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How to make the most of your resume with recruiters

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

You have about six seconds to catch recruiters' attention before they decide whether you go in the viable or discard pile. That might seem like a very short amount of time, but light speed reading is a must for HR staff with large stacks of resumes to get through.

What does that mean for you as you're writing your resume? You need to capitalize on the limited time and space you have on your resume to make it through the first round of candidate cuts. Here's a few things to consider.

1. Show & tell, not just tell

Resumes tell your career story through words, so the words you choose and how you string them together are important. Remember, your goal is to demonstrate your skills. I say this because many people make the mistake of simply listing skills instead of showing how or what those skills were utilized on the job.

Here's an example from my own resume.

Skills: time management & client relations

Demonstration: Oversee concurrent reactive and proactive media relations campaigns for the following clients: Orthopedic surgery, spine, psychiatry, obstetrics & gynecology, pulmonology and surgery.

Don't get bogged down by the specifics of what I do, but do focus on how juggling projects for all of those clients would require a great deal of time management and client relations, which is what I set out to highlight.

I'm not saying you shouldn't also have a separate skills section where you bullet out your most relevant and strong skills. But, do make sure that you provide examples of how you use those skills when explaining your past job duties.

2. No jargon

Every job has lingo that only people in that work environment or industry understand. The thing is, not every recruiter will know what you're talking about if you include insider terminology in your resume. Unless it's an unequivocally ubiquitous term you're certain will be easily understood by the recruiter and interviewers, spell things out plainly. The last thing you want is to lose your reader with acronyms and jargon and fail to communicate your value as a potential employee.

If you need to reference an acronym or something very specific, spell it out or provide a very brief description or definition of what you mentioned.

However, you may want to add keywords from the job description of the position you're applying to if they're not already there. These can be industry-specific without being unclear. For example, mentioning media relations, press releases, pitch emails, media lists and press events would be very important to include on my resume if I started applying for other media relations positions. I wouldn't include things like KSOM, KMC, Press Page or Intranet because no one outside of my colleagues know what those things are so they're irrelevant.

3. Prioritize & organize

How you choose to present your resume can greatly affect how well, or not, received your resume will be. Typically, it's best to list your relevant skills and work experience at the top and put your education and volunteer and leadership experience at the bottom. After all, you're applying for a job so you should lead with your relevant skills.

However, there are many different ways to format a resume. Consider whether you should use a traditional or functional resume to tailor your resume to your unique skills and experience.

4. Left aligned

This is a little more wonky, but is an easy win. Text that is aligned on the left is more readable, which makes it easier for recruiters to skim your resume and see what they need to a few seconds faster.

5. White space is your friend

I won't get into the nitty gritty details of design principles, but I will say that white space is a good thing.

I've emphasized readability over and over again, and I'm doing it again. Having too many characters and words smooshed together makes it very difficult to quickly read what's on the page. Instead, aim to clearly organize your information and utilize basic design elements to create a document that's clean and easily digestible.

If you're working in a Microsoft Word document, use margins to leave a clean border, and consider using the platform's resume templates to offload the burden or formatting the text.

If you still feel like you need some professional help writing a killer resume, let's chat!


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