A job search, at any career level, can be a stressful and overwhelming time. While each job search journey is unique, there are typical stages that many job seekers share. Think of these stages as your recipe for success!
As an award-winning resume writer and job search strategist; I partner with executive job seekers on the creation of compelling career tools (executive resumes, LinkedIn profiles, bios, cover letters, etc.) here at Career Impressions.
Yet, many of my clients need more than just a resume. They need support with interview preparation, social media engagement, or salary negotiations. I needed a way to provide these professionals with even more support.
I’m also regularly approached by non-executive job seekers who are looking for quality support at an affordable cost. Many people are unable to invest in one-on-one assistance.
To help, I teamed up with 2 other respected colleagues to create Job Search Journey, the first marketplace for job seekers, with resources to support job search, from application to offer.
No matter what job search stage you’re in, there are affordable, quality resources to help you find your perfect role easier and faster.
How to Excel at the 7 Stages of Job Search
Stage 1: Exploration and Career Clarity
It’s time to dig deep and discover what it is you WANT to do. Throwing a wide net often leads to roles that aren’t the right fit for you. And if you’re not happy in the position, you won’t excel at the job.
To define your dream job, you need a deep understanding of yourself – your values, strengths, and personality traits. How do they all come together to fit your career? What type of job do you want next? Who is hiring? Finally, how do you plan to organize your search efforts?
Career Change Exploration Worksheet
Job Search Scheduling Guide
Stage 2: Research
Now that you know what you want to do, move to where you want to be. Is there a dream company that you want to work for? A type of work culture you crave?
The more you know about the organization, the problems they face, and the solutions you offer, the easier it will be to sell yourself as the perfect fit. Research is one of the most vital steps of the job search process.
Building a List of Target Companies
A Guide for Conducting Job Search Research
Stage 3: Career Marketing Materials
It’s time to sell yourself. Your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile are critical marketing documents that need to WORK for you.
A standout resume tells a compelling career story and positions you as the perfect candidate for the role. You want to write for people while making your resume ATS (application tracking system) friendly. You also need a strong online presence on social media sites like LinkedIn. Ensure every career tool is carefully compiled.
Featured Resource:Resume Creation and Customization Kit
Stage 4: Networking & Outreach
Build your network. You never know where your next opportunity may come from. A professional community can be a vast pool of options to help you fast-track your job search.
Make sure you talk to lots of people during your job search. People hire people. Identify decision-makers and conduct outreach — not to ask for a job, but to ask for information, intel, leads, or referrals to support search efforts.
Featured Resource: Informational Interviews, Email Templates
Stage 5: Interviews
You’ve got your foot in the door – now you must show them why you’re the best candidate for the job. Knowing how to ace an interview is one of the most critical job search skills to master. Today’s interview has changed; be prepared for phone, video, AI technology, and in-person interviews so that you can put your best foot forward.
Featured Resource: Ace the Interview, Get Prepped Quick Kit
Stage 6: Negotiations
The role is yours! Now how do you win the best possible offer? Statistics show that negotiating your first offer raises your wage an average of 7.4%. Have a plan, know your worth, and demonstrate how your contributions will benefit the organization.
Featured Resource: Get a Head Start in Negotiations
Stage 7: Future-proofing your career
Networking is not a one-and-done event – avoid only reaching out to your network when you are searching for a new role. Stay at it even after you’ve landed your dream job. Continuing to nurture your network and build a personal brand prepares you for the unexpected and keeps you top of mind for any other opportunities.
Remain active on LinkedIn. Engage with your network regularly. Continue to invest in yourself and your skills to remain competitive, even if you aren’t looking for a job.
Featured Resource: Get Active on LinkedIn, Build Thought Leadership
Job Search Journey is a one-stop marketplace where job seekers can find scripts, guides, and templates designed by award-winning resume writers and job search strategists. This marketplace has everything to support a successful job search from start to finish.
Where are you in your job search journey? If you are not currently job seeking, consider sharing this post with a job seeker in your life who could benefit from this marketplace. Or consider gifting a job seeker in your life resources from the site to help improve their journey.
For a limited time, I am offering “6 Scripts for Job Search Success” for FREE when you use the coupon code CITOM21 at checkout.
It’s your shopping day yesterday. You’re roaming around at the grocery store with the list of shopping items you’ve prepared to buy. While checking for a group of products, there’s this one item that caught your attention. You picked the item and started reading the label. In an instant, you decided to add the product to your cart and purchase it. Why? Was it because of the benefits? The packaging? Or the price? Whatever the reason is, that product stood out among other items that made you purchase it—and this should be the same when you submit your resume to apply for jobs.
Aside from resume format and layout, you should also pay attention to one of the factors you should consider when crafting your job application tool: the resume keywords. These elements must work hand-in-hand to effectively produce an eye-catching document and obtain the hiring manager’s positive response.
