Looking to write an attention-grabbing resume? Here are 8 tips from an expert recruiter with over 10 years of experience.
With the average job listing attracting 250 applications, getting recruiters to spend any more than 7.4 seconds reviewing your resume is a luxury few are afforded. And that’s assuming your resume even reaches human hands at all. Today, many companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to speed up the hiring process, parsing every resume submitted and forwarding only the most relevant, qualified candidates to a recruiter. We sat down with the CEO of Successful Resumes Australia and the founder of Successful Resumes Hong Kong, Samantha Saw, to learn the 8 tried-and-tested strategies she uses to help clients across the APAC region craft a winning resume that beats the bots and positions them for success.
Keep it short
“US firms stick to one page, but I don’t think that’s enough,” Sam says. “The ideal resume length outside the US is two pages unless you’re vying for an executive role or changing careers.” If you’re having trouble streamlining your resume, try trimming margins, shortening bullets to two-lines maximum, or combining sections.
Ditch the ‘Objective’ for a ‘Summary Statement’
“When you include an ‘Objective’, you’re telling employers what you want from them and frankly, they don’t care,” Sam explains. “They care about their objectives and what you can do for them.”
That’s why the ‘Summary Statement’ – an ‘elevator pitch’ briefly outlining your experience, skillset and key achievements – has largely supplanted the ‘Objective’ in modern resumes. It’s also the place for showcasing your transferable ‘soft’ skills, i.e. the interpersonal attributes you need to succeed in a workplace, such as adaptability, leadership and communication skills.
“What employers are finding is that it’s quite easy to teach people technical skills. Where they talk about ‘skills gaps’, it’s often around soft skills because employers are looking for people who bring their A-game to the office every day.”
Tailor it to the role by using keywords
One surefire way of guaranteeing your resume doesn’t slip through the cracks is by optimising for relevant keywords. Unsure of which ones to use? Start by identifying the specific skills, credentials and qualities listed on a job description, and then sprinkling those exact phrases throughout your resume.
For roles that are heavily technical, Sam recommends adding a dedicated ‘Skills’ section. Alternatively, scanning a company’s ‘About Us’ web page or the LinkedIn profile of someone with your dream title are great ways to learn ‘industry lingo’ and present yourself as a perfect fit.
“Relevance is the most important thing any candidate can do,” Sam says. “If you aren’t approaching your resume from an SEO perspective, the recruiter will know it’s not tailored to them and it will be pointless.”
Start every bullet point with an action verb
Most resumes recycle the same tired words over and over again. Instead of listing tasks you were ‘responsible for’, start each bullet point with a strong, compelling action verb to pack a punch. Some of Sam’s go-to favourites include: ‘delivered’, ‘executed’, ‘strategised’, ‘designed’ and ‘implemented’ – “Anything that sounds like you’re taking positive action and making a difference,” she explains.
Quantify your accomplishments
When it comes to resumes, numbers speak louder than words. This is because they help recruiters gauge the magnitude of your impact and the value you bring to their company. In other words, numbers prove your competency without having to put words like ‘driven’ or ‘team player’ in their mouth. Consider supplementing your action verbs with key metrics like percentages, dollar amounts, time spans and frequencies to give a sense of ‘What’, ‘Where’, ‘When’, ‘Why’ and ‘How’ you improved a business. But be careful not to go overboard or give away any confidential information.
Design with readability in mind
With the exception of graphic designers and keen beans delivering their resume in-person, “Pinterest resumes just don’t work because applicant tracking systems can’t read them,” Sam points out. To get past an ATS, the most important elements to avoid are columns, tables, images or graphics, white text on dark backgrounds, and more than three colours. Reverse-chronological formatting, a crisp font (Arial or Times New Roman work best here), relevant subheadings and single-line spacing also go a long way in boosting your readability.
Make a LinkedIn profile – and include the URL on your resume
“LinkedIn has completely revolutionised recruitment from both an employer’s and candidate’s perspective. It’s the first time that people other than senior execs can benefit from passive job-seeking,” Sam mentions. In fact, 70% of the global workforce is made up of passive talent who weren’t actively looking for jobs.
Having a LinkedIn profile, therefore, instantly puts you on the map and adds another level of personality and professionalism to your application. Whereas resumes are static, LinkedIn is richly dynamic, enabling users to share updates, work samples and glowing testimonials from clients and colleagues.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good headshot either. “In this whole process, you are the product. It’s not expensive at all to get a professional headshot taken – and if you can’t afford that, simply take a photo against a wall.”
Don’t forget to nurture your self-confidence
During these tumultuous times, paying attention to your mindset is where the gold sits. You are far less likely to self-promote and amplify your achievements if you’re writing your resume from a space of insecurity or desperation. “Stay in the centre of the storm and nurture that confidence by reminding yourself of all the places where you’ve added value and the feedback that made you feel good. Keep reinforcing those messages rather than fixating on ‘I don’t have a job’ or ‘No one is employing’,” Sam says.
It also presents the perfect opportunity to realign yourself with what you really want to be doing and to begin forging that path for yourself. “Luck equals preparation plus opportunity. And if the opportunity is not there, create it one step at a time. Go fix your LinkedIn profile, warm up your networks, study, make that career change. All of those things can open up new opportunities you didn’t think were possible before.”