When it comes to crafting a resume, there are a number of conflicting opinions out there on what makes it a good one — which can leave job seekers with a lot of uncertainty. Can it include a splash of color? How much do formats and fonts really matter? What sections need to be included? Should it be stuffed with keywords, or does that look bad?
To take the guesswork out of resume writing, ResumeLab surveyed over 500 hiring professionals to find out what they actually want to see in a resume. And according to their results, here’s how to craft the perfect resume to impress recruiters.
Layout, Design and Formatting
According to the survey, 73% of recruiters prefer a completely black and white resume, though 27% said using some color is fine. And when it comes to a single- or double-column layout, the overwhelming majority — 77% — said using two columns is best.
“A two-column resume is not only more aesthetically pleasing, but also easier to read,” said Michael Tomaszewski, a certified professional resume writer and career expert at ResumeLab.
Use one side to give a general overview, and the other to go into details about your work history.
“The overview side can give the recruiter a nice purview into what the candidate is all about and, thus, is a nifty time-saver,” Tomaszewski said. “This is also a wonderful chance for the candidate to highlight their top skills, capabilities and strengths, as the keywords they’d like to highlight don’t get lost in the wordiness of the job descriptions.”
No matter how you decide to format your resume, however, consistency is key — 80% of recruiters say that a consistent layout is the most important factor in their evaluation of a resume design. That means that font, font size and line spacing should be the same throughout your resume.
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Must-Have Resume Sections
According to the recruiters surveyed, all resumes should include the following sections:
- Contact information
- Resume profile (summary or objective)
- Work experience
- Soft skills
- Hard skills
And yes, you should separate out your skills into two sections — 76% of recruiters prefer soft and hard skills to be differentiated from each other on the resume.
Work experience is the most important section of your resume, no matter how long you’ve been in the workforce. For mid- to senior-level positions, 46% of recruiters said this is the most important section, and for entry-level positions, 30% said it was. For this section, it’s more important to demonstrate your accomplishments in the role rather than to just list out your job responsibilities.
“Naturally, you should be aiming to highlight your most impressive accomplishments,” Tomaszewski said. “That said, the key to making your achievements stand out is to make them quantitively oriented. Use absolute values to highlight quantities (e.g. spearheaded a team of 10, managed a $5,000,000 ad budget, etc.) as well as percentages to illustrate how you’ve improved something (e.g. introduced a new process that cut costs by 10%, decreased turnaround times by half, etc.).”
Tomaszewski said that the accomplishments highlighted in your work experience section should demonstrate how you will benefit your future team, supervisor and/or company.
“If your work experience can irrefutably show this, you are halfway there to acing your recruitment process,” he said.
Tailor Your Resume With Applicant Tracking Systems in Mind
According to the survey, 82% of recruiters use an Applicant Tracking System or human resources management system to screen resumes before they even look at them personally, so keep this in mind when writing up your resume.
“The system can be brutally efficient, but there are two major ways to increase one’s chances of a resume making it through the ATS system,” Tomaszewski said. “Firstly, ensure that if you’re using a resume builder or some kind of software, the file format is both admissible and ATS friendly. Ideally, it’s best to stick to the tried and tested word processor/PDF combination.”
“Secondly, you want to ensure that you utilize as many keywords from the job post as possible,” he continued. “However, nuance is the key. You don’t want to overstuff your resume to the point where every other word is business jargon nor claim to possess skills that you clearly don’t. Use common sense and strategically focus on the overlap between your true strengths and what the job requires. This is where the path to successfully navigating the ATS system lies.”
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