In this article, we’ll focus on resume keywords. We’ll share with you how important resume keywords are, as well as tips on how to choose and use the right keywords in your resume. Plus, we’ll provide you with a list top resume keywords for each profession and industry to help you with your job search. Let’s dive in.
What are Resume Keywords?
Basically, resume keywords are job-related or industry-specific words and phrases outlined in job postings that should match with your job search tool in order to receive job interview invites. These terms play a key role in describing and highlighting your skills and abilities, qualifications, expertise, and credentials hiring managers are looking for in a candidate.
Through resume keywords, employers can immediately determine and assess whether you are qualified for the position or not. Hence, using the right keywords in your resume helps you outshine other job applicants and—eventually—land your dream job.
Importance of Resume Keywords
In today’s hiring and recruitment processes, most companies including 75% of large corporations use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen a large volume of job candidates. This system assists hiring managers in gathering applicant information, as well as filtering hopefuls based on experience, qualifications, and skills. Furthermore, it allows employers to plug in a list of keywords and other criteria to sort job applications. Thus, spreading resume keywords wisely all throughout your job application document is crucial for you to beat the bots and secure job interviews.
On the other hand, there are companies that don’t rely on ATS. Despite their traditional hiring process, resume keywords are still vital for you to stand out in a pool of job candidates. Using human eyes, hiring managers spend an average of six seconds reviewing an applicant’s resume. Within that short span of time, you should be able to grab their attention to elicit a positive response and get your resume to the pile of accepted applications. Otherwise, your resume might get shredded in a split second and thrown in the trash bin if resume keywords are not used properly and strategically.
Related Post: Here’s How You Can Pass the Applicant Tracking System
Tips in Selecting the Right Resume Keywords
While there are hundreds and thousands of keywords available online, it’s still important that you carefully think and choose the right keywords to use in your resume. Doing so can help your resume get noticed by recruiters and pass the ATS; or else, you might miss out on the job opportunity due to improper selection of resume keywords.
To help you select the right keywords, we’ve listed several tips you should heed.
1. Review the job posting for qualifications, skills, and experience employers are looking for in a candidate.
First things first: Thoroughly read the job ad to identify which keywords must be included on your resume. The criteria for the suitable candidate are usually stated in the first paragraph of each job post. Make sure to highlight all the resume keywords you think recruiters are looking for as you review the job posting. These keywords are sprinkled in the qualifications and job descriptions portions.
2. Assess several job listings with similar job position.
Aside from the job posting of your target company, searching for multiple job advertisements with the same job title is another method to determine the right resume keywords. Browse through the job listings, spot the most popular keywords used, and scatter them in your job application tool.
Pro Tip: You may use a word-cloud generator to analyze and rank keywords for your resume. All you have to do is copy and paste the job ad into the system, then it will show you the frequently mentioned words. You’ll determine the number of times each word appears in the job post as they are listed beside the terms.
3. Analyze the skills and experience of mid- to top-level management positions.
You may also examine the job ads for higher-level positions the same way you review the job posting for your target position. Afterwards, incorporate the common skills you could bring to the table. This well help you stand out among other job applicants who don’t have the same skill sets and expertise.
4. Check the company’s website.
On your target company’s website, you can find more keywords that reflect their brand and ideals. These keywords will help you showcase that you are a perfect fit for their organization.
How to Use Keywords on Your Resume
Take note that although resume keywords are essential in landing job interviews, stuffing or misusing them in your application document can kill your chances of succeeding in your job search. But don’t worry; we’ve compiled a list of tips on how to properly use keywords on your resume shared by our professional resume writers. Read on.
1. Apply keyword variations.
Putting synonyms, acronyms, abbreviations, and a variety of such words on your document is vital in boosting the chances of getting your resume scanned and picked by ATS. For example, if a hiring manager is looking for sales representative candidates, your resume must contain multiple terms related to sales representative position, including the job titles and skills necessary for the job. That said; it’s crucial that applicants should be familiar with industry jargons to have a wide range of word choice.
Meanwhile, the ATS does not detect common acronyms and abbreviations automatically, unless the recruiter plugged in such terms. Hence, it’s better to use the spelled-out form and the abbreviation or acronym to account for both terms.
2. Mention location-based keywords.
Although some job applicants are concerned about their privacy, it’s still pertinent to include the city, town, and state on the resume. Employers also use locations as keywords on ATS to look for candidates, especially if it’s for a local position. If your target job, let’s say senior accountant, is located in California, then the hiring manager will likely use the key phrases ‘senior accountant’ and ‘California’ in ATS. This way, only applications containing both keywords will reach the hiring manager’s eyes.
