The job market is super-competitive right now, with 10.1 million people unemployed, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data. To put that in perspective, there were 5.7 million Americans who were unemployed prior to the pandemic — so there are now nearly double the number of people currently looking for jobs and fewer places that are hiring for them. While those numbers may seem intimidating, it is possible to land a job in the current climate — but you may have to make an extra effort to stand out from the competition.
Since your resume is usually the first thing a recruiter or hiring manager will see, it’s smart to focus on ensuring that yours stands out from the pack. GOBankingRates spoke to recruiters, career experts and professional resume writers to get their tips on how to get your resume noticed. Here’s how to improve your resume so that it gets recruiters’ attention.
Tailor Your Resume for the Specific Job You’re Applying For
Resumes are not one-size-fits-all. To impress a recruiter, your resume should be specific to the job.
“The resumes that impress me are the ones that most closely align skills and experience to the job being applied for,” said Simon Royston, managing director of The Recruitment Lab. “Candidates typically produce a master copy of their resume but are then not tailoring it to any given application. Yes, you need a master copy of your resume, but look at the duties and responsibilities listed on a given job advert, and then explain in your resume how you are ticking those boxes.”
Make a Strong First Impression
The typical resume is one to two pages, but a recruiter might not make it past the top of the first page when they are quickly scanning through hundreds of applications. That’s why it’s so important that the top half of your resume is chock-full of relevant — and impressive — information.
“The key to standing out among the competition is to ensure you set the tone in the first top half of the resume with what you want and what you offer, any key buzzwords that speak to your abilities to transition into those new roles seamlessly, and any transferable skills and accomplishments that directly relate to this new role,” said Matthew Warzel, certified professional resume writer and president of MJW Careers, LLC.
Formatting also matters when it comes to making a first impression.
“The average recruiter looks at a resume for six seconds, so make your resume stand out by making your strongest assets jump off the page — use white space, bolding, bullet points and concise language to draw the reader’s eye to exactly what you want them to see,” said Amy Feind Reeves, founder of JobCoachAmy.
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“When a resume looks appealing and makes you want to read it, you now stand a chance, even if you aren’t the most qualified,” added Bergin Sullivan of the recruiting company JCSI.
Emphasize Your Achievements
“To stand out, frame your experience in terms of accomplishments versus listing responsibilities,” said Neha Khurram, founder of Beam Career Coaching & Recruiting. “If your resume looks like a job description, it will likely be passed over. Stand out by articulating your impact, and always begin your bullet points with an action verb. Quantify your experience wherever possible, and highlight your list of tools as well as how you used them.”
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Include a Branding Statement
“The key to presenting yourself as the best fit for the job that you want and standing out in all the right ways to recruiters is quickly demonstrating that you understand and can meet or exceed the goals of the role you’re applying for,” said Steph Cartwright, certified professional resume writer and founder of Off The Clock Resumes. “Replacing a boring and redundant ‘Resume Summary’ with a concise ‘Branding Statement’ that introduces your top job-related qualifications and skills and really showcases the results you can produce will make you a must-interview candidate.”
Include an Endorsement
“If you want to stand out, a short endorsement from someone in your work history that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for sends a powerful message,” said Rowan O’Grady, president of U.S. operations at Frank Recruitment Group. “That’s always impressive to see at this stage in the process. It doesn’t have to be anything more than a short paragraph. Whenever I see someone do this properly, I wonder why more people don’t include it as standard — that’s the sort of impact it has.”
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Include a Certifications Section
“If you’re looking to rise above the noise, make sure to list certifications on your resume,” said Max Woolf, career expert at ResumeLab. “While certifications on a resume aren’t a be-all and end-all element that predetermines whether you’ll land the job, they can certainly tip the scales in your favor. After all, they prove you’re a valuable hire with bulletproof evidence you have specific skills and expertise needed to excel in the role. And if you don’t have much experience under your belt, certifications can put turbo thrusters on your resume because they automatically demonstrate your passion for knowledge and willingness to learn.”
Add Some Personality
“Avoid blending in with other job applicants by showcasing your personality on your resume,” said Kyle Elliott, career coach and founder of CaffeinatedKyle.com. “You can do this by sharing a relevant hobby or including a dash of color on your resume.”
Janelle Owens, HR director at Test Prep Insight, said that adding personality will sometimes be the thing that gets you to the interview phase.
“After a while, when you’re hiring for a particular position, every resume starts to look the same,” she said. “They all generally have the same college degree or relevant experience. It is the aspect of your resume that personalizes you that draws me in. I love a couple of good lines of interesting factoids about a candidate. For example, our most recent hire really only got the call for the interview because I loved that they listed that they won a pie-eating contest on their resume. Who does that? I knew right away they had personality and would be fun.”
Link To a Personal Website
Encourage a recruiter to learn more about you and your experiences by creating a personal website or portfolio and linking to it on your resume.
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“Show off tech skills and creativity by building a personal website that shows off your prior work accomplishments,” said Sasha Yablonovsky, president of CareerBuilder. “You can even create and link to a digital portfolio, video or presentation saved to the cloud that showcases your past work. These tools demonstrate your skills and ambition, and position you to stand out among the other applications and phone screenings.”
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