With the huge number of applications a job opening usually gets, it’s frustrating—but not much of a surprise—that most recruiters spend all of six seconds looking at your resume.
So, what’s a job seeker to do? Stop putting effort into perfecting your resume bullet points? Forget about quantifying accomplishments? Shorten your resume to just be five targeted keywords in a large font?
No, no, and no. Your goal is actually pretty straightforward: Give recruiters a reason to take a closer look at your resume during their quick glance.
Here are a few ideas on how to do exactly that.
1. Call Attention to Keywords
The bulk of your resume is likely made up of the bullets listed under your experiences, but unless there’s something that catches your reader’s eye, he or she may never even make it to the meat of your resume.
To combat this, pull up the sections that allow for the use of more keywords to the top third of the page, such as your skills section or summary statement. Then comb through the job description to find what words, skills, or qualifications keep coming up. Pick out your strengths from what you’ve found, and make sure a reader doesn’t have to go very far to find something he or she would be interested in.
2. Use Section Headings Strategically
While we’re on the topic of keywords, one component that tends to get a lot of emphasis is your section headings. It makes sense. They need to be very clear so that your resume is easy to navigate and skim, but what a wasted opportunity for these bolded, eye-catching headings to only point out where the next section starts.
To take advantage of these inherently attention-grabbing areas, add some relevant flair. Instead of just an “Experience” section, change it to “Teaching Experience” or “Project Management Experience.” Instead of just “Skills,” give “Technical Skills” or “Stage Management Skills” a whirl.
3. Maximize Your Company Brands
No matter how clear your own personal brand is, it’s hard to compete with the brands of established companies. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, you can use that to your advantage on your resume.
If you’ve worked at a company like Facebook, HBO, or Gucci, you better believe a recruiter will spare an extra minute or two to see what you did there. This means making sure that if you have any well-known companies on your resume, you’re either bolding your company names or writing them in all-caps. Don’t diminish their impact by italicizing them or bolding your position title instead.
4. Don’t Hide Your Quirks
You’ve probably heard the advice to keep your resume all about business. And, with such little space to make your case for why you can do the job, that’s not bad advice. That said, you also don’t want to hide all your quirks—even if it’s just to get the recruiter to do a double take.
Is your side gig to take people out for tandem skydives? Are you a computer science major who minored in dance? Do you have a third degree black belt in taekwondo? It’s very possible that none of this is relevant to the position you’re applying for, but it just might be so interesting that a recruiter spends a little extra time on your resume.
Of course, once you get your reader to examine your resume a little closer, you’ll want to make sure the rest of your resume is in tip-top shape. And this handy guide will help with that.
Photo of pencils courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author