3. Emphasize industry-specific skills over soft skills.
While soft skills are worth mentioning in your job application tool, using hard skills as your resume keywords could increase your chances of getting noticed by employers and their ATS. Take note that most of the hiring managers will prioritize candidates with such skills over job seekers who have little to no knowledge of the position. Plus, ATS will rank your resume higher if there are keywords pertaining to related skills.
Aside from your resume, you may also apply these tips on your cover letter. Some employers require applicants to submit both resume and cover letter as part of their hiring process. Doing so will help you showcase that you’re a highly qualified candidate for the job.
Note: You may check how our professional resume writers strategically used a variety of resume keywords through our compilation of resume examples.
Where to Put Keywords on Your Resume
Now that you have an idea on how to choose and use the right resume keywords, we’ll now answer the question, “Where should I put keywords on my resume?” Continue reading.
Specific Target Job Position
Right after your personal and contact information, don’t forget to write your specific target job title. This way, hiring managers will immediately identify what position you’re applying for.
Resume Summary Section
Also known as the profile section, this is an avenue where you can summarize your qualities as an individual and professional as well as your skills and expertise in the field. By including resume keywords in this area, you can easily catch the hiring manager’s attention. Plus, it can be detected by the ATS right away.
Related Post: Resume Title Examples and Tips in Writing a Striking Resume Headline
Resume Skills Section
Use this portion to underscore your soft and hard skills, including your technical skills. Make sure that your entries are matched with the job posting.
Pro Tip: You may present and categorize your entries using job skills headings. Hiring managers will have an impression that you are a highly organized person.
Work Experience Section
Placing resume keywords in this area allows you to showcase that you have the qualities and experience hiring managers are looking for based on what the job requires. Not only that; you can also highlight your accomplishments and notable contributions using the right resume keywords.
Related Post: The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Resume with No Work Experience
Present your educational background the same way how it’s listed on the job posting. If the degree is written as ‘BA’ or ‘BS,’ then have your degree listed as it is. Further, don’t forget to include your course title.
Training and Certification Section
Most of the job ads include training and certification as part of the qualifications. Hence, if you’ve received such training, licenses, and certifications, make sure to include them.
Words You Need to Avoid on Your Resume
While there are a lot of keywords to use in a resume that can impress hiring managers and beat the ATS, there are also resume buzzwords that you must leave off.
Characteristics You Must Already Possess and No Longer Need Mentioning
Most Commonly Used Words Since the Beginning of Resume
Excellent communication skills
Vague Words that Need More Context
Likeable – Only those with whom you previously worked with may attest to this.
Expert – Nowadays, anyone may simply claim to be an ‘expert.’
Successful – State examples that prove it instead of saying you’re successful.
Innovative – We live in a digital age; almost all of us are innovative.
Dynamic – Does this mean you’re flexible? Be clear.
Resume Keywords: Dos and Don’ts
Let’s list the things to avoid first. Here are some of the don’ts of resume keywords you should flag before writing your job search tool:
Don’t use white font to hide keywords from the system and human eyes.
Don’t repeat keywords in a sentence just to beat the bots. Remember that your resume will also be reviewed by human eyes.
Don’t overstuff your skill list in unreasonable and unbelievable levels. This might be doubtful if you bombarded your document with skills that are out of context for the job.
Instead, do the following tips:
Do use action words to describe yourself not only as a doer but also as an achiever.
Do make sure your resume keywords are aligned with the job posting, including the qualifications and job descriptions.
Do your research regarding the industry jargon to showcase that you have skills and kn0wledge of the job you are applying for.
List of Top Resume Keywords for Each Profession and Field
We know that this is what you’ve been waiting for! Without further ado, here’s the list of keywords to use in resume for each profession and field that could help you when creating your resume.
Resume Keywords for IT:
Root cause analysis
User interface design
Resume Keywords for Healthcare:
Average response time
Cardiac cath lab
Special procedures unit
Central line placements
Composite health care system
Quality of care
Patient care procedures
Sales and Marketing
Resume Keywords for Sales and Marketing:
Trade show booth design
Education and Training
Resume Keywords for Education and Training:
Writing lesson plans
Resume Keywords for Engineering:
Research and development
Technical specification writing
Continual improvement process
Total quality management
Finance and Accounting
Resume Keywords for Finance and Accounting:
Mergers and acquisitions
Letter of credit
Chart of accounts
Remember that if your resume does not contain the required keywords, like the list of resume keywords we have shared above, ATS and hiring managers will ignore it. However, if your document reaches the needed level of keyword density, you will level up your game and move to the next stage of screening. Not only that, resume keywords will help you showcase what you’ve got as a professional and why you’re the perfect fit for the job.
Partner with Expert Resume Writers Today!
In reality, targeting the right resume keywords is as easy as one-two-three since these are all posted in job ads. The only challenge is how you will use and where to put them.
