As a job seeker, your resume is often your best and only chance at getting your foot in the door with your dream employer. Sure, social recruiting is on the rise, and a lot of recruiters are spending more and more time surfing social media platforms for top-tier talent, but we all know that the resume is still king. Unless your resume warrants a second look, an employer is likely to pass right by you.
Moreover, the deck is stacked against your resume. The average company receives 75 resumes for each of its open positions, according to CareerBuilder, and the average recruiter spends no more than six seconds looking at a resume before they decide to pass on it or move forward with the candidate. This is to say nothing of the dreaded applicant tracking system, which uses its semi-accurate-at-best filter system to disqualify 75 percent of the candidates for any given position.
As a job seeker, then, you have a lot of competition, very little time to make a good impression, and at least one fickle gatekeeper standing in your resume’s way.
The good news, however, is that all hope is not lost. There are a few things — 12, in fact — that you can do to boost your resume’s chances of being seen by an employer.
These tips come from Art Koff, the founder of RetiredBrains.com.
1. Did You List Your Cellphone Number for Contact?
Recruiters and employers aren’t going to bother with candidates whom they cannot contact. If your phone number is missing, expect your resume to head straight into the waste basket.
Koff suggests a cellphone number in particular because it’s often easier to reach someone via cellphone than it is to reach them via landline. Don’t make an employer work just to track you down!
Also, Koff notes that job seekers should “make sure there is a professional voicemail message” on their cellphones. A jokey answer message could send employers running in the opposite direction.
2. Did You Make Sure Your Email Address Is Appropriate for Business?
“Hokey and fun email addresses can cut you out of the interviewing process,” says Koff.
Employers won’t look kindly on unprofessional email addresses. What does an email address like “Partymonster27″ say about you as a person? Nothing very good, that’s for sure.
3. Are You Using Cliches in Your Job Summaries?
Most ATSs use keyword systems to filter candidates from the running. If your resume uses generic keywords like “results-oriented,” “self-motivated,” or “dynamic,” there’s a good chance that a company’s ATS will disqualify you, according to Koff.
“Better to use [specific] words from the job description or posting [to which you are applying],” Koff says.
4. Were You Self-Employed? If So, Were You Specific About What You Did?
When it comes to self-employment, employers really want to see concrete, detailed descriptions of the projects you’ve done. Koff suggests going a step further and also including the names of some of your highest-profile clients — with their permission, of course.
5. How Much Information Did You Include About Jobs You Had Very Early In Your Career?
Anything other than the names of companies and the dates you worked there is overkill, says Koff — and you may not even need that information at all. Unless a very early job is particularly relevant to the job you are applying for, Koff suggests you keep it simple or cut it altogether.
6. Did You Include Your Familiarity With Specialized Equipment?
Do you know a lot about certain operating systems, technologies, tools, softwares, etc.? Then be sure to mention that clearly!
7. Did You Include Any Volunteer Work or Charitable Activities?
Employers like to see volunteer work on your resume. As Kara Montermoso of Idealist.org tells Monster,
“Volunteer work, whether in addition to a current job or an activity in between jobs, shows an employer that you are willing to try new experiences [and are involved in your community, and [it] generally demonstrates a willingness to take initiative and make things happen.”
8. Did You List the Specific Core Competencies of Your Job Function and Industry?
As mentioned above, ATSs don’t like generic keywords. No, these softwares — and the employers that use them — want to see specific, highly relevant language that directly relates to the job and industry.
At the same time, Koff notes, job seekers need to be very careful about how they phrase these core competencies.
“Don’t include words like ‘responsible for’ or ‘duties included,’” Koff says. “Instead, use language like ‘managed’ or ‘oversaw.’ Recruiters and hiring managers react better to this terminology.”
9. Did You Minimize Descriptions of Tasks and Maximize Descriptions of Accomplishments?
This is what employers and recruiters are really interested: not the daily duties of your job, but the overarching and lasting positive impacts you had in your role.
10. Did You Quantify Your Accomplishments?
Don’t just describe your accomplishments in vague terms. Use dollars and percentages to quantify your achievements.
“Use numbers whenever possible,” Koff says. “If you can support this information with charts and graphs, do so.”
11. Did You Create a Text-Only Version of Your Resume?
Your resume is going to end up in a lot of weird programs, and fancy formatting will often get destroyed in the process. This can lead to unreadable resumes, which employers won’t hesitate to toss. Therefore, Koff suggests that you always keep a text-only version of your resume on hand.
“This will preserve the formatting when uploading into a company text box,” Koff explains. “Word documents don’t format properly when placed in a text box.”
12. Did You Include a Cover Letter?
Your cover letter may never get read, but including one shows an employer that you put time and effort into your application.
Plus, in case the cover letter does get read, you can use it to your advantage.
“Your cover letter can serve to better relate your experience to the job to which you are applying,” Koff explains.
Your resume has to clear a lot of hurdles before it gets read, but if you follow these 12 tips each time you send out a resume, you’ll give yourself a much better shot at getting seen.