If you’re planning to jump into the job search arena in the new year, now is the time to finalize your resume so it stands out among the masses. The only problem is, many people do not know where to start – from finding the right keywords to choosing which of your skills and attributes to shine light on the most. President and CEO of Great Resumes Fast, Jessica Hernandez, is here to calm your nerves and reveal the most important tips when writing your resume so you’ll secure that dream job interview faster than ever.
Q: What are your top tips to get through the application tracking system?
A: Even in a candidate-driven market, it’s still crucial to target your resume to a specific role. Applicant Tracking Systems are built based on the notion that the right candidate will have a resume full of relevant keywords. Even if you have a strong, achievement-based resume, adapting is still required based on the specific job posting. Review the posting for keywords, key phrases, important qualifications, skills, and required experience. These are your keywords. Include any keywords that fit your experience on your resume for that job application.
Not all keywords are equally weighted in applicant tracking systems. A soft skill or generic term like “results-driven” or “excellent communicator” will not carry the same weight as those key hard skills and functions of a position. A good example would be “accounts payable” carrying more weight than “detail-oriented” when an employer is searching for a resume in their database. It’s mostly based on the key terms that a recruiter or employer would be using to search for the person they need. Use keywords that matter the most for the position you’re targeting.
Q: Why is the new year a great time to apply for jobs?
A: We usually hear that budgets are set at the beginning of the year and employers have returned from holiday time off and so hiring starts to ramp back up at the beginning of the year. I believe the start of 2019 will be different than in years past. With more open positions than people seeking, the market is favoring the candidate. This new year will be a great time to advance your career and pursue more meaningful work. If you’re unhappy with your current position and deliberating on a possible change I would advise you to start preparing yourself now so you’re ready because once you start putting a solid resume out on the job market you’ll probably be fielding multiple offers and find yourself interviewing much quicker than you thought.
Q: Is there a specific resume format job seekers should stick to?
A: I always recommend job seekers use a chronological or hybrid resume format. A hybrid resume format uses the first third of the first resume page to show key experiences, skills and accomplishments before diving into career experience in reverse chronological format. Avoid using a true functional resume format as it sends up red flags to recruiters and employers.
Q: What makes a resume really stick out?
A: Accomplishments, successes, and results are the substance of an effective resume. It’s not enough to say you’re accomplished and successful. What makes a resume stick out is how you tell the story of each accomplishment. Talk about your top wins using the CAR formula. Start by sharing the challenge you faced, then the action(s) you took to overcome the challenge and finish by sharing what the results were of those actions. Quantify whenever possible because numbers provide proof, are memorable and hard to dispute.
Q: What are your top tips for writing a resume in 2019?
- Look for themes across your entire career. An example of a common theme might be that no matter where you’ve worked, you’ve been able to come in, see where processes can be improved and then you execute the necessary steps to improve processes, save time, and cut costs. Locate the common thread across all your past positions—this will help to shape your personal brand, give you a foundation to build your resume on, and help you remember important results.
- Narrow your focus down so that you’re not casting a broad net. Employers are looking for specialists not generalists. Even if you can do 10 different jobs extremely well, focus on the one that you’re applying to and use the keywords, experiences, accomplishments, and proof that speaks to that one role. Employers want the person who is the best fit and if they can’t clearly and easily see how your experience is a fit they’ll discard your resume in lieu of another candidate.
- In your resume, touch on what you know the major pain points are for the employer and the position. When the employer reads your resume they should be saying “That’s exactly what I need help with!” If you’re not sure what those pain points are start asking questions and doing research:
- What is the biggest need in this company, department, industry, or position?
- What do people in this position, industry, or company struggle with the most?
- What needs are unique to this company, industry, or position’s branding?
- What are they known for? Do they need someone who can do things quickly and accurately? What about someone who puts the customer first? What about someone who understands the importance of never missing a deadline? What is the company’s reputation? Understanding the company’s reputation will help you determine what they need.
Once you understand their needs, pain, and problems you can share accomplishments that illustrate how you’ve solved similar issues successfully.