Top Secrets to Get Real Resume Results
Erin Urban, LSSBB, CPDC, PMI Houston Contributor
Getting real resume results in our digitally-dependent society can be tricky business. Especially when many of the secrets you need to succeed with your resume are, well … secret. Illogically, what it takes to be seen by a real human is kept hidden from the majority of professionals. This creates lack-luster results for hiring managers and job seekers alike.
The good news is, career strategists and coaches like myself had taken the time, done the research, and are willing to share how to make your resume work for you, not against you.
“I had received only 2 phone calls out of literally hundreds of applications”, shared my new client Sara. “Does anyone even get a job by applying online these days?” In short: yes, you can get a job by applying online. You do not have to rely on your network – particularly if you are in a hurry get a new job. Networking, while critical to your long-term career growth, takes time to bear fruit.
When you know how to create a document that gets you real results, you can avoid being archived by resume sorting robots.
Why most traditional resumes don’t succeed
The traditional resume hasn’t changed in over 15 years. The job search process and hiring practices are drastically different now. Even resume writers trained in this ages-old method of document creation aren’t always up to speed on the latest trends. This is very frustrating to someone who wants to get noticed for their expertise!
The reason the traditional, boring resume doesn’t work anymore is because you have 3 main stage gates in a digitally dependent hiring process – all of which have very different metrics.
Stage Gate 1
The first gatekeeper of the resume review process isn’t even human. In most cases, your resume will be scanned by a software known as an Application Tracking System or ATS. This software analyzes your resume against the job criteria. If you do not meet the minimum ‘match rate’ set by the person managing the job requisition, your resume is archived.
Stage Gate 2
The second stage of your application is driven by either an external recruiter or internal talent management professional in HR. This person may or may not have any idea what it takes to do the job you just applied for. They quickly review your document to see how relevant you are to the role. (Basically, they look to see how well you match the job description they have.) Your resume gets 5-6 seconds to make an impression in the first half of the first page. This determines if you get the phone call.
Stage Gate 3
The final phase of your resume review is with the decision-makers or hiring manager. These individuals want to see evidence of a return on investment (ROI) for hiring you. In other words, they are looking for examples of how you will make an impact in the role. Your contributions, accomplishments, improvements, and outcomes based on your project work helps you stand out from other candidates.
Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be! You can get through all of the review levels if you know how to manage the hiring process.
How to get through ATS with your online application
If you are applying for a role online and you need to create a user name or password, you are dealing with an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). You must tailor your resume slightly to the role or risk wasting your time. The shotgun approach (no resume changes and firing out a bunch of applications) to applying for jobs never works. Save your energy and consider this:
1. Target your resume. Every resume (and LinkedIn profile) must be focused to the role types you are applying for. This is why you cannot seek a wide variety of roles and get real resume results. Target your documents to save a ton of time and energy when you apply for roles.
2. Optimize your resume for each application. Review the job description and make sure that your resume includes relevant contributions, skills, lingo, and credentials. It doesn’t hurt to also tailor your summary specifically for the role you are applying for.
3. Avoid the ‘shotgun’ approach to job applications. Do not fire out the same resume for every job! Pick roles you actually want and take your time tweaking your resume. If you don’t, you will just waste valuable time and energy.
In addition to these tactics, I recommend using Ariel or Calibri fonts, avoiding text boxes, tables, columns, or special formatting in your document. Graphically designed resumes are guaranteed garbage. I do not care who told you that you could (or should) use an ‘info-graphic’ style resume, it is total trash. Less than 10% of ATS programs will read them.
Fancy resumes do not get you hired, your killer contributions and content does. Stick to plain and stay sane.
Get noticed by recruiters and get the phone call
The vast majority of recruiters give your resume 5-6 seconds to make an impression. How can they scan your resume so fast? Easy, they don’t read your entire resume on the first pass. You get one chance to stand out.