This is where we come in. We’ve got your back! With our professional resume writers, we can help you craft a job search tool that can stand out among other applicants, impress hiring managers, and beat the systems. Check out our resume writing services to get started. You may also avail our free resume review service if you have existing resume to help you evaluate its effectiveness.
In order to captivate a reader, executive resumes require more than just strong, tailored content. They also need proof. Proof of the communications expertise and business leadership one claims to covet.
Saying you are good at something and providing clear evidence of it are two different things.
In an executive resume one must prove their claims.
Supporting evidence lies within measurable impacts, specific quantities, and strong metrics generated during a career. For greater impact: load your executive resume with relevant results. Even better, lead with them.
Take this example: a friend is telling you about their recent fishing expedition, laying out all the things they did and the actions they took before sublimely mentioning ‘we caught a lot of fish’. Would you be impressed? Perhaps. Yet exact measurements are missing and you may have tuned out long before the results were mentioned.
Now, let’s say this same person started the story with ‘12 fish were caught in the first hour of our fishing weekend!’. Would that get your attention faster? Likely. That’s because the results are clear and presented early.
When I work with executives to position their value ‘on paper’ the primary goal is to ensure content speaks to the reader, fast. Leading with results and front-loading points throughout the file generates a strong impression, builds excitement, and connects the dots.
To ensure the inclusion of measurable and scaled details in your resume, strive to answer: how many? how much? and how often?
Directed teams? List the size: Teams of 450.
Managed budgets? Quantify the largest amount: Budgets of $45M
Drive revenue growth? Show the value over time: $40M revenue expansion in 2 Years
Now store these results away for high-impact positioning in your resume.
Leading with results spoon feeds the reader what they want, first. You answer questions before they can be asked and you align proof points with position requirements. Results also drive energy and action into the file!
Leaders appreciate the value of numbers and measurable business impacts, so don’t make them hunt for them in a resume. Commence the file with a strong header and supporting value statement, not a generic list of keywords or blanket phrases. For example, a general opening might say:
Executive Leader: Revenue Generator | Team Builder | New Business Developer
Yet there is no scale and no measurements in the above statement to hook and engage. An improved resume header would include size, scale, and metrics. Something more like:
President and CEO: Global $45M Facilities Management | Teams to 450 | 300% Revenue Growth in 4 Years.
The key is to keep this same approach up throughout the resume, with all statements, including bullet points. Front-load points to powerfully position strengths and build the readers’ appreciation of capabilities.Standard bullet statements may include impressive figures and important metrics but if key details appear near the end of content the impact becomes less wow and more oh-by-the-way.
Developed differentiated product line which decreased service time for end users and added $36M in new profit over 3 years.
Shifted vendor relationship management to internal support group, producing $10M in annual cost-savings.
Employed longer sales cycles to close accounts in historically challenging European territory to grow new business revenue 156% over 2 years.
Added $36M in new profit over 3 years by developing differentiated product line which decreased service time for end users.
Produced $10M in annual cost-savings by shifting vendor relationship management to internal support group.
Grew new business revenue156% over 2 years in European market, employing longer sales cycles to close accounts in historically challenging territory.
The difference is discernible. There is no hunting for impacts in front-load statements and key points don’t run the risk of getting buried or overlooked. What matters most appears first.As an executive, you want the reader to get invested in you and your abilities.
To hook and engage, lay out content in a clear path, baiting with impacts that are hard to overlook or pass by. Lead with results.
Many job candidates spend more time on the subject line than the email message. There is so much on the line with a subject line that it can lead a candidate to analysis paralysis. This can turn a fifteen-minute activity into a dreaded task. Ideally, your subject line will beacon the recipient to open your message.
A blank subject line is asking for the message to be deleted or marked as Spam. Step up and write a professional subject line. If a colleague referred you, you might write, “Chris Jones referred me to you” as a subject. When responding to a job posting, write the name of the job and your name in the subject line. If there is a job posting number, include that too. (Software Engineer, #60398). After the interview, you could write “Thank You – Software Engineer Interview.” Be specific and concise so the recipient can quickly process who you are and why they want to read your message.
Demanding subject lines, such as “Open ASAP” or “Second Request,” are often a turn-off. Similarly, don’t shout at the reader with all capital letters (MARKETING VP AVAILABLE). Avoid glib lines because you do not know the reader and you do not have a sense of how your non-traditional style will be received. Dramatic pleas, such as “Hire me” or “Help,” may seem desperate. Instead keep your subject line professional and informative.
The subject line is a factor when the recipient decides to open, ignore, or delete a message. There is no guarantee that your email will be opened or your resume will be read. However, like any aspect of your life, if you make good choices it can make a difference over time. One hamburger or one serving of broccoli may not change your health. However, a lifetime of healthy eating and exercise can be physically and mentally rewarding. In a job search a series of good choices will lead to greater success. The subject line of your email is one of the little things among many other things that can lead to success.
