Like it or not, your application to your dream job isn't going straight to the person hiring for the role. Instead, it has to pass through a gatekeeper - typically someone in HR - who is responsible for vetting resumes before passing them along to the very busy hiring manager. You have only a few seconds to make a good impression or risk getting tossed into the reject pile.
Even though you liked the company enough to send the first message, you'll receive the dreaded "thanks, but no thanks" email in return that will have you wondering where you went wrong.
So how does your resume attract enough attention to get invited on an interview? Here are seven little changes that will make a big difference to your resume:
1. Remove fluffy, cliched or obvious statements
"I have excellent communication skills and am a pro multi-tasker." Even if this statement rings true, it's also so overused that the hiring manager won't give it a second thought. Be specific about your skillset; don't just copy terms from resume samples that you think fit you. Chances are, they describe everyone else as well.
2. Remove broad, generic and outdated skills
"I am proficient in Microsoft Office 2007." Every time you update your resume, take a careful look at your skills listed. Be sure your skills are not too broad (computers), outdated (Office 2007) or generic (phone). Just list skills relevant to the position you're applying for, and leave the extras out.
3. Put education first
Do you want to put more emphasis your education or your work history? The answer to that question will tell you whether your education belongs at the top or the bottom of your resume. One of the biggest mistakes is prioritising a newly earned degree, even if you've worked in that industry for a significant amount of time. Gatekeepers and hiring managers might see your resume, assume you're a new grad with little experience and move on to the next candidate.
4. Don't take style risks
Be bold in your interview, but not on your resume. Italicising, highlighting or underlining keywords can cause your resume to appear distracting, cluttered and unprofessional. Keep it simple.
5. Show, don't tell
Don't just list your accomplishments; rather, show how you exceeded. Which sounds better: "Made Rs 5 lakh in sales in 2014" or "Exceeded sales quota by Rs 1 lakh, making Rs 5 lakh in first year sales"? Sure, Rs 5 lakh in sales seems impressive, but it needs to be put into context-for example, what if your yearly quota was Rs 50 lakh? The second example shows that you exceeded expectations, making you an asset to any team.
6. Ditch the headline
If the first thing a gatekeeper or hiring manager sees on your resume is a headline unrelated to the role you're applying for, you won't get a second glance. If you want them to keep reading, you have two options: Ditch the headline, or change your resume for every role.
7. Pay attention to location
Some companies don't want to consider an out-of-state candidate for a job opening, as interviews and relocations can be pricy. Some gatekeepers and hiring managers frequently disregard out-of-state candidates because they misinterpret the requirements or details of the position (they didn't see the location, thought it was freelance, etc). If you're looking to relocate be sure to state the reason in your resume and cover letter. This shows that you didn't make a mistake in applying to a job situated halfway across the country.
(This post was first published on the employment website The Ladders. You can read the complete article here.)