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Looking for job openings has (theoretically) never been easier, with access to search sites filled with millions of listings online. But with millions of people seeing the same job ads as you and all hitting ‘apply’, what’s the most effective way to make yourself stand out as a candidate?
If you’ve been blindly filling out job applications, and not hearing anything back, it might not be that you aren’t the most qualified — it could be as simple as the formatting of your resume. Once you’ve mastered the art of choosing the right job search site for your own career focus, it’s time to begin brushing up your resume.
Don’t know how to make a resume (or a stand-out one)? Whether it’s been a while since you’ve been actively job searching, or you’re fresh out of school and new to the market, everyone can benefit from taking a pass at your resume. Not only should it contain all the necessary information about your background, education, and experience, it should be streamlined into an easy-to-read format.
The main things you need to keep in mind is that your resume should be up-to-date, and focus on experience that’s relevant to the specific job you’re applying for (having multiple resumes is important). These days, many job board sites use advanced AI programs to parse through your resume and pick out key words about your qualifications and skills to determine whether you’re a match for the position, or even the company hiring. You need to be able to summarize succinctly why you’re the best person for the job, and communicate your previous experience to the employer.
Luckily for you, some job sites have personalized career coaching, or include sections about how to edit your resume (like this section on ZipRecruiter). But if you want to create a resume that will actually get noticed by employers, you can also follow these simple tips and tricks that’ll help you snag that next job.
1. Choose the Right Resume Format
First off, make sure you’re using the correct format for the level and amount of experience you have, and what the industry you’re applying into focuses on most. The three most common resume formats are chronological (or reverse-chronological), functional or a combination.
You’re probably most familiar with the chronological format, which places your professional history first and lists your history in, well, chronological order. This is a great option if you’re a professional who’s been established in one industry for a long time, but it can easily show gaps in your employment if you have any. The functional resume format emphasizes your hard and soft skills (like leadership, or any certifications you have), and is a great option for entry-level job hunters, or if you’re switching industries. A combination resume is exactly what it sounds like, a bit of both — great if you want focus on both your skills and your work experience, but a balance that’s hard to execute on a single-page resume.
2. Focus on Relevant Keywords
Most companies these days use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to give them a hand during the hiring process, so tailoring your resume so you’ll stand out as a candidate is absolutely necessary. Go through the job description and look for keywords related to the responsibilities of the position, and add them to your own resume (when relevant to areas of your experience).
This will also help on specific job sites like ZipRecruiter, which uses a powerful matching algorithm and AI technology to create instant matches between you and the right companies for what you want to do. Using information about your skills (such as education, skills, and experience), it can connect you with thousands of businesses online through their browser site, mobile app, and email program.
You can also sign up to receive notifications when your resume is viewed, and emails from recruiters if a job listing that matches your profile pops up. ZipRecruiter‘s salary search tool also gives you transparency on what employees in similar positions are making based on location and title. Best part: you sign up and create a ZipRecruiter account for free.
3. Mention Soft and Hard Skills
Employers don’t just want to hear about where you’ve worked —they also want to know if you’ve got the skills it takes to succeed in a specific position. That includes both technical skills like specific software programs (hard skills) and interpersonal skills (soft skills) that are beneficial to how you manage the workload, but also how you work on a team. Whatever you list, make sure you get specific (“Microsoft Excel budget tracking” will make you stand out more than just “experience with Microsoft Office”).
Review the job description carefully and consider which skills are most relevant to the position, but also which skills (like leadership, creativity, drive) have helped you succeed in the past. Mentioning soft skills is also beneficial when you’re changing careers or industries, or if you’re an entry-level candidate with little experience. You can either weave your skills into your job history section, or create a dedicated skills section with keywords tailored to the employer.
4. Use Generic Job Titles
Many companies have their own proprietary names for internal job titles (think “Cast Members” at Disney), but ATS systems won’t pick up on these idiosyncrasies. You should write any past job titles you’ve held in generic terms on your resume, so that recruiter (or an AI system) can easily understand what type of position you held.
One way you can adjust this is by searching job descriptions that match your current role on job sites like ZipRecruiter. It’s also another way to see what your job title should be at your level of experience. Don’t change your role complete, or posture as having more experience than you have, but keep it simple.
5. Test Your Resume on a Real AI System
Once you’ve properly formatted your resume, you can test how well an ATS system will be able to read it by uploading it to a job site like ZipRecruiter that converts your resume into a job seeker profile.
The best job search sites will be able to show you which parts of your resume stand out based on what it automatically extracts for your profile. This will give you good insights on where to course-correct. Maybe you need to go back and add in numbers that quantify your successes (“brought in a $130k contract” as opposed to “handled high-level contracts”), streamline your education section (get rid of your GPA if it’s been a while since you’ve been in college), or just fix spelling and grammar errors.