There is an abundance of advice for job hoppers online. What about the candidate who has been in the same job for a decade or more? This type of career history could create an impression of someone who has not grown in their career or dislikes change. Today I will share five resume tactics to overcome that impression and position yourself for a new job.
List Top Accomplishments to Show Career Progression
Ten years in the same position does not mean that you have not grown in that position. Brainstorm for major accomplishments, particularly those in recent years. Numbers help so dig up statistics on revenue growth, cost savings, market share gains, quality improvements, cases closed, or whatever metrics define success in your field. Below are some categories of accomplishments to consider:
Ways you have impacted the bottom line, making or saving money.
Major projects, especially those involving departments beyond yours.
Key clients you recruited, engaged, or managed.
Big problems that you solved.
Provide a Breakdown of Your Role
It is also important to show an increase in authority. Maybe the reason you have had the same title for many years is because your employer does not recognize an employee’s upward career trajectory with titles, such as junior analyst, analyst, senior analyst. A senior analyst at your firm may supervise a couple of employees and handle high-value customer engagements. At another firm a person doing those same responsibilities may be called a manager or senior manager. You can’t give yourself a new title. You can show this progression by adding bullet points with major promotions with your title, such as:
Selected to manage all national accounts in 2016, increasing my P&L responsibility from $14 million to $26 million.
Assumed leadership of the compliance team and oversaw all federal reporting as of 2016.
Expanded sales coverage in 2016 to include the Midwest and West Coast, which represented 42% of sales.
Showcase Work Beyond Your Primary Job
If you have been at your employer for a decade, you are surely a resource. Uncover accomplishments that demonstrate that you are respected by leadership as an expert and also that you are interested in stretching beyond your primary responsibilities. The following are a few examples:
Called upon to be a corporate host for VIPs or clients.
Conducted training workshops.
Provided input for new software or organizational changes.
Served on corporate committees or special task forces.
Include Examples of Leadership
You may be on the hunt for a new job because you been in the same position for years and you are ready for a higher level of authority. If this is the case, proving that you have experience leading people, managing resources, and devising plans is important. Look within and outside your professional experience for leadership experience. Here are a few examples for inspiration:
Philanthropic roles, leading events or programs.
Serving as an officer or committee member in professional or civic organizations.
Managing projects or programs within your company.
Customize your resume for each of your job targets.
Review the posting for your target job to identify the requirements. Prove you meet those requirements throughout your resume, particularly in the profile and areas of strength sections. Load those sections with keywords so your resume scores higher when scanned by ATS (Applicant Tracking Software). When written well those sections put your entire resume within context relative to your target job. Here are a few quick reminders for tailoring your resume:
In the profile section, write about your top values aligned with your target job.
Select nine keywords for the areas of strength section.
If you are a recent graduate, list relevant courses beneath your degree to earn more keyword hits.
Add bullets of accomplishments to bolster your candidacy for your target job.
If you are concerned about a long stay in the same position, use the above techniques to position yourself for a change. Keep in mind that these same tactics could be used when applying for a new position within your current employer too.
If I had a dollar for every job seeker who has told me, “I don’t have anything special to add to my resume. I don’t have any results to share.” – well! Every single one of these individuals was wrong.
Everyone has plenty to share – it’s just a matter of identifying the right content.
A modern resume needs to be loaded with value, answering every employer’s primary question of “why should I hire you over someone else?”. This means resume content must be focused on specifics and results, not basic job duties.
You have to provide proof of the skills and capabilities you claim to possess.
Regardless of role, industry, or career length, you have value, and you’ve excelled at something. So how do you unearth strong content for your resume?
To start, one must know thyself.
This may sound implied, but it often isn’t. A good many of my clients know their work and their jobs really well, but they lack awareness of personal skill sets and unique strengths. Deep analysis and careful pondering are required to identify what sets one apart.
Questions I often use to prompt my clients on personal strengths include:
What distinguishes you from another applicant with the same experience?
What are five characteristics that best describe you when you are at work?
What is the biggest return on investment that an employer will get from you?
What have you consistently achieved during your career? What are you best known for?
These questions can help you identify the message you want to get across in your resume. A value proposition (who you are and what you are excellent at) should be formed and then supported throughout the file.
Next,conduct a deep dive into past positions to identify examples that support your value.
Carefully consider career exploration questions like the following:
What initiatives have you developed and implemented that helped your company increase revenue, profitability, or return on investment?
Did you generate new business, bring in new clients, or forge profitable affiliations?
Did you save your company money or increase your company’s competitive edge?
