVs, helping clients land interviews and jobs.
One of the company’s secrets is it anticipates the use of HR departments’ Applicant Tracking Systems, turning the tables as much as possible. If you know what the systems are looking for, you know how to beat them. That, in turn, helps Zipjob’s team of writers and editors gain a small but powerful advantage. And that’s just one way in which Zipjob’s team says you can punch up your resume. Here are 10 tips that should help add some power to your resume.
1. Kill the resume objective
If you take a look at most resume templates or examples, they’ll have an objective statement near the top. This essentially tells an employer what you want. The thing is, an employer knows what you want: a job. It might have been a resume staple in years past, but it’s time to give it up.
“Replace the resume objective with a captivating summary that shows the employer why you’re the perfect fit for the position. Keep a conversational tone, and mention some relevant achievements from your past work experience,” the Zipjob team told us.
Next, you must beat the machines!
2. Beat the machines
This is at the core of the Zipjob system: turning employers’ own systems against them. Tracking software is used to screen people out and give employers a shortlist of applicants. You can take measures to counter these systems, but you’ll want to make sure you know what you’re doing.
“An average of 75% of resumes submitted are deleted by an ATS, and you wouldn’t even know it,” the Zipjob team said. “To get past an ATS, you need to ensure that you use a standard resume format and incorporate relevant keywords. The job description is a good place to find relevant keywords you could incorporate into your resume. For example, if a marketing position requires knowledge of Adwords and Facebook ads, you want to ensure those terms are included on your resume.”
Don’t be afraid to use numbers to brag about yourself…
3. Quantify, quantify, quantify
Quality is cool. But you know what’s even cooler? Quantities — as in an ability to quantify your performance at past positions, so it’s easy to see how big of an impact you made. These days, that’s what employers want to see: How big of an effect did you have?
“There is something magical about numbers on a resume that really capture the attention of a hiring manager,” the Zipjob team said. “Don’t just say you increased sales; give the dollar or percentage. It captures the reader’s attention and adds believability to the statement. You can find experience and accomplishments to quantify no matter what field you’re in.”
4. Remove your address
In addition to killing your objective, remove your mailing address, too. There’s no reason to keep it on there unless you’re hoping to get added to a mailing list. But what’s even worse is it might actually end up hurting you.
“Some companies won’t even open a resume with a full address for privacy reasons. You also don’t want a hiring manager disqualifying you because you have a longer commute than the other candidates. To an employer, this may mean that you’ll be late more often in inclement weather or traffic jams,” Zipjob’s team said.
5. Come out swinging
If an employer only has a few seconds to check out your resume, you’re going to want to land some hard punches within that time frame — metaphorical punches, of course. So you’ll want to front load your resume, and make sure anyone reading it is impressed right off the bat.
“You want to ensure that the first bullet the hiring manager looks at is the best. You want to capture and impress them from the beginning so they read into the rest of your resume in more detail,” Zipjob’s team said.
6. There’s value in brevity
K.I.S.S.: Keep it simple, stupid. Or keep it short, at the very least. Nobody wants to ready your Tolstoy-esque manuscript when it comes to reviewing your CV. Trim the fat, and you’ll have a better shot of making it through to the interview round. This might be a challenge, but remember this general rule from Zipjob’s team: “One page for those with under 10 years of experience and a maximum of two for those with more.”
7. Strong verbs — use them
Take your Tolstoy-esque abilities, and use them not for length but for power. You don’t need fancy words transparently torn from a thesaurus. Give your writing some thought, and look for places where a vocabulary punch-up will make a difference.
Zipjob actually has a few suggestions: “Managed, achieved, improved, negotiated, and resolved.” Use those, and others, to see what you can do.
But don’t use some words…
8. Kill the buzzwords
If you’re pouring through stacks of resumes, seeing the same buzzwords every 5 seconds is going to make you lose it. Comb through your CV to see whether you’re using any, and get rid of them. LinkedIn publishes an annual list of the year’s worst offenders, so use that to your advantage. Zipjob also gave us some of its biggest buzzword no-nos: “team player,” “hard worker,” “responsible for,” “results driven,” and “think outside the box.”
9. Duties out, accomplishments in
Drop a duty. In fact, drop all your duties. Replace them with accomplishments.
If Tom Brady were writing a resume, do you think that under “Quarterback, New England Patriots” he would list “snap ball, throw, or hand off” as a bullet point? Hell no. He’d probably put “fistful of Super Bowl Rings” or something similar.
“Your resume should be focused on accomplishments and not everyday tasks you were paid to do. No hiring manager is looking to hire someone because they did what they were supposed to do,” Zipjob’s team said. “Quantifying and using strong action verbs can make even a basic responsibility look like an achievement.”
A simple proofread is the final step. If you want, have somebody else give your resume a glance. Fresh eyes can sometimes pick up on things you’ve overlooked.
“Microsoft Word alone won’t correct all your spelling and grammar. Have a friend or professional proofread it. Most hiring managers are quick to dismiss a resume with even a single error,” Zipjob told us.
You can visit Zipjob to get a free resume review if you want to see how an Applicant Tracking System reads your resume, as well as for more tips related to building the perfect CV.