Despite many changes in the hiring process, the résumé continues to be a primary way to get noticed by an employer, and to land a job interview, said Kim Marrone, president of the Minnesota Career Development Association.
However, résumés are not as simple as they used to be.
"Today, an effective résumé needs to appeal to two very different audiences," said Marrone, who is also a senior career management consultant with Right Management. "The human reader — typically an HR representative and hiring manager — and the applicant tracking system, or online application process."
A résumé's purpose is to deliver a positive impression of your skills, credentials and experience that makes hiring managers want to call you for an interview, said Debby Magnuson, vice president of talent management for CPI Twin Cities, which provides executive coaching, leadership development, and career planning and outplacement services.
And that's it.
"A résumé should not be a comprehensive documentation of everything you've ever done at work," said Magnuson.
Replace the objective
Most experienced professionals should create a two-page résumé. A one-page résumé works for college students, recent college grads and entry-level job-seekers. A three-page résumé is fine for executives, or those with complex work histories. Human resources professionals will glance at a résumé for 10 to 20 seconds, said Marrone, so grab the reader's attention quickly by clearly communicating your value in a summary or profile section at the top of the résumé. Ditch the objective.
"Professional summary paragraphs have replaced the objective section at the top of résumés for good reason," said Magnuson. "It sounds harsh, but recruiters and hiring managers don't care about your career objectives before they've met you."
Your profile section should align your skills and strengths with each specific position you've held. For each job listed, create a bullet-point list under the job title focusing on your accomplishments — not duties. Show results, not responsibilities. The more tangible the results (with numbers and percentages), the better. Keep each bullet point to two lines unless it's a BIG deal, then consider breaking the achievement into multiple bullets. Showing accomplishments helps the reader understand or visualize how your experiences fit their company.
Tailor to the position
Customizing each résumé is important. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work. Study each job description carefully, making note of keywords and terminology. What specifically are they looking for? What skills, experience and education are required? Can you read between the lines to see what the employer needs most?
"Don't fudge your experience or misrepresent yourself in any way, even small lies can come back to bite you in a big way," said Magnuson.
Appeal to the software
The second audience the résumé must appease is the applicant tracking system (ATS), software that enables the electronic handling of recruitment needs, including the scanning of résumé submitted through an online portal.
The ATS is often the first gate to get through in the application/hiring process. In order to appeal to an ATS, you need to do two things, said Marrone:
1. Keep the résumé format basic so it is easily read.
2. Have the right keywords to avoid being eliminated from the process.
The most consistent résumé format to successfully maneuver all ATS systems is a scannable résumé in a chronological format, added Marrone. Once you have that, identify keywords and make sure they relate to the specific job description.
One popular new resource available to job seekers is Jobscan (www.jobscan.co). Jobscan is built from similar algorithms used in top ATS systems, and compares the job description or posting to the résumé to identify word and skill matches. The Jobscan results summarize hard skills and soft skills and other keywords used, helping you easily identify additional keywords that should be added to your résumé to increase your chances of passing the initial ATS screening.
Make the effort
Remember this: Even the most relevant résumés are not always the ticket to getting an interview or a job offer.
"But making the effort to align your strengths and skills with the position makes it much easier for the hiring manager to say 'I want to talk to that candidate' which opens the door to your future," said Marrone.
"Sending in your résumé alone will not always get you an interview or job," said Magnuson. "Apply online, attach your résumé when possible, then reach out to the company in a week or so to follow up on your application. Better yet, find someone you know inside the company and send your résumé to them. Networking, along with your great résumé, is still the best way to find a job."
Matt Krumrie is a career columnist from Inver Grove Heights. Learn more at resumesbymatt.com.