How to Create a Resume That Gets Results: Insights From a Professional Resume Writer

by Debra Boggs

How to Create a Resume That Gets Results

Have you been writing dozens of resumes and getting no replies? The modern job search is not what it used to be and there are new rules when it comes to how to create a resume. But the good news is that with a little education on the subject, you will arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to finally land the role you have been after. Below are some tips from my experience with clients across many industries on how to create a resume that gets results.

First: Win at the ATS game

Because of the rise of online applications for most positions today, your resume is most likely being screened through an applicant tracking system (ATS) and may get thrown out before a human ever sees it. These systems are used to help companies narrow down their pool of applicants to the most qualified candidates before resumes are passed on to HR and hiring managers for further consideration. 

In order to win at the ATS game, make sure you have tailored your resume to incorporate EXACT words or phrases from the job description, focusing on job requirements. Some programs don’t consider different forms of a word to be the same so using exact wording is key here. For example, an ATS may not recognize “project management” as being relevant for a “project manager” position or recognize “evaluated” as relevant for a job “evaluating.” An easy way to boost your chances of getting through the ATS is to include key skills and professional profile sections in your resume. By tailoring every word of these sections to be exact matches to the job description for which you are applying, your resume will be considered a better match for the job and will have a higher chance of being pushed through to the hiring manager for review.

Second: Win Over the Hiring Manager

Assuming you’ve done a great job tailoring your resume for each application, you are finally getting your resume in front of real people.  Now you need to focus your efforts on how to create a resume that impresses HR and hiring managers. Here are a few basic, but often neglected, things to remember. Be concise. Be relevant. Emphasize contributions. Name drop. Provide an opportunity for more information.

Be concise. Keep your resume short and to the point. Only include information that is directly relevant to the position. This will help you keep your resume down to an appropriate length of 1 page for early career professionals and a 2 page maximum for professionals with 5 to 10+ years of experience. Unless a CV, or curriculum vitae, is requested, employers don’t want to know everything you have ever done. They only want to know what makes you qualified to do their job. This is important because hiring managers only review each resume for an average of 30 seconds each, so brevity is your friend.

Be relevant. Your high school job is not relevant. Overlapping jobs that don’t add a new skill to your resume are not relevant. Your physical mailing address is not relevant; just include your city and state. Do not include an objective or “References upon request” as both are outdated and are not doing anything to sell your experience in a small amount of space. A bonus to taking out some of this unnecessary information is that it will allow you to have more “white space” or breathing room for your text. This white space is key because it helps direct the reader to important information. Therefore, you want the least amount of crowding possible on your most important information: your name, how to contact you, and a brief professional profile describing why you are the best fit for the specific job.

Emphasize contributions rather than responsibilities. How many calls did you answer per day? How much did you sell per month? How many people did you teach? How much money did you bring in? What was your retention rate? Quantify your accomplishments whenever you can. If you’re having trouble doing that in exact numbers, it is alright to make a good faith estimate. A good guidepost for doing this is to ask yourself “If I showed this to my colleagues and managers, would they say this is accurate?” For people who undersell themselves, this may force you to be more confident. Also look for ways to turn numbers into percentages so they translate in a relevant way to a new organization.  An example of this is “Closed $100,000 within the first year” to “Met 140% of first-year quota for closed sales.”

Name drop, if appropriate. If you have not signed anything prohibiting you from doing so, name drop specific clients or projects you have worked on to give the potential employer opportunity for immediate recognition. If you worked with a prominent client, say what you accomplished for them. If you taught a curriculum that has some name recognition, name it. If you used software or technology relevant to the field and the job description, make sure to include it.

Provide an opportunity for more information. Give the hiring managers an opportunity to learn more about you. The best way to do this is to have a current and robust LinkedIn page. Populate your profile with your work history, skills, awards, education, and special projects you have worked on. Seek out recommendations and endorsements from connections whenever possible. In the space on your resume where you may have included a street address before, include a hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile instead. You can also set-up a custom URL for your profile to make the link look clean and professional. Go to my previous article about how to optimize your LinkedIn profile for more insights.

Finally, make sure to submit your resume in a way that makes sense for the hiring manager and ATS. Your goal is to make finding you as easy as possible for the hiring manager and you can do this by including your name and the position title in the file name. Also, make sure to follow the directions given in the job posting. If the posting requests a Word document or PDF, do that. If not, make sure to always send a PDF file to ensure that the formatting transfers and that your audience sees your document in the way you had intended them to see it. You spent a lot of time and effort on your resume and application up to this point. Make sure you show the hiring manager you can follow instructions and pay attention to detail.

As we have reviewed, there are a lot of new rules and best practices related to how to create a resume for your modern job search.  The good news is that you are now one step closer to setting yourself apart and winning interviews.

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