For any given job opening, there might be hundreds of people submitting a resume. Hiring managers have little time to read each of these documents, which means your resume must have something that truly sets it apart from the pack, including:
1. Skills That Match The Job
Hiring managers spend about one minute reading each resume that they receive and they are looking for individuals that are a solid match. As far as resume must-haves go, this one is at the top of our list. It’s imperative that you customize each resume so that it fits the job description.
It’s never wise to send out one-size-fits-all resumes and cover letters. You need to personalize the resume so that it’s a match to the job description and personalize each cover letter for the job and the hiring manager. Do some research and find the actual name of the hiring manager or contact rather than simply stating, “to whom it may concern.”
Of course, it’s also important to actually possess most of the skills listed in the job description. Don’t list skills that you don’t actually possess. It’s never wise to lie on a resume. It’s just too easy to get caught in a lie and that reduces your chances of getting the job to 0%.
2. Dynamic Keywords
If you do a search for “dynamic keywords resume,” you’ll find tons of articles listing active verbs that you can use to describe your work experiences. Rather than stating that you “were tasked with” or “was responsible for,” it’s best to use words such as managed, developed, created, designed, collaborated and so forth. These are much more descriptive and to the point.
Additionally, don’t forget about our first resume must-have. When thinking about keywords, use some of the words you saw in the job description. If the hiring manager wants someone proficient in Microsoft Excel and QuickBooks, make sure that appears on your resume. Hiring managers are searching for these keywords, and if your resume lacks some important words, it might be overlooked.
3. Design Consistency
Too often, we see resumes where there’s just no consistent format and this is confusing for hiring managers to read. Each section of your resume should include a similar format, using the same typefaces, the same type of bullets and the same basic structure.
Don’t list job skills and achievements with bullets for one company and dashes for another. This just looks sloppy and weird. Unless you are describing skills at your current workplace, be sure to use past tense to describe your responsibilities. Don’t use four different fonts or different types of bullets. Keep everything clean, clear and simple so it’s easy for hiring managers to skim.
4. Quantifiable Skills
In the past, it might have been fine to simply list your job responsibilities but today’s hiring managers want to see what you can accomplish, not just a list of your typical tasks. For instance, rather than stating you “were responsible for employee scheduling,” state that you “Coordinated schedules for 25+ employees.” This provides a hiring manager with a scope of what you actually can do.
Instead of stating that you “managed a sales team,” state that you “managed a six-person sales team, increased overall sales by 15% per year.” This shows that you not only can manage a team, you can manage people and get solid results. Whenever you can quantify a skill, do it. This really sheds light on your qualifications, and hiring managers need to see what sets you apart from other applicants.
5. A Summary That Sells
It’s important to remember that hiring managers don’t exist to make your dreams come true. Their goal is to find qualified employees that are a great fit for their company. When writing your career objective think less in terms of what you want and more in terms of how you benefit a company.
A career summary or objective provides you with a huge opportunity to sell yourself in just one sentence. Read the job description carefully and compose an objective that truly demonstrates that you are a great fit.
6. Software-Friendly Format & Language
If you are submitting a resume online, chances are that it will be filtered through application-tracking software. This software makes it easier for companies to weed out people who aren’t really a match for a job position.
While you might think an amazing design and a touch of quirky language are resume must-haves, software doesn’t understand odd resume formatting nor will it understand odd language. If your resume features a fanciful design and includes verbiage such as “Jedi master” or “guru” to describe skills or job titles, the software program will not understand these weird margins and weird language.
When submitting a resume online, keep it simple. Use the same language that you find in the job description and keep the format plain and straightforward. Save your fancy and quirky resume for those times when you physically hand a resume to a hiring manager. Although, in general, a simple and professional look is usually preferable to a unique design, unless you are applying for an artistic type of job, such as a graphic designer.
7. Show Some Personality
These days, hiring managers aren’t just concerned with your qualifications, although that’s certainly a huge factor. However, they also want employees that will fit in well with the current workplace vibe. To help showcase your personality, adding a Hobbies & Interest section can be a smart idea, providing you go about this strategically.
For instance, if you just list your hobbies as reading, watching TV and going to restaurants and movies, this sounds more than a bit dull. It’s better to add hobbies such as running marathons, taking gourmet cooking classes, volunteering at a food bank or binge-watching a particular quirky show. Here’s two Hobbies & Interests for comparison:
Hobbies & Interests
Hobbies & Interests
Long-Distance Hiking (Hiked Grand Canyon & John Muir Trail)
Playing Classical Guitar
Volunteering at Westside Pet Shelter
Blogging about my search for great Mexican food
The first effort provides no real details and lacks punch, while the second effort provides a hiring team with a glimpse of your personality. The long-distance hiking shows that you can work hard toward a goal. The volunteerism showcases your willingness to help others and work as a team. The blogging and guitar playing showcases your creativity. This section can be a powerful tool provided you use it wisely.
While these resume must-haves can set you apart from the competition, there are two huge mistakes that can greatly reduce your chance of getting interviews and getting hired, including:
1. Resume Errors
Even a single spelling error can cause a hiring manager to toss your resume in the trash. Make two or three errors, and you definitely won’t be getting called in for an interview. Unless they simply want to see, in person, the job candidate that thought it was a good idea to not edit their resume.
It’s not just spelling errors that can cost you a great job. Using poor grammar and syntax also can be a problem that indicates you may not really possess the attention to detail necessary to be a great employee.
While professional resume writers can ensure that your resume is free from spelling, grammar and syntax errors, they won’t know if you email address and phone numbers are correct, so this is information that you must double and triple check before handing out your resume.
2. Lack Of Preparation
A great resume can get you through the door and into the interview process, but that’s all it can do. Once you sit down in the hot seat facing the hiring manager, it’s all on you to make a great impression and that takes some preparation.
Dress for the part with well-fitting, ironed business-appropriate clothing. Trim you hair and make sure it’s tidy and neat. Carry a briefcase or professional bag filled with paper and pens for taking notes, as well as copies of your resume and cover letter just in case the hiring manager wants an extra copy.
Be a few minutes early to the interview, turn off your cell phone and remember to make eye contact and truly listen to the hiring manager. Jot down a thoughtful list of questions to ask regarding day-to-day responsibilities, company culture, goals, etc. Be sure to practice your answers to typical interview questions again and again until you are comfortable.
Lastly, never walk into the interview room without knowing a thing or two about the company. Research the company’s mission statement and any recent articles about the company. If the company has a blog, read a few of the blog posts. Research the hiring manager so that you know a bit about this person. If you can do all of this, you will walk into the interview feeling much more confidently and are likely to make a better impression. All the resume must-haves in the world won’t help you if you walk in late and unprepared.
To ensure that you’ve included all of these resume must-haves and aren’t making any huge mistakes; it can be smart to hire professional resume writers. Who should you pick? There are tons of companies out there, and we’ve reviewed resumes from many of them. Take a look at our top pick, Resume Writing Group. We believe they can provide you with a stellar, job-winning resume that will help you land a fantastic new job.