Job hunting can be daunting — whether you’re doing it because you desperately need to or because you want to move up in your career. The first thing you’ll need to do is update your resume, but that can also be dispiriting, because getting in the door hangs on how well you do it.
“People are often so busy doing their jobs they don't make time to track their responsibilities, their accomplishments and wins, or their updated skill sets,” says Maggie Mistal, career coach and former host of “Making a Living with Maggie” on SIRIUS XM. “After time passes, it becomes harder and harder to update a resume and LinkedIn profile. They don't know what to say, or might be reluctant to toot their own horns. Some are even intimidated by having to represent themselves in a few pages of information. Many also fear they won't stack up to the competition,” she says.
If you so happen to share these fears at the moment, fear not. We asked both Mistal and Sarah Stoddard, career trends expert at Glassdoor, to share their best resume tweaking tips with us.
Dig deep to define the “why?”
In her coaching, Mistal uses something called Soul Search to gauge her client’s motivators, purpose and preferences in terms of what career possibilities would make a great fit for them. “If you want to stand out, you’ll need to highlight where you're going and why this particular job at this particular company is a great fit. Knowing your core genius helps you craft and negotiate opportunities so you know not just what job you're going after, but why you're a great fit. You make it about more than just a job you're going after but about your personal mission, or about a genuine interest, that aligns with helping the company further its goals.”
Knowing your core genius helps you craft and negotiate opportunities so you know not just what job you're going after, but why you're a great fit.
Maggie Mistal, career coach
Statements are optional
If you’ve been doing the same kind of thing for a while, adding a career objective statement to your resume is likely unnecessary. But for anyone re-entering the workforce or making a career pivot, a career objective statement (a brief descriptive paragraph that describes your professional goals that falls before your credentials) can be a great way to help recruiters and hiring managers understand your long-term career goals and provide additional context before they dive into your resume, says Stoddard. If you decide to craft one, it should be short, to-the-point, and customized for each job opportunity. Most importantly, it should always address what you’re trying to accomplish professionally.
List your most impressive/relevant accomplishments first
According to Glassdoor, recruiters and hiring managers scan resumes for a whopping 6 seconds before moving onto the next. As this is no time at all to make an impression, be sure to list your most impressive credentials first to give yourself a fair shot at their consideration. Stoddard says your resume should always provide context, details and results to reflect why you’re the right person for the job. “By providing concrete examples of growth, such as specific percentages of dollar amounts, page views or revenue gains, you’ll make your potential clear to the hiring manager,” she says.
Don’t rush the writing
An all-too-common scenario: You’re just thinking about the kind of job you’d like to have when a listing just like it appears out of the ether — and your resume hasn’t been tweaked in a year. As tempting as it is to rush through a resume update, Stoddard says it’s better to take your time and do it right. “It’s easy to accidentally rush your resume, and recruiters commonly see spelling errors, incorrect verb tenses, personal pronouns and even alignment and spacing issues that can be a red flag to your potential employer,” says Stoddard. Before you hit send, be sure to ask a few trusted friends or colleagues to take a peek and give you feedback. “Having a friend review your resume is a great way to get a fresh take on structuring a particular bullet point, or rewording a sentence in order to take your resume to the next level,” she adds.
Be concise in your wording
Updating or tweaking your resume can easily lead to a (mental) war of the words. Is it better to pack in every detail of your responsibilities or keep things short and sweet? Stoddard says it’s best to err on the side of brevity. “Too many irrelevant or vague bullets can do more harm than good,” says Stoddard. “Keep your resume wording concise, your skills section short and only include the details that will make the most impact in a hiring decision.”
Use keywords carefully
When submitting your resume through an online portal, a bot scans it for keywords to sift for qualified candidates. So how can you stack the odds in your favor so your resume is seen by actual human eyes? “One solution is to read each job description to identify keywords the software could be looking for, usually in the section about required skills and experience,” says Stoddard. “If the keywords in the job description are applicable to you, include them in your customized resume before you apply.” That being said, try not to go overboard on the jargon. “Recruiters and applicant software can identify ‘keyword stuffing’ (overuse of keywords) which is why you always want to be honest when identifying and adding keywords that are relevant to your individual experience,” explains Stoddard.
Customize the cover letter, too
Mistal says she often reminds her clients to first mention what you like about a potential employer (and what makes the company a great fit) before mentioning what's great about you (and what makes you a great fit for the job). “This approach draws in the hiring manager's attention better than talking about yourself first and foremost,” she says.
Finally, if you’re looking to take the next step in your career but aren’t sure how to brand yourself, Mistal says to reach out to all of your friends and professional contacts to see if you know someone (or know someone who knows someone) and set up a time to learn about the company with the intent of using that information. “It helps to ask about what it takes to be successful and what they enjoy most about their work and the company,” Mistal says. “With these insights, you can reference that information in your cover letter and then curate the bullet points under the various positions on your resume to reflect that you have those qualities and would enjoy that environment.” Kind of like scanning for keywords, but with a hand to shake — and a good impression to make.
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