Writing a resume is still the number one concern for most job hunters so I thought I’d put some tips together. It is not an ultimate guide, just a mental checklist that you can use for stepping up your resume game.
So here are some things you should consider while writing your resume:
Think like a Talent Partner (Recruiter).
Study the Job Description.
Really. The JD is there for a reason. If the JD is done right it is really a JOB description, not a PERSON description. But still, it is your responsibility to read between the lines and discern a so-called “perfect candidate profile”.
Ask yourself a question: “What kind of conversation has taken place during that intake meeting?” (intake meeting is the meeting between the hiring manager and TA in which HMs brief TA on what is their vision of a perfect candidate).
Do your best and truly try to understand what is the job and what kind of person they need for the job. Be focused. It never makes sense to “spray” your resume everywhere hoping to get a shot. You won’t. If you are not a good fit, there is no chance you are bypassing the resume screening stage. You can call the Talent Partner a gatekeeper but this person is there for a reason. A Talent Acquisition professional is a person with a very specific skill and that skill is to scan the resume for 6–10 seconds and understand if it is worth spending more time.
If you know you are a fit (and that means you can do at least 80% of the job described) then the only question is: “How can I communicate that I am the candidate that they are looking for?”
Understand what the TA/HM are looking for.
There is only one question that interests the hiring team in the beginning and it is: “Can the person do the job?” That’s it.
How do they understand it from the resume? They look at the following elements:
- Skills. What are the skills you claim you have and what is the proof you have them?
- A so-called “Achiever Pattern”. Have you delivered tangible results? (preferably outperforming your peers). What are your most significant accomplishments? They will ask you this during the interview anyways. And this is something they want to see on the resume. Be very explicit about your achievements.
- Tenure. How long did the person stay on the job? How fast did he progress through ranks? If the candidate looks too “jumpy”, it is a red flag. The hiring team wants people who won’t jump the ship when another opportunity comes their way.
- The work done in the past. Their thought process here is straightforward: “If a person did this in the past, he has the skills to do this or similar job.”
- Qualitative and Quantitative indicators of superior performance.
That’s it. Nothing more is important at this point. If there is nothing on the resume that tells them that you qualify (read: can do the job), your profile will be released from the process (TA word for rejecting the applicant).
This is important to understand. Sometimes a person would qualify but the resume wouldn’t do a good job of communicating it. In my days as a Job Developer, I’ve had a client who was rejected the first time, but then we reapplied with an updated resume and he got the job.
If TA sees from the resume that the candidate can theoretically do the job, the first thing they will do is they will open the candidate’s LinkedIn profile. And we talked about it — you better make sure they like what they see. LinkedIn is a better way to express not just your skills but your personality. Leverage the capabilities that it gives you (create content, build your brand, showcase your best work). If they like you, your resume will be shortlisted and you will get a shot at a phone interview.
Consider those things when you get your resume ready.
- PDF format, please
- Design your resume. Make it aesthetic. Nothing wild (unless you are a graphic designer), keep it professional. Clean and minimalistic. Google the best practices. (There are some great templates sitting in your MS Word, check them out).
- No photos, no graphs, no pictures, no lines, no decorative elements.
- Read the eligibility criteria carefully. It makes no sense to apply when the employer is very explicit about the status of the candidates they are currently hiring (PR, citizens, work permits). If the employer clearly states on the posting that they recruit in Canada only and you apply from another country — there is zero chance your application is getting considered. Don’t waste their time, and don’t waste yours.
- Size. 2 pages is pretty much an industry standard. 1 if you are a fresh grad. Master resume (4 pages +) can be applicable in some unique cases (e.g. researchers).
- Choose the format that works best for you. There are different types of resumes — chronological, functional, combinational. Do your research. There is no right or wrong here — choose the one that works best for you (e.g. chronological if you have a strong tenure to showcase and functional if you have a gap or make a transition to another industry).
- Use powerful performance verbs — all in past tense e.g. “achieved, improved, optimized”. Google those. Again, focus on tangible deliverables. And if you can’t then focus on showcasing the skills that you have and will use to get the job done.
- Skills section. It only makes sense to list your skills when you have evidence that you have them. Anyone can pile up skills in the resume. Can you actually show that you have that expertise? If you write a tech/hard skill, make sure that you mention it in your Experience section — how did you use that skill on the job, and what came out of it? If you show a foundational skill — add a short sentence that proves that you have it/used it on the job.
- Hobby sections. Just delete it. At the resume screening stage, no one cares if you are a master ukulele player or like walking puppies under the moonlight (that can play a role on the interview stage though :). Instead, add a Professional Development section — how did you upskill yourself during the pandemic? What side-projects did you run while you were unemployed? How did you use your free time? High performers make something of themselves regardless of their employment status.
- Layout. Modern ATS systems, like Lever, for example, allow you to see the resume in 2 modes — original and parsed. The parsed mode is basically showing plain text — for some people, it is easier to scan. Make sure that your layout is not too crazy, and the parsed version will still have a good readable structure to it.
- ATS does not reject your resume. Recruiters do. ATS is just a candidate management system. It needs a real person to operate.
- Think like a recruiter. Print it and ask yourself, “If I was the recruiter looking at my resume right now, would I hire myself?” And if the echo in your mind says, “meh…”, you know you have more work to do.
I know this is probably no the specific step-by-step guide that you wanted, but that is never my objective.
Responsibility breeds empowerment.
If you take responsibility for your results and changing your current situation, general guidance will suffice. You will follow the thread not seeing the whole path in front of you and just trust the process. All the bits and pieces that you need to get that job will be discovered on the way and gradually fall into places. Work on one variable of the equation at a time. Today it is your resume. Tomorrow it is your Linkedin. Next week it is your relationship-building game. Remember, job-hunting is an iterative process and it is a life skill. If you learn it once, you will be benefiting from it for the rest of your life.
Keep hustling and take care. And feel free to drop your resume-related questions below. Will address them to the best of my ability.