You have less than half a minute to catch the attention of recruiter going through your resume. I am not exaggerating, that’s how busy the recruiters are and that’s what they (think) can afford on scanning through each of those dozens of resumes on a typical day.
And if you fail to get them interested in you through your resume you just end up missing many good career opportunities. It does not matter how capable, committed and accomplished professional you are.. what matters is how well you are able to put across those very qualities clearly and confidently on your resume to get the recruiters hooked.
It certainly helps to understand what recruiters look for in resumes so that powered with that specific knowledge you can build a resume that will improve your odds of getting that phone call to your dream job.
Resume titles should reflect your area of expertise rather than your current designation. You could be called a software developer or software engineer or IT analyst or Associate consultant at different companies but doing the same basic role of coding applications in Java. Hence recognizable titles help recruiters understand your job function and the field you work in easily. And when they see that the role your are in (or is interested in) is one that they are recruiting for your battle is half won.
A simple and short but engaging professional summary which highlights your areas expertise, your accomplishments and provides an insight into what value you can bring in and how you are different and better than other candidates helps in creating both credibility and instant respect. Remember first impression is the best impression.
Recruiters would prefer that the candidates have an average tenure of 2 yrs and ideally 3 yrs with their employers. Hiring Managers have become very particular about this aspect and hence recruiters prefer not to submit candidates who are job hoppers. So it helps to mention the reason for change in case the change had valid reasons. In case there are career gaps, better call out the reasons rather than skipping to mention the dates of employment to cover the gaps.
Experience & Skills:
Be more specific when it comes to the skills. The length and breadth of your experience can be clearly seen in the skills you have acquired and utilized in your jobs.
Its important to call out depth of the experience using appropriate words such as expertise, exposure, knowledge, understanding, hands on etc. These qualifiers help the recruiter understand your comfort level and competency in a particular skill.
Also if your experience is predominantly in a particular domain such as healthcare or IT or Finance and you intend to continue in the same domain do high light your expertise and preference for that domain. Also use liberally industry specific keywords and business language to drive home the point that you belong in there.
Conversely if you are willing and adaptable to change domains focus more on the core skills and evidence your flexibility to work adeptly in other domains too so that you profile is not rejected for lack of industry specific expertise.
Achievements & Recognition
Key achievements and recognitions for contributions of significance go a long way in establishing your credibility as an accomplished performer. They can set you apart from other applicants and can give you instant head start. They can be provided either as a separate section in the resume or mentioned alongside the roles and responsibilities with various employers.
Achievements not only should be quantifiable and measurable but also the context in which they have been achieved need to be mentioned. For instance improved the sales by 80% or reduced the operating costs by 20% in a product category which is sluggish or has been severely impacted by market movements is a better way to quantify and qualify the achievement. Even still better would be writing a line or two about what specific actions you have taken to get those stupendous results.
Awards and promotions show that you have positively impacted the company’s cause and hence were recognized for your contributions or entrusted you with more responsibility as mark of trust in your abilities.
Unless the employers are well established brands the recruiters may not recognize them. Hence it would be good for you to give a brief introduction of your employers and bring out positive elements about the company that can catch the attention of the recruiter. For instance CMMi level kind of certifications in case of technology company or growth rate in case of startup company, or industry recognition in case of operating in a niche area can show your current/previous employers in a positive light. Remember the recruiter consciously or unconsciously values your competency based on what kind of employers you worked/working at.
Often hiring managers set minimum parameters around education. They could be either mandatory or preferred parameters. It could be around the qualification or the percentage or perception of the college or universities general standards.
So if you feel that your academic accomplishments are noteworthy make an effort to elaborate them. For instance studying at a premier institute or receiving a scholarship or medal or mentioning any distinction or above average percentages etc. Anything that will put your academics in good light will help create an impression that you have always been an achiever.
If the academic qualifications have not been great then one way to offset that is by mentioning certifications and special trainings you have received, especially when they are industry specific or job specific. They can really create a positive impact. Any articles, case studies you have published can create an impression of subject matter expert. Same holds true if you are member/associate of any groups, forums, associations which are relevant to the area of your interest.
Roles & Responsibilities
This should be more of key performance areas and deliverables and not just a list of duties. A clear and planned career movement that needs to be depicted which reflects the growth and increased potential in your abilities as the years passed by. Most often as the person gains experience and expertise the role becomes more strategic and decision making compared to operational and transactional in nature. This needs to be evidenced in the resume. Roles and responsibilities should reflect your ability and willingness to stretch, go that extra mile and do things beyond what is expected in the job to differentiate you from other candidates.
The tone and language in your resume should be positive, vibrant and confident. A resume which sounds like a laundry list of items will get a recruiter bored and frustrated. Creating a resume that gets read from start to finish is a difficult task, but it is possible if you inject your personality into the same. Then it becomes more like getting to know a person and not just reading some ones career history. Words and language that shows energy, excitement, enthusiasm, confidence, love for accomplishments, sense of responsibility will make the recruiter take a special interest.
Note: A resume will not get you a job that you don’t not have experience or expertise in. It can give you an opportunity to participate in an interview process for a job that you are qualified for.