When it comes to writing a resume, it can feel like the standards and expectations for formatting, organization, and writing are ever-changing. Recruiter preferences and expectations do change over time, and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) – the online systems that companies use to efficiently decide if applicants are qualified or not – do experience system updates that you need to be mindful of. However, there are simple actions you can take when developing your resume to meet baseline recruiter and ATS requirements.
1. Use an appropriate design
Your resume’s design should align with the industry you are applying to jobs in. A good rule of thumb when designing your resume is to stick with a simple, professional, and traditional style – unless you are in the creative industry or applying for a job that would appreciate a stylish or more unique-looking resume.
A traditional resume is one that has a name and contact information at the top, followed by key sections like professional experience, technical skills, certifications or other professional development, and education.
Traditional doesn’t have to mean boring! You can strategically use shading, bolding, and italics to draw a reader in and guide them through the resume.
Something to stay away from is a resume template, such as one available through word processing applications or online websites. Many templates use icons, textboxes, and fonts that are not ATS-friendly. When you upload a resume with these elements for a company that uses the ATS, it’s possible the system will not be able to read your resume’s content. This results in your resume automatically landing in the “no” pile.
2. Include must-have sections
Simply put, a strong resume must include the content the job position is asking for. Ask yourself, “What is a recruiter for this position hoping to see on a resume?” and “What do I need to include to make me stand out as capable and qualified?” If you’re not sure what a recruiter or ATS will look for, head back to the job description. Everything you more or less need to possess or demonstrate to land the job is in that description.
Center your name, and underneath it write your location, phone number, and email address. Adding this information ensures recruiters can successfully and easily contact you. Never forget to include your LinkedIn profile URL.
Underneath your contact details, create a section dedicated to professional experience. Write down your employers and each position you held at the company. Focus on including employment that has occurred within the last 15 years because adding work experience beyond that can be repetitive and unnecessary.
- If your only relevant work experience occurred more than 15 years ago, consider creating a separate section with the title additional experience or relevant experience to ensure you do not lose that work history.
- You can add experience beyond 15 years to your LinkedIn profile.
Under each position, write bullets about what you accomplished in that role. You can start by listing your daily and weekly responsibilities. Then, add the impact you had when doing those and the skills or expertise applied to make them happen. Ask yourself, “What did I do in this role that will help me succeed in this new role?”
Whether you have worked as a cashier, store clerk, customer service representative, server, marketing manager, janitor, security guard, technology executive, brand ambassador, delivery driver, or something else, you can always flip your job duties into accomplishments. This article provides excellent input on how to write about your accomplishments in your resume.
Skills and professional development
Next, create one or two sections for technical skills and certifications. List out the technical tools you are proficient in, such as Microsoft Office, Slack, specific project management software, Adobe tools, and others. If you have obtained certifications or attended training or courses on topics related to the job you are applying for, add those to your resume.
3. Reflect on the resume’s impact
Once you have developed the sections above, which will of course depend on your own background, it’s time to reflect and consider if you need to add anything else.
When writing or editing your resume, you must always pause and ask yourself, “Will it be clear in 6-8 seconds that I have the skills and experience to meet this job’s requirements?” Depending on your answer, you can consider adding these sections:
Objective statements and competencies
Objective statements are those summaries at the top of resumes that describe who you are as a professional and offer details about what you can do and have done. Competencies are skills like project management, team training, recruitment, customer services, sales management, strategic planning, cross-functional collaboration, and such areas of expertise that showcase your skills beyond technical skills.
These sections are appropriate for executive-level resumes and resumes in which it isn’t clear that you have the required experience – which typically occurs when you are making a career transition, recently earned a degree, or just have less work experience. Remember, it’s all about positioning yourself as capable and qualified for the role you are applying to – while being honest. This cannot be stressed enough: never lie on your resume. If this content will help demonstrate your capabilities, add the content.
Volunteer experience and projects
Again, it depends. Ask yourself, “Do I need this experience to show myself as capable and qualified?” If you have little to no experience related to the job you are applying for but have completed projects or worked in a community organization that can demonstrate skills that will help you in the new job, it is worth adding this to your resume.
If you have relevant work experience, there is no need to include volunteer experience.
Now that you know the ins and outs of developing a resume that is optimized and presents your key achievements, you can get started on drafting your job-winning document. Once you draft the new resume, submit it here for a free resume review that contains personalized feedback. If you’re looking for more support, take a look at these sample resumes and continue to explore the BrandResumes blog, which is constantly updated with new content for job seekers.