The effects of Covid-19 on the job market haven’t abated in 2021, with unemployment rates in the U.S. still soaring at 6.3%. Like many HR professionals, I’m trying to help people in my network during this pandemic. This includes career guidance, resume reviews, facilitating connections and providing insight on successfully negotiating offers. I’ve done this once before when having to scale down a company, and the common thread I’ve realized after reviewing these resumes is that there is a disconnect between what people include in their resumes and what recruiters are looking for. HR professionals have an inside understanding of what recruiters and hiring managers consider an effective resume, and often, that clashes with what they find on a profile of even the most qualified candidates.
When drafting a stellar resume, the objective is twofold: get your contributions noticed within seven seconds — the average time a recruiter spends on scanning a profile — and get keywords picked up by an applicant tracking system (ATS). Your goal is to optimize for that time and content. The quicker it is for a recruiter to find what they’re looking for, the easier it is for you to stand out and get an interview. My advice below is for anyone looking to spruce up their resume and enter the job market.
1. Less Is More
I don’t necessarily mean reduce your text — unless your resume is longer than two pages. I’m suggesting that your words should speak volumes. Use the precious real estate on your resume effectively and convey what you did and how that reflects on what you want to do next.
Remove the fluff recruiters skip through to get to the heart of your resume: your actual work. It’s common knowledge in HR that no one really reads your summary, objectives or hobbies; recruiters can tell from your title, responsibilities and achievements whether you’d be a good fit for the role. It all boils down to quality versus quantity; strong work content and results always make it easier for recruiters to notice you.
2. Metrics Are Your Friends
A strong resume should reflect your results in previous roles and the easiest way to do this is to showcase metrics. Quantifiable success in your roles helps recruiters and hiring managers assess the impact you had at your previous company and therefore the potential you’ll bring to this new role.
This may be slightly difficult for non-revenue generating roles (e.g., people ops) but in most cases, your contributions should have directly impacted departmental or company objectives and key results (OKRs) and that should be added to your profile. When listing responsibilities and achievements, I recommend having bullet points in an action-and-result format, supported by compelling quantitative data.
3. Leadership Rules
This may sound a bit unorthodox if you’re not technically a “leader,” but if you’ve ever worked directly with leadership in your company, that in itself can be an impressive skill. Many companies look for this and explicitly state so in their job descriptions, even for junior positions. Not everyone has the opportunity to work with executives in their roles, and those of us who have wholly understand the level of professionalism, communication, expertise and finesse that’s necessary to do so.
Alternatively, if you have had direct leadership experience, semantics is everything. Replace words like “demonstrated” or “coordinated” with “led” or “spearheaded.” Especially if you're applying within the tech industry, those words have more resonance and will show ownership over your work.
Lastly, it’s becoming increasingly common in interviews for leadership candidates to showcase their citizenship milestones. This can include efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); employee resource groups (ERGs); and anything else that creates sustainable value for shareholders and stakeholders alike. So even if you think all of that isn’t relevant for the role, it’s still relevant for empathetic and servant leaders, and we can all use more of those.
4. Jack- Or Jane-Of-All-Trades
Being the Jane- or Jack-of-all-trades is common for many young professionals, especially when you’re working with startups. While many people believe this can be a liability to their career, I think it adds layers of depth to their experience, especially when they’re just starting out. It’s easy to forget that in many companies, a COO can cover HR, legal, finance and sometimes even sales and marketing.
If you’re just starting out or looking to break into a new field, consider all the things you’ve done that apply to what you’re looking for next. Sometimes there will be a correlation between the roles. Keep in mind, this is different from jumping around in different verticals in your career, which can be a liability if you’ve done it too many times.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
I have to constantly remind myself that not everything I do will yield positive results or impacts. I had to, not once but twice, significantly downsize entire workforces. While this will always be an unfavorable experience, it’s made me a more well-rounded HR professional. Negative or difficult situations you’ve faced fortify your skills and build resilience. Even though you may think your negative experience is embarrassing and won’t add value to your resume, this can stand out for recruiters. It’s even likely the hiring manager will ask you about difficult situations, how you mitigated them and the end result(s), so don’t be shy about some of the challenging and arduous parts of your roles that didn't have a positive outcome.
We’ve all been affected by the current health and economic crises, whether we understand it or not. For everyone currently job hunting, it’s easy to get discouraged but the right role is out there that suits your needs and experience. While the job market and interview experience vary for everyone, having a well-written and succinct resume can help you get noticed out of thousands of applicants. So even if you’ve just joined the professional world or you haven’t interviewed in over a decade, a strong resume can be the key to landing your next dream job.
Written by Forbes