Okay, so technically he didn’t say that exactly, but he might as well have been talking about resumes when he mostly spoke those words. Not long ago people were writing eulogies to the good old resume and saying that employers didn’t even want or use them anymore, but lately that tune has changed in popular culture – the resume is back.
Here’s a little secret, though: it never left.
With all the job search apps and social networking sites that cater to businesses and jobseekers growing in popularity and importance, it’s understandable why people wrote off the resume. Sort of. Because even with all of this new technology at our fingertips, what were most of us doing when we finally found an open position that fit us? We were rushing to slap together a resume and email it out before someone else got the job.
And for employers who used to get dozens of resumes but now often receive hundreds – or more – for each position, your resume is likely to be the only thing they see before (hopefully) bringing you in for an interview. It not only matters, it had better be amazing to get your foot in the door.
Because of that, we’ve put together this list of the four things you absolutely have to do on your resume to catch their attention and get yourself on the short list of applicants.
Be flawless. This almost didn’t make the list because it should go without saying, but talk to any hiring manager about it and they’ll tell you it’s one of the top reasons they toss out resumes. Not only do you have to make sure there are no errors in the spelling, grammar, or formatting of your resume, it’s also important that you get all of the names and factual information correct, too. This is even more important in the cover letter, where you’re likely to be addressing it to someone at the company. Not a good time to spell their name wrong.
Know the job (and the company). If you’re applying for a job in a medical office, you’d better have a pretty good idea what it entails. Likewise if you’re working in building maintenance, as a lawyer, or in a school, sites like CareerQA can give you a great overview of different types of jobs and industries so that you won’t sound like an idiot, but it’s just as important to dig a little deeper and learn about that specific company and what their culture is like. Start by doing some Google searches, but if possible try to connect with real, live people who work there and talk to them about what it’s like. You’d be surprised how much this can influence your resume and come through in the language.
Show your uniqueness (but also know your audience). Recently there was a story about a hiring manager that brought someone in to interview because they listed alligator wrestling as an interest on their resume. Now, this is not to say that you should try to think of outlandish things to include just to see if you get a bite, but it’s probably going to be interesting to people if you, say, almost went to the Olympics or enjoy building computers. Just make sure you know your audience. While a comedy writer in Hollywood might love the idea of having an assistant that wrestles alligators, it’s probably a less attractive quality to a big Wall Street firm. Try to find things that encapsulate your personality while also bringing up a skill that they may find valuable.
Emphasize numbers. This may seem like a silly way to stand out, but it can work wonders. Rather than letting your resume be a list of responsibilities you had at previous jobs, turn it into a celebration of your successes. “Raised profits by 20 percent in one year.” “Oversaw 12 employees on my team.” “Increased productivity by replacing a task that took 1 hour each day with one that took 1 minute.” Wouldn’t you want to hire this person? I pose this as “numbers” rather than “accomplishments” because I think that you want to offer something as concrete as possible. It doesn’t have to be a number, but if you’ve got them, use them.
Josh Weiss-Roessler writes resumes professionally and is also the co-owner of Weiss-Roessler Writing. He enjoys giving career advice as well as learning and writing about a wide variety of other topics. Along with his wife, one-year-old son, and two small-but-ferocious dogs, he lives and works in Austin, Texas. Read more of his work on Twitter: @weissroessler
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Good luck in your search.