Amanda Groves

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Typically, the first chance that you have to make a good impression on a potential employer is with your resume. It’s the document that can open doors to an interview and, hopefully, help you secure your dream job. That’s why making sure that your resume is spot on is one of the most important things that you can do when you’re applying for a new position. If your resume doesn’t help you stand out as both qualified and well suited to the particular role you’re interested in, chances are that you’re going to get overlooked.

So what can you do to nail your resume to help ensure that recruiters take you to the next step? Here are some suggestions to help get you on track:

Research similar jobs

Looking at a range of postings for similar roles will give you a really good feel for what employers in the field are looking for. What do they all have in common? What skills, experience, and talents are they looking for? Identifying these will give you a good set of building blocks from which to construct your resume. Not only that, if you highlight them in your resume (through headings, bulleted lists, etc.) your suitability for the job will stand out to any recruiter scanning your application.

Do your homework on the employer

Visit the employer’s website and careers page, and start following them on social media. What sort of employer are they? What kind of skills and accomplishments do they celebrate, and what sets their employees apart? You want to weave some of the same language into your resume and replicate some of the positive attributes they’re promoting. What does their mission statement say and how do you, as a potential employee, embody it? You can glean a lot from how they present themselves as a company and an employer, and then use that knowledge to demonstrate why you’re a good fit for them.

Customize it every time

A common fail for job candidates is that they develop what they think is a great resume, and then send it out with every job application. The truth is that a templated, shotgun approach doesn’t work because recruiters can spot it from a mile away. Using a cookie-cutter resume looks lazy and unprofessional. After all, if you can’t be bothered tailoring your resume to the employer in question, how committed will you be to the role?

Recruiters spend an eye-wateringly short time scanning each resume they receive (and in many cases, that’s after a machine has already screened out the least suitable ones). As a result, a dull, run-of-the-mill resume isn’t likely to pass muster, particularly if you’re pursuing a highly coveted role. You need to take what you’ve learned about the organization and apply it to what you say about yourself, your skills, and your experience. Adapt it every time. Even taking just 10 minutes to customize your resume for each role you’re interested in will be time well spent.

Think of it like marketing

Your resume is basically an advertisement, so think of it as a way to market yourself. You’re selling yourself to the employer, not asking them to read a short version of your life story. Focus on what you can offer them. Why should they hire you? What will you do for their company?

You are competing against a lot of other people who may have the same, or better, skill sets and experience, so you need to highlight why you’re the best person for the job. Be careful though — there’s a difference between marketing yourself and bragging or exaggerating the truth. Don’t do the hard-sell; be honest, but make sure to highlight what you’re best at.

Use a consistent, clean format

Your resume needs to be legible, easy to read, and consistent. You want recruiters to be able to easily scan your resume so that they can quickly assess whether you’re a potential good fit. This means not just breaking your resume up so that it’s not just large blocks of text, but also making sure the if you use bullet points for one section, you don’t use a numbered list in the next. It might sound obvious, but a badly formatted resume can be a sticking point for recruiters.

While you’re at it, make sure not to use any outrageous fonts. Times New Roman, Arial, and Calibri are all safe bets. Use them in a 10 to 12 point font size, making sure not to cram things in. Your resume needs to be easy on the eye and include only the most important information. So be concise, and don’t include unnecessary information. The recruiter is only interested in how you are qualified for the role and why they should push you through to the next round. If in doubt, use a template.

Your key to success

A great resume is your ticket to the all-important interview. You want to spark interest so that the recruiter wants to see more of you and regards you as a hot prospect. Your resume really is the key to success, so get it right and you’ll be well on your way to your next job. That means taking the time to customize your resume for each role that you pursue. Yes, it’s extra work, but it really can make a big difference.

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