It is said that you only have 5 seconds to get the attention of a potential employer. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Your resume is the very first impression he or she will have of you. You will be judged straight out of the gate based on its appearance, how much information is included and how it is presented, and of course, the content. Often in that order.
“But shouldn’t they care more about what I have to say than how a piece of paper looks?”
In hindsight, yes. But the fact of the matter is that employers are sent hundreds of resumes for just one position. It is vital that you stand apart from the pack. If your resume doesn’t grab their attention, and fast, the chances of your opportunity being dropped in the “no pile” is rather large.
So, how exactly does one write a killer resume? Here are 5 tips that will help you secure that interview:
1. Nail Your Layout
Remember when I said that the appearance of your resume is a key element? Potential employers often do judge a book by its cover. It’s their way of weeding through the giant stack of resumes on their desk. Your goal is to make sure that this person reads your resume from top to bottom. So, what should you focus on?
- Length. The proper resume length is often a topic of debate. Some say it should be no more than 1 page, others say that it is OK to have 2. The major point is that if you are going to venture onto the second page, you need to make sure you have something worth reading.
- Readability. Your resume should be neat, clear and legible. This involves the overall design, the size and style of your font, the spacing and the content arrangement. A disorganized and inconsistent resume will automatically raise a red flag; it could be construed as a direct reflection of who you are as a professional! Keep your sections organized in such a way that the reader knows what to expect from each. Don’t squeeze your margins, use erratic spacing or make your font tiny in order to get as much on the page as you can. If it doesn’t fit, you’re being too wordy!
- Headings. Objective, Experience, Education, Skills & Qualifications, Clubs & Activities. The sections are yours to choose from based on what kind of information you have to provide, but Experience and Education should always be included. The further you get in your professional career, the lesser the need for Clubs & Activities.
2. Be Specific! Use Keywords
Spend some time researching roles similar to the one you are applying to, whether they are advertisements or job descriptions. What keywords are repeated? What skills are highlighted? Don’t be afraid to mimic what you see in the job description if it applies to your experience.
If the responsibilities read, “manage billing and collections,” address the same keywords in your resume, whether you do so in your headings or in your experience bullet points.
Hiring managers will scan your resume very quickly, looking for words that tell them that you are worth a second look. Use keywords to emphasize your roles and accomplishments; “deadline-driven,” “self-starter,” and “leader” are common.
3. Provide Information That Matches The Job You Want
Let’s create a hypothetical scenario:
You are applying for a Marketing Learnership position for which you would be doing data entry, social media, website updates and administrative tasks as needed by your manager. You have worked at an ice cream shop, as a receptionist, and you helped your friend promote his business on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. You also use Microsoft Office every day for university projects, you keep proper track of your finances, and write on your own personal blog.
Now, what would the hiring manager care most about? The summer you spent working at an ice cream shop, or your administrative experience and computer skills?
Your use of MS Office and your time tracking your personal finances may mean that you would excel at data entry. Your time as a receptionist means that you have performed some administrative tasks, whether it was scheduling meetings, taking phone calls or ordering office supplies. Your Facebook and Twitter promotions for your friend’s business show that you know how to use social media platforms, which is vital for marketing roles these days. Your personal blog exhibits the ability to write creative content and perhaps make updates to websites.
The point I am trying to make is that you may have dabbled in a handful of different job types or projects, and have skills and experience that could match the position you are applying for. Maybe not the exact line-items listed in the job description, but that is OK. The point of a learnership is to do just that… LEARN. A hiring manager just wants to know that you have some relevant qualifications for the field and role you are applying to before they invite you to an interview.
4. Talk Yourself Up
Hiring managers don’t only want to know that you have experience and qualifications. They want to know what you have accomplished. Not only should you write about what you did at your previous job, but you should be sure to include your successes, what unique contributions you made, and what sets you apart from the person who has a resume just like yours.
Did you solve a problem that had yet to be solved? Did you bring in new business? Did you point out a flaw and come up with a solution on your own accord? Examples:
- Secured $10k more in annual debate club support
- Generated 35 new accounts
- Re-designed and developed company website
- Launched personal blog that received 30k visitors/month
There are so many ways to highlight your achievements; don’t let them get brushed under the rug!
5. Don’t Let Your Lack of Experience Deter You
If you are new to the job world and do not have much professional experience to include, don’t fret! Everyone has to start somewhere. Some things you may list are:
- Your GPA if it’s above a 3.0 (if you’ve been on the dean’s list, say so!)
- Coursework that is related to the role
- Clubs you have been involved in (debate, environmental, theater, music, etc.)
- Sports/regular activities
- Volunteer work
Why sports and clubs? Because it shows balance. Most learnership hiring managers understand that this may be the first professional job you will have, so they assess your initiative and involvement in activities outside of school as well.
A killer resume will increase your chances of getting face-to-face time with your potential employer. It is not something to be lazy with! Beef it up and get that dream job!