Have you increased safety, performance levels, productivity, or customer satisfaction?
What was the largest team, budget, or project value you managed?
From these questions, essentials form and strong statements take shape. To pump up the value even more, I urge the inclusion of supporting metrics. Can you address “how many, how much, how often”?
I understand that not all results are numbers based. Some job seekers feel frustrated because they can’t measure results with hard figures, percentages, or dollar amounts. This is ok.
Consider ways that your work was valuable and share results in a generalized way. Perhaps outcomes were ‘improvements’, ‘increases’, ‘best’, ‘time-savings’, or ‘top’.
For less number-focused results, consider these additional exploration questions:
How do you coach, motivate and develop a winning team and develop loyalty in your staff? Have people you mentored gone on to do well?
How would you describe your leadership style? What was the greatest achievement of a team that you directed?
Have you won awards or received special recognition by superiors, peers, or customers?
Did you get promoted in record time?
Have you assumed additional responsibilities or willingly assumed tasks outside your job description?
Have you worked internationally, across multiple industries, or within highly recognizable organizations (Fortune 500)?
Did you complete specialized training or education?
Did you complete projects on time and within budget? How consistently?
Now, form value-enhanced statements from your answers.
Make sure each statement in your resume demonstrates specifics, even if there are no numbers or hard results attached to it. You might be surprised that you can measure results more than originally thought, and if you can’t – make a note to start capturing these quantitative details on a more regular basis for future resume development.
To demonstrate the difference between basic statements and value-enhanced statements (often with quantifiable details) compare the following:
The valued-enhanced statements above leave fewer questions unanswered and provide greater impact. These same statements can be further enhanced with the addition of a bit of unique context (the how and why). Just aim to keep all resume statements as succinct as possible.
Lastly, ensure resume content (and results) focus exclusively on details and skills that relate to the targeted job posting. For example, if you are targeting a sales job, but have loads of experience and achievements as a mechanic, don’t fill the resume with trade-specific content.
Be strategic with what you include in your resume; only your best and most related examples need to be shared in each application.
Looking for more examples of high impact resume statements? I helped the team at Job Search Secret Weapon put together a guide with over 35 examples. Check it out!
The content of your resume is more important than the style. However, if your resume style and format stray too far from today’s standards your content may not be read. If your message is not communicated, then you have lost your chance and your only clue may be in the form of no response to your resume submission. Let’s cover the basics of my resume style guide.
From years of working with clients, I have learned that fonts can be very personal to many clients. For some it is like a signature. I encourage clients to stay true to their style as long as their chosen font does not hinder the resume’s purpose. Be sure to use a font that is easy to read on screen and on paper. These are a few of my favorites: Candara 11 points, Verdana 10 or 11 points, Garamond 12 points, Calibri 11 points, Book Antiqua 12 points, and Century Gothic at 9 or 10 points. If you are seeking a technical position with a creative element, Century Gothic, Calibri, and Candara are nice choices. If you are more comfortable with a conservative look, you can’t go wrong with Garamond. Each of these fonts mentioned above is easy on the eyes.
Nothing is worse than 2.5 pages of content crammed into two pages with a quarter inch margin. Allow generous margins all around and adequate spacing between categories. The minimum page margins should be 0.6” all around. If you can afford the space, 0.8” all around is a much nicer look. Allow a full line of space between each category and insert a buffer of two to four points under each category heading. The white space that is created through margins and spacing facilitates smooth navigation of your resume.
Some fret to create a one-page resume. Don’t allow page count to spoil a nice presentation. You may read antiquated advice that proclaims a one-page resume is the only way. The standard of most resume experts is to create a resume that includes your top selling points in a concise manner. For most entry-level candidates, that is a one-page resume. For most professionals with work history, college education, and numerous relevant technical skills, a two-page resume is required to share the candidate’s major selling points. There are some exceptions in which a three-page resume is necessary. In some cases, a technical candidate will present a strong two-page resume and offer an addendum with additional project details. A project manager may have an addendum with highlights of top projects. A designer might have a portfolio of work samples. Some consultants might have an addendum featuring three or four case studies.
What about photos and graphics? Years ago technical resumes included graphic logos representing industry certifications. That has fallen by the wayside due to the rise of ATS (Applicant Tracking System). Graphics, including photos, can be problematic with some ATS systems. For that reason, many experts recommend submitting a clean resume without graphics. LinkedIn is the appropriate place where readers can see the logos for your employers and your certifications, as well as many other graphics such as sample work or photos of you speaking at an event. On LinkedIn, you can also upload media clips, white papers, presentations and more.
Headshots & Photos
In most industries it is not common or advisable to include a photo on a resume. The exceptions would be occupations in which you are in front of the camera, such as broadcasting, acting, modeling, or spokesperson. Of course, LinkedIn is the opposite. Everyone should have a headshot on their LinkedIn profile.
