To get the interview for your next career move, your résumé has to communicate that you are the ideal candidate. Here are 11 résumé tips for selling yourself in 2021:
- Prerequisite: format the entire résumé to make it ATS-friendly and focus on keyword matching to the specific job posting. ATS “reads” resumes like human beings (right to left/top to bottom) so make sure your work history starts with your most recent or current position. Although there are three common resume formats (chronological, combination, and functional), ATS prefers the first two, as do recruiters. Telling your career story and progression lends itself to a chronological résumé and a non-chronological functional résumé wreaks havoc with ATS which doesn’t know how to sort experience without a clear work history to draw from. The main job of ATS is to scan your résumé for relevant keywords by converting it to a text-only file. So, get rid of fancy formatting like tables, graphs, charts, photos, logos, headers, footers, images, full page columns and uncommon section headings. Stick to a universal font like Arial, Tahoma, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Garamond, Georgia, or Cambria and avoid fonts you need to download which the ATS may have trouble parsing. On the other hand, feel free to bold and underline your headers with a font size of 11 with the rest of the text at 10. Italics are also ATS-friendly as is underlining. I would avoid putting any text in colors; not that ATS can’t read it but it’s going to reduce everything to black anyway. Bullets are preferred over long-winded narrative so stick to the standard circle- or square-shaped ones. One-inch all-around on your margins is the best way to go and I like to set my line spacing options at 12 exactly.
- “Above the fold” refers to the upper half of the front page of a newspaper or tabloid where an important news story or photograph is located. Use this approach for your résumé because recruiters average only 6-11 seconds visually glancing to see if they want to read on. When they do, don’t fall into the deadfall trap that your résumé has to be on one page. Your résumé needs to market you effectively and include enough about you to prove you’re qualified for the job without overwhelming the reader. Résumé length can vary based on factors like experience, field, and the job you’re applying for. Two to three pages is the standard length for résumés in 2021 to fit all keywords, experience, and skills. If you’re concerned that a longer résumé will slow down a hiring manager during their six-second résumé test, the “six-second” figure comes from a review after an ATS scan has determined your fit for the position. Recent studies suggest that recruiters are 2.3x more likely to prefer a résumé that’s more than one page and includes all of your relevant experience, achievements, education, certifications and professional development.
- Your headline should match the title of the position you’re applying to. Position titles are among the most commonly searched ATS keywords.
- Use the summary to succinctly highlight your professional skills and experience. Laser focus on the unique, transferable value you can bring to the specific role you’re applying for.
- Follow your summary with a core skills section so that readers can easily scan your relevant competencies. This is a key section of your résumé because SKILLS = KEYWORDS and enhance how you match with a job description.
- If you’re applying online, avoid graphic elements like charts, graphs, tables and shaded areas. It confuses ATS which “sees” them as photos and can’t “read” them. It’s best to send a résumé as a Word doc if you are applying through a public job board or company career page. If you’re sending it to someone you know via email, PDF is fine. Otherwise, use Word.
- Generally, it is reasonable to go back 10 – 15 years in your work history unless you’ve been with a company longer than that and you can demonstrate a progressive ladder of success.
- Avoid run-on paragraphs when describing your professional experience. Instead, use bullet points to tailor your transferable achievements to what the prospective employer is looking for. Avoid the “everything but the kitchen sink” approach. Stick to those achievements and competencies that are most relevant. Demonstrate the impact you’ve made and quantify (objectify) it wherever possible.
- Avoid outdated résumé information like your street address and References Upon Request.
- Spell check until it hurts and then spell check again.
- Include a cover letter with your résumé and send it to a specific person in your target company (eg, Vice President of Human Resources or Director of Talent Acquisition) to expand your candidate visibility.
About Garrison Leykam, PhD:
Certified Business Coach (Expert Level)
Certified Remote Work Professional
Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC)
Certified Professional, Résumé Writer (CPRW)
Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP)
Certified Life Coach (Expert Level)
PhD Marketing, MA Psychology
LinkedIn profile in Top 25 MA, PhD profiles in U.S.
Top 1% LinkedIn Industry Social Selling Index
Author, Audacious at Any Age and Design You