After A COVID Time Out, How Do You Write the Perfect Resume?
As of March 2021, nearly ten million Americans are still out of work, almost double the number of unemployed people from a year ago. While the pandemic has certainly devastated the workforce, in ways we have yet to see, the country has started to recover (slowly) from the worst of it. Now is a great time to review your personal job application strategy, starting with the lynchpin of any job search: the all-important resume.
Traditionally having a gap year in your resumé can be a real turnoff for employers. The pandemic has lightened the weight of expectations of recent work experience, but it is still necessary to show how you used the time off to keep your skills sharp and yourself attractive to recruiters and hiring managers. Below I’ve highlighted three ways to get over The Gap and give yourself and your resume an edge.
Fill the Gap
In your resumé, it’s okay to provide an explanation of what you’ve been doing whilst unemployed. If you’ve used the time to focus on self-improvement (reading books, taking online courses, focused on your fitness), it’s okay to mention this. What challenges did you overcome during this year? What did you learn and how will your new skills bring value to the labor market?
Why is this important? Because matching technology, which is the real determinant of first fit for any job, needs as much information as possible to shortlist your application and get it in front of a human. Including how you kept yourself busy, and how those newfound skills or interests relate to the job you’re applying for, make it far more likely that the AI will move your resume forward in the process.
Resumes are NOT one size fits all
After spending hours refining the wording, describing your newfound interests and skills, and ensuring that you have no spelling or grammatical errors; it’s very tempting to take your masterpiece resume and apply for every job you’re interested in. However, serial appliers (the industry term for the practice) often find themselves with diminishing returns compared to their output. Resumes need to be adapted for individual job descriptions to be their most effective. When applying for a job be sure to read the description carefully and incorporate keywords from the description into your past job duties.
If the role is like one you’ve done before, rewriting relevant phrases in your resume to mimic the language used in the requisition is a great way to ensure matching tech sees you as a good fit. If you’re applying for more senior positions, use the requisition as a guide for your aspirations for the role, even if you may not have the exact experience the role requires. Using keywords to connect the work you’ve done previously to the work you’re hoping to do is a great way to put oneself in contention for more senior roles. If you’re looking to change industries, focus on highlighting transferrable skills and be bold enough to describe plainly why those skills are applicable to the role you’re applying for.
Keep Track to Stay on Track
If you’ve been out of work for the length of the pandemic, you’ve likely applied to more than your fair share of companies. It’s great to push hard to get back into gainful employment but be sure to track everything you do. A spreadsheet can really help maintain a clear picture of where you’ve applied, where you need to follow up, and which jobs are no longer viable. The spreadsheet should include:
- Job description
- Job ID or requisition number
- Company name
- Website/Job Board where the posting was found
- Applicant Tracking System (ATS) [ATS are usually the first part of a job application’s URL. Popular ATS include Taleo, Workday, ICIMS, Greenhouse, and Smartrecruiter]
- Notable dates [i.e. when does the application process close]
- Additional outreach [If you’ve contacted a recruiter or company representative through LinkedIn or your personal network, be sure to note who you spoke to, when, and what was discussed.
Keeping track has multiple levels of benefit. It allows you to execute effective management of your application process. Much of the onboarding process is automated these days through email, SMS, and ATS systems. With all that communication flooding your inbox, it’s easy for things to get missed. Missing that crucial message means you may miss a knockout round, an interview request, or something necessary to move forward in the next stage of the hiring process. Tracking your progress on the spreadsheet helps you to remember what you’ve already done and what to keep an eye out for throughout the job search process.
The great news for anyone currently unemployed is that the economy (and the job market) is coming back in a big way. All the market signals point to an exponential rise through 2021 and beyond. However, do not forget that there are almost 10 million other people out there who all are looking for work too. Not to mention the currently employed workforce who may have held out on changing positions due to the pandemic.
The reality is, it’s still a hyper-competitive market and you will only be as successful in getting gainful employment if you are putting in the effort into the job-seeking process. The above three points cover some broad strokes of what is required in order to maximize your chances, but the rest comes down to you to make it happen.
Best of luck.