Job hunting can be a drag; after sending tens, if not hundreds of resumes to prospective employers, you might feel lucky to get one or two calls back. It’s a common complaint that recruiting agencies, career coaches, and sympathetic friends hear all the time, but it’s also not an impossible problem to solve. Taking your career search game to the next level just requires some savvy tweaking of your resume to show employers you have what it takes to join their team. Want to learn the best way to tailor your resume to a specific position? Read on, and then start watching the phone calls come flooding in.
Know how recruiters (and software) read resumes
Formatting for humans
Once your resume has landed on a desk (or more likely, in an inbox) it will be just one of several resumes that need review. A hiring manager doesn’t have the inexhaustible time to meticulously read through every resume they get, so making sure yours is easily scannable is a must. A manager will be looking mostly at the top-third of your resume, according to a heatmap by Zety, making this the section of your document where you will want to feature your most important points. We’ll touch on what those are in a bit.
Formatting for machines
In the digital age, more and more work is being handled by software. Hiring is no different; many employers use resume-scanning software to identify key terms, skills, and experience on an applicant’s resume in order to easily weed out resumes that aren’t a fit. 98% of Fortune 500 companies do this, as noted by Jobscan, so relying on a set of human eyes to pick out your best qualities won’t cut it. These applications rely on simple operations like keyword density and formatting analysis, which you can turn to your advantage.
Identify the position’s key descriptors
While looking through a job description, search for terms that define what the position entails. These can be general, like “able to meet deadlines” or “requires teamwork skills,” or they can be more specific experiences and credentials like “OSHA-certified” or “speaks Spanish.” Once you’ve identified the details of a job description, look through your own experience to see where there might be some overlap. Chances are, there is.
Noting these specific terms and keywords gives you a leg up both with human hiring managers and with software. Both of them will be looking for these exact terms in your own resume, and if they’re present, it makes you a much more appealing candidate than someone who lists general experience in verbiage that does not mirror that which is used in the job description, even if their experience and skills are a match. It’s often helpful to keep a running list of these exact skills to the side, or highlighted in your general resume; this makes them easier to remember and cite in your tailored resume when it comes time to write it. Making sure you can clearly articulate applicable experience to a position is of special importance to construction recruiters, who are often hiring for construction jobs that require some very specific skills and trained individuals.
Check out this Top 10 article for more things recruiters look for in your resume.
Use a hierarchical list of your experience
Mention applicable skills first, and often
Remember how we mentioned the importance of the top-third of your resume? This is where concrete examples of your skills and experience overlap should go. This makes it easier for people to identify them when scanning a resume. You should also make sure that these examples are consistently cited, using a given keyword more than once, in order to make sure it catches the attention of resume-scanning software and refers you to a set of human eyes. You can get an idea as to how well you are highlighting specifics by using a keyword density tool, which will show you how often you use a specific term (like “lead, operated, OSHA, managed…”)
Chronology is less important than relevance
While writing this section, you’ll only help yourself by shaking the notion your resume must be in chronological order. It definitely doesn’t have to be; you also don’t need to list the responsibilities of a former position in order of their relevance to that particular job, either. As Career Sidekick points out, what’s more important is showing how the skills you gleaned from previous experience can be transferred to your prospective position. List skills, accomplishments, and experience in order of their relevance to this job’s keywords in the first section of your resume, and then list the rest of your experience in descending order. By including the more relevant information first, you’ll be catching a recruiter’s eye, anyways; they can learn more about you and what you have to offer by continuing to read.
Once your resume has been reworked for the position you’re applying to, give it a once-over for formatting, spelling, and punctuation errors. If you’re good to go, then send your application over the airwaves; and then just take a break, and wait for your phone to ring.
For even more tips on how to properly format your resume make sure to download our comprehensive resume checklist here