Recruiters only spend about six seconds reading your resume before they make a decision about your qualifications, which means you have very little time to catch and retain their attention.
In my experience as a resume writer, I have noticed my clients making the same job-costing mistakes over and over. These mistakes are usually made in the professional profile, work experience, and professional development sections of their resumes. Here is my advice to help you avoid these mistakes — and make the most of your six seconds:
Your Professional Profile
Your professional profile is the first section of your resume that employers and recruiters read, so it is vital you instantly set yourself apart from the competition. Employers should be able to tell three things from reading your professional profile:
- Who you are and what your areas of expertise are: A good way to ensure your professional profile contains this information is to read job ads. Identify the areas of experience your target employers are looking for. If you have experience in those areas, mention that in your profile.
- The value you add to organizations: The best way to convey your value is to showcase a couple of relevant accomplishments that will impress the employer.
- Why you are applying for that particular job: Think carefully about why this role appeals to you. Is it a step up from your current role? Does it grant access to a different sector? Does it give you the opportunity to work with a prestigious client base? Whatever your reasons, express them in your professional profile. Employers want to see you a truly interested in the role.
Your Work Experience
Your work experience should form the bulk of your resume. This section will determine whether you get an interview invite or a rejection letter. There are four ways to stand out in this section of your resume:
- Tailor your content for each position: You shouldn’t be using the same resume for every job. When reading job ads, you should notice each employer has its own unique needs, desired qualifications, etc. Your resume should be relevant to each employer’s unique situation.
- Paint a picture of what you have done: Don’t copy and paste your job descriptions. Instead, showcase what you have done, how you did it, and how you overcame challenges along the way. Be selective in what information you include. Details that are irrelevant to the job at hand will dilute the impact of your resume overall.
- Cite your achievements in each position: Employers want to see you have a track record of success. The best way to demonstrate this is to mention relevant achievements for each job. I suggest using percentages, figures, and metrics to back up what you say with concrete value.
- Use engaging language: The person reading your resume will have a limited attention span. If you want to ensure they read to the end of your resume, you need to use language that entices them to do so. Use active verbs rather than passive ones for maximum impact. Examples of strong active verbs include “spearheaded,” “championed,” “administered,” etc.
Your Professional Development
When reading the professional development section of your resume, employers want to learn about your qualifications, training, coursework that will benefit the organization. In writing this section, keep these tips in mind:
- Be selective: Only mention those courses and trainings that are relevant to the particular job you are applying for.
- Mention relevant qualifications you are studying toward: If you are currently studying toward a qualification the employer requires or desires, mention it in your resume. Include the date at which you anticipate earning the qualification.
At the end of the day, the purpose of your resume is to showcase the value you add to organizations. You do this by effectively explaining why you are applying for the particular job and highlighting your relevant achievements, experiences, and professional development.
Shilpa Nayyar is the founder of expertcvconsultants, a full-service resume-writing company.