Hating your résumé is a terrible feeling. Believe me, I’ve been there. My first post-college résumé was a document that was almost personified by how much I loathed it. It was free of typos and used proper grammar. It met all of the standard requirements of what a résumé is supposed to be. So what was the problem?
Simply put, it wasn’t me. It was devoid of all of the qualities that made me special, all of the details that made me a great hire. I had a résumé that did not yet reflect professional experience in my field and looked like a template. There was nothing on that piece of paper that said “you need to hire this person.”
As a recent graduate, my lack of experience was common. However, just because I was new to the professional landscape didn’t mean that I didn’t have other experience. My mistake was that while trying to make the résumé look neat and professional I stripped away all of the important things.
There were no keywords to help HR software find my résumé. Not getting the résumé into someone’s hands is a crucial error. Even if a résumé is stellar, it will do no good if no one sees it. My résumé also failed the six-second test. If a recruiter or HR manager looked at it for just six seconds, it would almost certainly go into the reject pile.
My terrible first professional résumé ended up being a huge lesson in what not to do. Here are some of the biggest lessons I learned from the experience:
- Optimize for keywords: the first step in the job-search process is getting your resume into someone’s hands. Most companies use some sort of applicant tracking system to sort through potential candidates before deciding who to call for an interview. If you tailor your resume to feature keywords mentioned in the job posting, you are more likely to have your résumé picked up.
- Highlight your skills: don’t rely solely on keywords to make your résumé shine. Take time to showcase your specific achievements and abilities. The skills that the job posting doesn’t mention could still help get you hired. Think of it this way, the applicant tracking system pulls résumés based on keywords and similar factors. This means all of the potential interviewees probably used the same keywords as you did. Highlighting other noteworthy skills or accomplishments can help you stand out from the stack of applicants.
- One size does not fit all: every résumé should be tailored to a specific job with a specific company. No exceptions! It may be tempting to send the same résumé to 15 companies rather than taking the time to tailor it for 5 specific companies, but this is not the most effective strategy. The time that you spend personalizing the résumé will help make it easier for you to get results.
- Include a personalized cover letter: this may be a polarizing topic, as some recruiters dismiss the importance of cover letters. For me, however, a strong cover letter is a must-have. In fact, it was my cover letter that got me in the door for my first post-college job despite my sub-par résumé. A cover letter gives you more freedom to be yourself and really connect to the hiring manager.
Your résumé should be as strong on paper as you are in real life. Whether you are fresh out of college or have over a decade of experience, your résumé should be tailored to suit the specific job and highlight your experience and skill-sets.
I didn’t know better when I wrote that first résumé, but I do now. An over-formatted piece of paper that lacks any real sense of your abilities will not improve your chance of getting a job. If you can’t seem to fix the problems on your own, there are professional services that can create your ideal résumé for you.
Don’t hurt your chances of being hired by sending out a résumé you hate. Creating something that you are proud of can help you land an interview and even increase your chances of being hired. When making your résumé, be yourself and be smart. You have what it takes to get hired, all you have to do is show them why.
This guest post was provided by Erin Palmer. Erin is a writer and editor who covers topics found in the Masters Degree in HR online programs for the University Alliance. Learn about human resources careers such as HR manager and other career information at villanovau.com. Feel free to connect with Erin on Twitter: @Erin_E_Palmer