Nail Your Resume: The First Step to Getting Hired

While you may be tempted to just throw something together when it comes to your resume, you won’t be doing yourself any favours. Your resume is often your first chance to make a good impression with a potential employer. Think of it as the sales pitch for why they should hire you. If you want to get to the interview stage you need to nail your resume. 

If you’ve sent out endless resumes but still haven’t gotten a call for an interview, these 14 tips might be just what you need.

Hiring Managers Move Fast

On average, you have 6 seconds to make a good first impression with your resume.

That means that you can’t afford to waste time or hide your achievements. You want to make it as easy as possible for a hiring manager to look at your resume and decide it’s worth spending more time on.

After a job is advertised, hiring managers may have to sift through hundreds of resumes. This initial stage can be broken into two outcomes: selection and rejection. Research tells us that on average, hiring managers spend six seconds to make the decision on which pile your resume lands in. To give yourself the best chance of being selected, the first step is to not give them a reason to dismiss your resume on the first pass.

Things like spelling and grammar, formatting and lack of information are among the top reasons that your resume will get put in the rejection pile. To improve your chances of being called in for the interview, you need to nail your resume!

JobGetter paired up with Australian resume writers, Successful Resumes to bring to you some top tips on how to increase your chances of making it through the cut:

14 Easy Ways to Nail Your Resume and Make It Stand Out

1. Make sure they can contact you

Include your name, address, phone number, and email at the top. This is your marketing document, so only use a professional sounding email address that includes your name.

2. Proofread, proofread, proofread

Typos happen to everyone but they are a deterrent for most employers. Employers see your resume and cover letter as an example of your written communication skills and your attention to detail. Be extra careful to make sure your spelling, grammar, capitalisation and formatting are all consistent and correct throughout your resume. We like using Grammarly to make sure our documents are perfect! Don’t blow that chance with a sloppy mistake that you could quickly fix. You want your experience and skills to speak volumes, not your proofreading. Don’t let a spelling mistake be your undoing before you even get a foot in the door.

3. Don’t use fancy or out-dated fonts 

Fonts like Comic Sans (universally voted the worst font ever) or illegible ones that imitate handwriting. Stick to the standard fonts like Arial, Calibri or Verdana either 10pt or 11pt with headings slightly larger

4. Keep it clean and concise

At the early stages of your career, keep your resume to one or two pages maximum. If you are in a senior management role, you could go to three, but any more is probably overkill. You can use a maximum of two colours but otherwise keep it simple, uncluttered and professional.

5. Use bullet points

Bullet points catch the recruiter’s attention and break up big blocks of text that can otherwise be hard to read. Prioritise them to highlight the most important aspects of your career. Make sure you only use one or two types and keep indentations to a minimum.

6. Be consistent

You want to stay the same throughout your resume and use the same format for dates, job titles and headings. Make sure everything is aligned correctly, you don’t want to appear sloppy or slapdash. This is where a lot of people who claim to have “attention to detail” fall over!

7. Tailor your resume for each application

Generic resumes won’t help you stand out. In fact, giving a generic resume can turn out to be a colossal mistake. It’s fine to have a foundation resume but make sure customise it with industry or role specific keywords that fit the role you are applying for. Try to reflect the skills they ask for in the job advertisement in your summary so they can quickly see you’re a good match.

8. Prioritise your experience

List the most impressive tasks, accomplishments or responsibilities first under each role. Employers are time poor so if they only have time to glance at the first bullet point for each role, make sure it counts!

9. Use active verbs

People can get stuck using the same words to describe their jobs. Words like managedran, and changed may be accurate but hiring managers probably have already read them a hundred times today. Use a variety of verbs to change up the pace and to more clearly express what you did. Be sure to include examples of how you were successful in previous roles. Don’t forget to add in how you went above and beyond your job requirements to achieve great outcomes for your previous employers.

10. Don’t re-hash old clichés 

Empty phrases that don’t reveal anything about you. Saying that you’re a go-getter doesn’t really say much about you to an employer other than you might lack a creative flair. Similarly, don’t use subjective phrases like exceptional or innovative. Show them why they should hire you. Let your results speak for themselves.

11. Maintain a professional tone 

throughout the resume. You are setting the scene for the type of employee you will be, so make sure that says “professional”. This can be a tricky balance. Definitely don’t include slang or inappropriate words. Also, don’t forget that the hiring manager might not have had the same training as you so you might need to dial down the jargon and acronyms.

12. Don’t use first or third person

The hiring manager knows your resume is about you so keep it neutral. They are going to assume that the list of qualifications you provided them are yours. Save yourself the time of saying “My Qualifications” or “I redesigned the safety policy”. The header “Qualifications” or the bullet point “Redesigned the safety policy” are fine. It can also be a bit off-putting for the hiring manager to read someone who constantly talks about themselves in third person. When writing a cover letter though, you can use first person since you’re talking about yourself to somebody.

13. Include your qualifications 

Obviously you’ll include your qualifications. An important part of being professional and getting your message across clearly is using the correct name. For example, a Certificate III in Business is not called a Cert 3. Don’t forget to include the name of the place you studied. You don’t need to worry about including the date you completed it (unless it’s necessary for the role). Graduation dates are a pretty easy way to age a candidate and can work against you if young and old job seekers. Unless you’re a recent grad, move your education to below your work history.

14. Don’t Forget to Personalise the Cover Letter Too

If you decide you want to include a cover letter make sure that it’s not generic either. A lot of similar rules to nail your resume can help you write an amazing cover letter. You want to be professional, show you know about the company, and why you want to work for them. Tell them what you think you can bring to their organisation.

Show Your Best Side

The resume isn’t the place to be modest. You know that you would be a great employee – now is the time to show it. When you submit your resume to a company, you want to give yourself the best opportunity to make it through the first round of applicants. Getting to the next round means you can start preparing to impress them during the interview.  

When in doubt, speak to professionals. Successful Resumes has more than 30 writers across Australia who support jobseekers with a resume that helps them shine. Find your local writer and get more information here.

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