Your resume is the first impression you make on a recruiter. This is your doorway into getting a good job. You need to make an impact. But how do you get past applicant tracking systems and jaded HR professionals? The internet has some valuable advice for you.
Over the years, job seekers, hiring experts, and research surveys have shared intelligent tips and tricks. The vastness of the internet makes it difficult to track down everything. We rounded up the cream of the crop so you have one place for the web’s best advice on how to improve your CV.
Jane Heifetz, the founder of Right Resumes, knows a thing or two about CVs. And she says that every resume needs to start with a strong summary. A survey by The Ladder found that recruiters spend only six seconds on a CV. That’s 20–30 words to catch their attention. Make it good!
This summary is where you tailor your CV to the job you are applying for, making sure you are addressing that position specifically. Highlight your area of expertise, include your years of experience, note what type of industries or organizations you’ve worked at. And avoid all generic terms.
If you’re starting from scratch and building a new resume, Essay Mama put together a checklist for you. If you already have a resume, then make sure you have hit every point on the checklist.
Essay Mama’s checklist doesn’t have any startling insight. But it is perhaps the best summary of all the resume-writing tips shared on the internet over the years. Starting with your contact info and headline to simple formatting tips, it covers everything that your CV needs to have. If any of the points is missing or different in your existing CV, add that in.
Don’t toot your own horn for too long. Since the average recruiter will scan your resume for six seconds, you need to fit in more information in a limited space. Laszlo Bock, the HR boss at Google, has a simple thumb rule to work by: for every ten years, use one page.
Yes, it seems impossible to fit all that information in such a tiny space. But it’s important because the resume’s purpose is to get you an interview. You can then expand on any topic in the interview:
A crisp, focused resume demonstrates an ability to synthesize, prioritize, and convey the most important information about you.
Now, don’t cheat on your font size and other aspects to make it fit. Block is saying one page after you have used at least a 10-point font size and half-inch margins. The thumb rule is much more useful and debunks the old CV myth that a resume can be only one page.
The biggest mistake you are making with your resume in 2016 is using free Microsoft Word CV templates shared by people over the years. Those templates almost always adhered to the idea of someone printing out your CV and reading it on their desk. That’s not what happens in 2016.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer, found in a simple survey of her recruiter friends that 88 percent of hiring professionals read CVs on their phone. News flash: your resume needs to look great on a mobile screen!
Svei’s full post on LinkedIn has some fantastic insights into formatting your CV to make it more mobile friendly. Here are her three biggest takeaways:
- Strive for two or three-line blocks of text. Never go over four.
- Use six points of space (Format > Paragraph > Line Spacing > Exactly > 6 pt) between bullet points and a full space between resume sections and jobs.
- Avoid tiny font. It’s impossible to read on a phone. Go with at least 11-point Calibri.
One other point that Svei consistently focuses on is to go with simple black text on a white background. Don’t use colors. Mobile screens differ, people use varying levels of brightness, and the end result is that your colors won’t look good at all. Just go with black on white, since it offers the best contrast.
So you have limited space. How do you fit in everything? Google’s Bock shared one more piece of advice that went viral on the internet.
You will consistently hear the advice to “be specific” or “quantify your achievements” in your CV. So far, Bock is the only one to have offered a formula explaining how to do that. In an interview with The New York Times, he shared the formula:
I accomplished X, relative to Y, by doing Z
In this, the X is the number or quantity you managed. The Y is what the industry average or your competitors achieved. And Z is what you did differently to get those higher numbers.
So if your achievement is improving sales, you would write it as, “Sold 15 product calls per month, compared to company average of 9, by grouping clients based on time availability.”
You’d be surprised how many people use the same set of words in their CVs. You’d be even more surprised to see how annoying these are for recruiters. Hiring agency CareerBuilder conducted a survey to find out the words that recruiters found most off-putting, as well as the words they like to see. Here’s the full list:
Recently, LinkedIn also released the 10 most overused words in resumes on the professional social network. Some of them overlap with this list, but remember that LinkedIn is talking about being repetitive, while CareerBuilder is talking about how recruiters receive these words.
The last piece of advice is the internet’s latest viral success based on resumes. Johannes Haushofer is an assistant professor of psychology at Princeton University. And he set Twitter on fire recently when he shared a “CV of Failures” on the social network.
New "publication": My CV of Failures! https://t.co/d8ot5vvynY
— Johannes Haushofer (@jhaushofer) April 23, 2016
Haushofer’s inspiration to write this was to provide a sobering reality of one’s career. But as the Harvard Business Review puts it, writing such a CV also gives you perspective on your successes. You will only truly realize what you did right and how you did it right once you compare it to your failures. You can’t use the best resume-building apps for this, of course, so stick to a simple Word document.
So let that be your final takeaway from the internet. Every failure is a stepping stone to success, as the old adage goes, and you need to write a resume of those failures to realize what you did right later.
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