Your resume must scream that you are the ideal candidate in the first half of the first page. If it doesn’t, the recruiter or HR professional won’t read any further. They have plenty of resumes to wade through and they will not spend much time before they decide if you are a good fit or not. Here’s how you can grab their attention:
1. Tailor your summary. I recommend having a sales pitch and not a traditional career summary. Tell your resume reviewers exactly what skills you have (that are relevant to the role) and what impact you will make that is associated with the job you are applying for.
2. Have a list of expertise. You can use bullet points, commas, or a vertical slash (pipe) to separate your list of high-level core competencies and skills. This saves time and space on your resume. It helps ATS systems and recruiters source the correct skills right away.
3. Highlight relevant contributions. Do not expect people to guess how you will contribute on the job. Spell it out for them. If they are looking for someone with leadership abilities, for example, give them an example with the outcome.
Only after you have included all of this information do you start listing your work history, roles, responsibilities, and noteworthy content. Be sure to keep your formatting clean and consistent. Leave plenty of white space on your resume and do not squeeze your margins.
If you are a “technical expert”, you may want to make sure that your content is understandable by a layperson. Due to the 2020 pandemic, thousands of professionals experienced “career gap”. If you have a gap in your work history, you may want to provide an explanation to clear assumptions.
By the way – you can have more than 2 pages in your resume. This is a FACT. No candidate was ever discarded because their resume was 3 pages. If you aren’t sure (because you’ve heard this myth too often), I have proof! I interviewed a top industry recruiter and she shared how you can stand out with your documents and your online profile. You are welcome to view the replay of our insightful conversation on my YouTube channel at this link.
Stand out to decision makers and hiring managers
Here’s the hard part: you MUST sell your skills and contributions in your resume, online profile, and in the interview. If you cannot talk about how you have made a difference over the course of your career, do not expect anyone to read your mind. Hiring managers have plenty of great candidates to choose from. If you are the lucky duck who expresses your career history with impact-focused and outcome driven content: you get the job.
• Most resumes are an obituary that discusses all the boring tasks you used to do. Be relevant and focus on the impacts you made based on the roles you want.
• Avoid having an endless bullet point list of roles and responsibilities. Anyone can do that and most do. This is why contributions stand out so easily!
• Hiring managers want to see proof that you can deliver and drive results. Make it easy for them and have relevant outcome-based contributions in your resume.
• Not every impact has to include monetary gains or percentages and it is helpful if it does. Dollar signs grab the reader’s attention.
• If you are struggling to remember exact figures, consider this: no one has a microscope into your career history. Give it your best guess unless you are applying for an internal role.
When it comes to Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), keep your descriptions generic. Avoid monetary expressions in your LinkedIn profile. If the dollar figures in question are public knowledge or broadly recognized, feel free to include them in your online profile.
Get real resume results
Please do not rely on hearsay when it comes to your career growth. You will hear just about anything you can think of when it comes to job search success strategies. Much of it, unfortunately, are opinion pieces or regurgitation of falsehoods. What I share with you has been researched, tested, and vetted. With that said, if you are reading this two years from now – it may have all changed! Check my blog to see what is new, noteworthy and needs revising.
The human quotient is leaving the hiring process at a rapid rate. More and more organizations are relying on software and AI to help them find, scan, and contact qualified candidates. It’s a great idea to keep current to avoid being side-lined.
Your resume is one critical component to your career growth endeavors. Networking is also essential and a long-term investment. Also, of equal (or higher) importance is your LinkedIn profile and how you manage your online presence. Every recruiter and many hiring managers look online for viable candidates. Interestingly, they are more likely to put candidates they found on LinkedIn forward over those who submitted applications.
The good news is, once you understand the language you need to articulate across all of your professional outlets, your chances of being seen increase dramatically. As a client shared with me: “I was one of over 600+ applicants and they called me the next day. I am constantly amazed at how much of a difference my new resume makes!”
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