Imagine the scenario: You have just completed an interview with an outstanding candidate. The applicant has amazing skills that are perfect for the role and a personality that rocks. There’s only one problem: Their resume doesn’t have the right emphasis for the job. The only way you are getting this one through the door is with a resume that screams, “Hire me for this job!”

What is a busy recruiter to do?

According to Diane Hudson, certified resume writer (CPRW) and director of the Certified Professional Career Coach program at the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARW/CC), “To position a resume for a specific job requires ‘tweaking’ to meet the job requirements.”

The top half of the first page is the most critical part of any resume. When providing your candidates with resume guidance, you should focus on the following three elements for maximum impact:

  1. The Title Line: Also known as a “headline,” this section encourages the resume reader to continuing further.
  2. The Summary Statement: A strong summary highlights a candidate’s relevant technical skills and speaks to their past expertise and soft skills.
  3. The Keywords: A bulleted list of keywords can make or break a resume, especially when it comes to getting through an applicant tracking system (ATS).

Below are some fundamental guidelines to help your candidate do a quick and powerful resume revision:

1. The Title Line

Instruct your candidate to make their title line reflect the same or very similar wording as the job title listed in the job posting. If the candidate has never held that specific role, the word “target” may be added.

For example, if a candidate is being submitted for a customer success manager (CSM) role, and they have previously held the roles of account manager and customer support manager, their new title line might read:

Target: Customer Success Manager (CSM)

2. The Summary Statement

Advise your candidate to create a paragraph that is not italicized and contains no more than five sentences. The summary is best when it begins with descriptive adjectives that embody the relevant value a candidate brings. If the position description mentions specific personality traits, be sure your candidate includes these traits in their summary. A good summary statement will mention relevant expertise and vertical market experience. It should also include specific abilities that relate to the job description, and it should leave out all irrelevant information.

Here is an example of a summary created for a senior technical recruiter:

Tenacious and resourceful talent acquisition professional with extensive corporate recruiting expertise. Skilled at identification and placement of IT professionals for startups and Fortune 500s. Able to devise and implement effective programs to entice active and passive candidates. Deep familiarity with multiple applicant tracking systems. Excellent interpersonal communication skills at all organizational levels.

Advise your candidates to draw language from the requirements section of the job post. In the case of this summary, the position mentioned “applicant tracking systems” and “specific experience sourcing both active and passive candidates.” The requirements also included “experience working across all organizational levels.”

3. The Keywords

While adding a keyword section to a resume may seem simple enough, the real challenge – and the most important part – is knowing what to omit. Any specific skills mentioned in the job posting that have not already been addressed in the title line or summary statement should be included in the keyword list. Any irrelevant skills ought to be removed. The most important bullets should come first.

Let’s take a quick look at this high-level sales executive’s keywords:

Team Building ♦ Strategic Planning ♦ Sales Training ♦ Business Development

Customer Retention/Expansion ♦ Direct Sales ♦ Turnarounds

If this candidate is going for an individual contributor role rather than a management-level role, it would be a good idea to remove “team building.” “Business development” and “direct sales” might also be shifted to positions one and two, respectively. Assuming the job description doesn’t mention “turnarounds,” this bullet can and should be removed to make room for other skills that are more relevant to the job opportunity.

Less is more when it comes to resumes. “Laundry lists” are out, and relevant keywords are in. If your candidate stumbles, consider partnering with a reputable resume writing firm that has expertise in recruiting and can provide fast turnaround time.

Wendy Schwartz, CPRW, is a senior career consultant and IT recruiter. She is launching in Q2 of 2018 to complement her staffing and resume writing firm,

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