There are few things more frustrating and disheartening than a seemingly endless job search, so what if there were some simple tips that could help your resume move to the top of a hiring manager’s pile? Whether your relevant training and experience are extensive or very minimal, your resume is your sales pitch—it tells those looking to hire what you can do, what you enjoy, and where you want to move in your career. It’s essential that your resume highlights your best attributes while avoiding any red flags or mistakes that could hold you back in your job search. If you’re looking to take your resume to the next level, keep reading for nine unspoken resume rules that you need to follow before submitting your next application.
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1. Keep It to No More Than Two Pages
When you really want to show off your training and experience to a company, it can be tempting to list every job you’ve ever had or course you’ve ever taken, but that’s rarely a good idea. According to Indeed.com, most resumes should be no more than a single page, especially if you have less than 10 years of professional experience. Most hiring managers have mere seconds to skim over a resume and decide if you’re a good fit for the available role, so you need to make sure that all information they see is relevant. Avoid unnecessary filler words, remove outdated information, and keep your resume as concise as possible.
2. Tailor Your Resume to the Job
Although it may be easier if you’re applying for a wide range of job opportunities, using the same resume for every application may work against you. Hiring managers are looking to see that you have the skills and experience for the specific role they are filling, and that will look different for each and every position. The training and work experience that would be important for an accounting role is very different from those needed for a hospitality position, so identifying relevant skills and elaborating on those for each specific job is crucial to ensuring you stand out. This also means removing any work experience that isn’t relevant to the job you are applying for, especially if it is from more than five years ago. Keep it recent, and keep it relevant!
3. Don’t Let Spelling and Grammar Hold You Back
It may seem obvious, but ensuring you use correct spelling and grammar on your resume can make a big difference when it comes to whether a hiring manager takes your application seriously. Use Grammarly to check for mistakes, or ask a friend to edit your work. Avoidable errors on your resume imply that you rushed in writing your application, are not detail-oriented, or simply didn’t care enough to edit your work before sending it—none of which are the impressions you want to give to a potential employer!
4. Numbers, Numbers, Numbers!
One of the best ways to ensure that your experience stands out is by quantifying exactly what you did in each role. That means including numbers! Instead of listing a duty as simply “Customer Service,” say “Served up to 200 customers per shift.” Rather than writing “Posted on the company Twitter,” say “Managed the company’s presence across four social media platforms, building the online following to over 20,000 people.”
5. Name Hard Skills, Not Soft Skills
The skills section on your resume should be short and relevant, which means only listing hard skills! Hard skills are measurable abilities that are directly relevant to the job being applied for, while soft skills are personal attributes that describe employees as individuals. While soft skills like being hard-working, honest, and patient may have sounded good in high school, they are not measurable or objective, and shouldn’t be included on a professional resume. Instead, list hard skills that will jump out at a hiring manager, like your experience using Google Suite, Microsoft Office, Skype, or Zoom.
6. Use Action Verbs to List Your Duties
When it comes to listing your duties and responsibilities in previous roles, action verbs can make all the difference. This switches the language of your resume from passive voice to active voice and is a great way to highlight what you offer to a company. Lead bullet points with action verbs like “negotiated,” “managed,” “coordinated,” and “developed” to draw attention to your accomplishments and experience.
7. Research Current Employees
If you want an insight into what a company is looking for, the current employees are an incredibly useful place to start! LinkedIn is an amazing resource to find the people already working at the company you’re applying to, and it allows you to see what experience and skills they list both at their current job and at their previous positions. This can be a great way to find out which training and information the business and hiring managers see as important, assisting you in highlighting your own skills.
8. Cut Out the References
Including references on your resume, or even the well-used phrase “References available upon request,” is a thing of the past! Not only are they not needed at the application stage unless specifically requested but a list of references takes up precious space on your resume.
9. Use a Cover Letter to Explain Gaps
A lot of people are scared to address gaps in their resumes, but they shouldn’t be! A 2020 LinkedIn survey found that Americans feel embarrassed (24%), uneasy (23%), and ashamed (15%) about disclosing they are currently unemployed, but especially since COVID-19, it is very common for candidates to have at least short gaps in their employment history. If you have gaps in your resume, regardless of the reason, the best thing you can do is be honest about it. Rather than shying away, use a cover letter to highlight that you took time for yourself to grow and focus. From taking a course online to building a professional network, use the gaps in your resume to your advantage, and don’t be afraid to explain your time off to a hiring manager—it might just work in your favor!