Your ticket to the interview and offer letter: an optimized resume.
Nowadays, with an average corporate job attracting around 250 applicants—of whom only four to six get interviewed—it’s crucial to ensure your resume stands out. In such a brutally competitive industry, every little detail matters. The Harvard Business Review notes that experienced human resource (HR) professionals spend approximately seven seconds on an initial resume scan. Additionally, to streamline the recruitment process, many companies deploy applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen resumes for keywords aligned with the job description.
To help you navigate these challenges, this article outlines five essential strategies to enhance your resume, making it not only ATS-friendly but also compelling for recruiters.
How can you make your resume stand out from the rest?
Here are our top five tips:
1. Incorporate action verbs
Your resume should go beyond simply listing roles; it should underscore the tangible impact you’ve had. Utilize action verbs to pinpoint your contributions and detail how you’ve shaped past organizations. These verbs succinctly convey the nature of your work and its outcomes.
Purdue Owl’s online writing lab emphasizes the strategic use of action verbs as an initial opportunity to captivate recruiters. For instance, words like “achieved”, “executed” and “transformed” not only describe tasks but also emphasize their results—two birds, one stone. You can also refer to resources like Harvard University’s resume guides and cover letter templates, which provide an extensive list of action verbs, grouped by sectors like teaching, technical and creative tasks.
Pro-tip for fresh graduates: Highlight your internship experiences, academic accomplishments or extracurricular roles like being a member of the marketing club or serving as a class representative. It’s essential to underline both hard skills such as data analysis or machine operation and soft skills like teamwork, communication and problem-solving. Additionally, don’t overlook the importance of transferrable skills—competencies you’ve acquired in one context that are valuable in another. When technical experience is sparse, every facet of your background counts. By emphasizing these aspects, you can make your resume stand out even with no professional experience.
2. Use statistics and numbers
Numbers bolster your narrative by validating your claims. Instead of vaguely mentioning “increased sales”, specifying “boosted sales by 20%” lends more weight. Similarly, a claim like “led a team of 15 people” provides more clarity than merely stating “managed a team”. Highlighting quantitative achievements allows potential employers to gauge your performance and accomplishments relative to industry benchmarks or company standards.
3. Clarity over clutter
Keep your resume concise and relevant, eliminating unnecessary details that can obscure your professional trajectory. A disorganized resume can give the impression that you are unsure of your professional goals or the position you seek. Overstuffing your resume can lead to issues such as poor formatting, typos, crowded text blocks and a lack of white space—all are red flags for recruiters. To craft an organized and visually attractive resume, consider the following tips:
- Highlight educational qualifications and professional experiences at the start of your document, whether you’re drafting a resume or a more detailed curriculum vitae (CV).
- Avoid including personal details like addresses, parents’ names, marital status and non-relevant hobbies.
- For job roles requiring visual representation or where showcasing your work is essential, such as graphic designers, models or news anchors, consider maintaining a portfolio and, when relevant, adding a professional headshot.
- Opt for a clean font, such as Times New Roman or other serif fonts, set to size 12, to maintain readability and professionalism.
4. Limit your resume to 1–2 pages
A succinct resume demonstrates your ability to distill information effectively. It’s also aesthetically pleasing and faster to read, saving the recruiter’s time. Long resumes risk repeating information as well.
When you are proofreading your resume, aim for a maximum of two pages. A 2023 report by TeamStage found that the average resume contains around 310–489 words. Notably, two-page resumes are 2.9 times more likely to be selected for managerial roles and 1.4 times more for entry-level positions. Hence, don’t waste time stuffing words; recruiters typically scan resumes at light speed and won’t devote time to the dull ones.
For fresh graduates, a one-page resume is often sufficient. However, professionals with extensive experience are advised to use up to two pages to fully outline their qualifications.
5. Always tailor your resume to the position
A generic resume is easy to spot. So, don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach. Show recruiters you’ve done your homework by tailoring your resume to the specific role and company. This proactive strategy can help a candidate stand out from the rest in the applicant pool. A bespoke approach also increases your chances of passing through ATS scans since these systems prioritize role-specific keywords.
To wrap up, crafting a resume isn’t only about aesthetics; it is also about strategically “marketing” yourself and amplifying your voice among the cacophony of job applicants. It reflects your career journey, diligence and adaptability to the desired role. Thus, treat your resume as your shield and sword, guiding you through the cut-throat corporate competition.
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