When printing a resume to carry to an interview, white or off-white paper is a wise choice. When designing your resume, you can spice it up with color accents. This can be done through a color line under a category header, a thin page border, or subtle shading in a chart. These color accents can make a resume more appealing without affecting ATS compatibility.
The possibilities for resume style are nearly limitless when you factor in font choices, styles for category headers, and borders. Keep to the standards so that your resume is scannable by ATS and also easy for a human reader to absorb.
People often ask me to review their resume and note any potential red flags that they should address. Although I’m not able to review the majority of resumes that are sent to me (I simply do not have the capacity!), here are some of the most common red flags that I personally come across (and how to fix them):
Copying and pasting job descriptions into your resume provides zero value to the reader. Emphasize results instead. Share pertinent content from your career that demonstrates proof of ability in alignment with job requirements.
An Objective Statement
Hiring managers want to know WIIFM “What’s In It For Me”; NOT what your personal end-goal is. Ditch the objective and share a value-based headline/tagline that aligns offerings with needs.
Extremely long resumes are rarely read in full – or appreciated. Think quality of content versus quantity. Distill details down to what matters most, letting value dictate an appropriate length while keeping content focused and succinct.
When I posted this topic on LinkedIn and asked resume writers and career experts to weigh in with their thoughts on resume red flags, responses centered around several common themes. Here is the link to the entire thread but I’ve gone ahead and captured a few of the responses below for your reading pleasure:
Lack of Focus at the Start
Kelly Gadzinski (Career Coach/Resume Writer): Lacking a bold headline and opening summary that effectively showcases personal brand in an unique and eye-catching way.
Skye Berry-Burke (Career Coach/Resume Writer): For me the key is in the branding Headline/ Tagline. If I can’t determine what your target or industry is from the start, my motivation to continue reading is challenged.
Jessica Hernandez (Executive Resume Writer): I agree with Skye. I think the branding headline/position title at the top really sets the stage for the entire resume. If this is missing it cripples the entire resume and leaves the potential employer with a big question mark. I’m a big believer in the importance of clarity on a resume and a clear branding headline/position title is critical for that clarity.
Kamara Toffolo (Resume Writer): Bullet Barf. Listing every single detail with a bullet or bullets that are actually paragraphs. Max 2 lines per bullet please.
Virginia Franco (Executive Career Storyteller): Dense text is my biggest beef — when something is too long, too verbose, or doesn’t get to the point — you run the risk that the reader will skip it altogether.
Ana Lokotkova (Career Search Advisor): If it’s a bullet, it means it needs to be short and sweet and not a 5-line long paragraph.
Omar Osmani (Recruiter): Lack of customization, using the same resume to apply for all positions. Take the time to review and understand the Job Description. Then customize your resume to help show the potential employer how you are a great fit for the role.
Erin Kennedy (Executive Resume Writer): Not backing up your value with actual accomplishments. Just saying you are a “business development rockstar” isn’t enough. Prove it. What did you actually do to give yourself that title? The reader wants to know!
Jamie Chapman (Career Coach / Recruiter): I second several of the previous comments about backing up your “brag” items with your experience… it’s not congruent to say “I’m awesome at managing budgets” and then never drop a single dollar figure in your resume.
Scott Leishman (Assistant Director Career Services): Resumes should have specific numbers that show the scope of the candidate’s responsibility and achievements that relate to the position they are going after. Dollar signs are much more powerful and precise than percentages.
Tom Adam (Recruiter): People need to list concrete, measurable achievements, whether it’s performance against sales quotas, up-time maintained in complex IT systems, number of new customers obtained, etc. Listing your duties alone isn’t a resume — it’s a job description. Whether you were an accountant, a sales rep, or a software engineer, we know what you did. What we want to know, however, if is you were any good at it.
Weak Attention to Detail
Jeff Lipschultz (Speaker/Trainer/Facilitator): Errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. If you cannot proof your own resume, what kind of attention-to-detail do you possess?
Javier Vinsome (Career & Adversity Advisor/Resume Writer): Repetitive action words. Overuse of “Responsible for…”. Employment with no dates.Sarah Johnston (Job Search Expert): I’ll add font sizes under 10! The reader should not need to squint to read your resume.
Laura Smith-Proulx (Executive Resume Writer): Information shown in bold for no good reason – when it’s detrimental to the candidate. If you’ve job-hopped, don’t put dates in bold or right-justify them. If your positions date back to 1979, don’t put them in bold (and of course, eliminate some of these positions). If your job titles don’t do you justice because you really held a higher-ranking level of authority, don’t put the job title in bold. Quit showcasing data that doesn’t do you any favors. Highlight distinguishing qualifications, keywords, and achievements that you want employers to spot!
