It is no mystery that if you are pursuing new job opportunities you want to make a good first impression. Often times that first impression is not you in the flesh, but your resume. What may look fantastic on paper could actually get overlooked when applying online or appear lackluster on screen. If you are looking to land a job in today’s world, you should strive to make sure you package your qualifications in a digital-friendly format, so that it’s easily read by Applicant Tracking Systems and accurately captures the “real” you. Too many of us still make the assumption that our resumes will be viewed top to bottom, front to back on printed sheets of 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper. That is just not the case. More often than not, your resume will be automatically parsed into a database and eventually viewed online after matching your skill set with the job. It’s not uncommon to have only the top third of your resume read before moving onto the next candidate.
So just how do you create a resume that will stand out?
It is important to consider how a recruiter or hiring manager will mentally process your information if he or she is reading your resume on a computer monitor or even on a smartphone or tablet screen. According to a 2013 Slate article, many web users do not scroll down a page to read anything “below the fold.” In other words, assume that a hiring manager might only read the information at the top of your resume, simply because that is what is visible as soon as the page loads. If that valuable real estate does not immediately grab their attention with your most pertinent experiences or skills, there’s a good chance they may not read any further.
Think in these terms…If you only have 30 seconds to network with someone, what is the most important information you want them to know about you?
Is it your relevant skills you possess?
Then be sure to list them at the top of the page in a clear and concise manner. You will want to make certain to include all the skills you have that are being sought after in the job posting. Don’t make assumptions that just because you do a certain task, that the recruiter or hiring manager will know you possess these skills. Remember your resume will most likely first be read by a computer that will capture these skills you have listed. By ensuring you include all your technical, computer and relevant soft skills will strongly increase your visibility.
Is your recent job experience your most impressive asset?
Then start with your employment history. You will want to make sure to highlight your job title(s), company name(s) and dates of employment, followed by a brief description of your accomplishments and/or job duties. It is NOT necessary to list every single job you have ever held. In fact, that could work against you. Trust me, nobody cares you were a barista while in college (unless that is your chosen career path). Do list all the relevant positions you have held that would make you a viable candidate for the job you are applying to.
Is your education highly sought after?
Then lead with that. You get the picture.
Should I start with an Objective or Summary?
It is perfectly fine to begin your resume with a ‘Professional Summary‘ of yourself if you want to highlight a little of your skills, experience and education. Ditch the ‘Objective Statement’ though. Companies are more interested to know what you can do for them, not the other way around. Remember you want your most significant information up top and “above the fold”.
Researchers at the Nielsen Norman Group also report that many web readers focus their attention primarily on the left side of the computer screen. This is one compelling reason to align text to the left, rather than centering it. You might also consider moving your less important contact information to a vertical bar on the neglected right side of the page, again so that your credentials can take the spotlight. For more useful resume tips view Reboot Your Resume.
Kelly Miller, Blogger at Travel Placement Service