Kerri Twigg (Career Coach/Speaker): When it looks like it came from a resume book. They should look like living documents with heart. You can do this by using words you normally use (and will use at the interview) and not playing it too safe.
Michelle Precourt (Career Coach/ Recruiter): Recruiter bias happens…if we are honest, we are all biased. To mitigate this, create a gmail account with your name. It’s simple but effective. Hotmail accounts could imply an older job seeker and a university email could imply someone inexperienced.
Thank you career experts and resume writers for sharing your insights!
I’ve captured the 6 resume red flags which I feel need the most attention, by all levels of job seekers, in the infographic below:
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In a market as competitive as now, people looking for jobs must put their best efforts possible into every aspect of the hiring process to ensure their chances. The hiring process has become fairly standardized, with the typical resume, cover letter, and interview process following suit everywhere. Despite a somewhat universal approach, people continue to make some of the most common mistakes in their job application packet.
Here’s how you can create a job application packet that employers will not only want to go through but appreciate, increasing your chances of getting hired:
Accomplishments and Qualifications Audit
Before you’re in a rush to start compiling the documents that you need to present to your employer, your first step is to do an accomplishments and qualifications audit. One of the most common mistakes people make when writing their resumes and CVs is that they don’t have a general outline of what they have to write and what they need to omit. There’s extra emphasis on the latter in some regards. Unless you’re applying for an acting role, it’s not worth mentioning that you played Toto in The Wizard of Oz for your 4th-grade play.
Depending on the position and job you’re applying for, you have to list and explain your prior work and educational experiences in a positive light that explains how you’re a fit candidate for the job. People prefer hiring those that have some grasp of the fundamentals of the work they’re going to do, so any amount of knowledge and experience is a bonus.
The two most common mistakes that most employers report are in the resumes they receive and regarding the length and information quoted. A resume presents the reader with your past education and experience in the easiest to skim form possible. Following a reverse chronological order, explaining them very briefly the basic details of what you did.
You must pay attention to the keywords available in the original listing and incorporate them throughout the resume in a seamless fashion. You have to do all of that while keeping the document under one page. While beautification isn’t a must-have, your resume must look clean, easy to read, and divided into sections so that people can quickly skim to relevant sections and find what lies wherein a single glance.
A cover letter’s purpose is to be a bit more detailed than your resume rather than a skim-worthy piece. It should have vital information about where you sell yourself. One of the biggest mistakes people make in their cover letter is also one of the most commonplace errors – sending the identical cover letter to multiple employers. Before you start jotting away, ensure you’ve gone through the details in the original hiring listing. If you’re applying for a Java developer position, all your Java projects, skills, and experience should be front and center without excessive exaggeration.
The cover letter should present you as someone that fits the requirements for the listing. Your experiences and formal education work should reflect that, so it should be highlighted above the others and emphasized without exaggeration. Another major selling point is explaining to them what you’ve achieved rather than what you did. For example, don’t just say that you managed the marketing team for 3 years. State that your efforts as marketing manager resulted in 15 successful campaigns throughout your tenure. Numbers and results are crucial.
Recommendation Request Email
Having a recommendation only emphasizes the case for having you on board as an employee. It’s a sign of competence and character, and willingness to offer assurance in the hiring process. A recommendation request email is an email you send to your potential recommender so that they can write a recommendation letter for you in return.
The recommender may or may not know all of the details, so it’s important to present them with the job listing and other crucial details such as your accomplishments and qualifications. An excellent letter of recommendation requires you to cooperate with your recommender so that all of the details that they present in the final draft present you in the best light possible.
Interview Follow-up Messages
Once you’ve had your interview, it’s a strategic move to send a follow-up message to them later on. These can be hand-written notes, letters but ideally, they’re emails or courtesies. They’re an excellent way for you to inquire about your hiring status and present a continued interest in the position. In some cases, if you’re aware you made a blunder or missed out on any aspect of your interview, you can elaborate the point, later on, to correct a mistake or gain extra points in their book.
A job application packet is something you should divert your focus towards. Many of the documents will require several drafts to accumulate a single document that provides all the details without being excessive. Comprehensive doesn’t mean exhaustive, and you have to keep the information centered on presenting you as the best candidate possible for the work.
Your goal is to offer them value as an employee, not the other way around. If you’re having an issue creating any of the required documents, it’s recommended you work with services that have expertise in creating such documents.
Are you struggling to get past the job application phase? Been through various iterations of your resume but haven’t found one that sticks? Consider getting help from professionals. You can find professional resume writing services with Resume Professional Writers; we offer help on resume, resume review, preparation, and resume critique services. Our professional resume builder and CV writing services aim to help you be the shoo-in candidate for wherever you apply. Regardless of the industry, we cater to all.
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