You might have heard hiring managers only spend six seconds looking at a resume before making a decision.
Scary, right? And while it may not be that drastic, the HR team can’t afford to spend time reading each resume thoroughly so, often, they look for reasons to dismiss a resume on the first pass. They only typically take a thorough look at the resumes of shortlisted candidates.
You don’t want to end up in the rejection pile because of something as silly as bad grammar or lack of information.
Here are our tips to increase your chances of making it through the cut and onto the interview stage:
1. Do a spelling and grammar check. Make sure that everything reads correctly. Use the spell checker on your computer and also have a friend read it over to look for anything you may have missed.
2. Don’t guess about grammar or spellings rules that you’re not sure about. If you’re not sure where to use commas and apostrophes, find a friendly Grammar-wiz to give you a hand or use a program like Grammarly to give it a once-over.
3. Use proper formatting. Use reasonable margins (2.54cm) a legible font size (size 10-12), and a clear, easy-to-read font like Georgia or Helvetica.
4. Don’t use fancy or outdated fonts. Like Comic Sans (universally voted the worst font ever) or illegible ones such as scripts that imitate handwriting, e.g. BrushScript.
5. Use bullet points… To catch the recruiter’s attention and highlight important aspects of your career.
6. But don’t bullet point everything. If you have emphasised everything in your career as important then you have left nothing that really stands out.
7. Be consistent throughout your resume. Use the same format for dates, job titles and headings. Make sure everything is aligned correctly, you don’t want to appear sloppy or slapdash. This is where a lot people who claim to have “attention to detail” fall over! Don’t change font type, font size (outside of headings), or the ordering of information.
8. Use date order in sections like ‘Work History’. You want to make it easy for the recruiter, not make them work to find your details.
9. Do tailor your resume for each job opening. And use keywords related to the industry and job position you are applying for. This includes using active verbs in your responsibilities section to clearly define your key skills.
10. Don’t use a generic resume that tries to address multiple job types. You risk looking like a Jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Most job descriptions include skills directly related to the job in addition to other desirable soft skills. Make sure you use the same terms in your resume and application to avoid the hiring manager (or the software they use) having to guess about whether you have them.
Listen: Journalist Tara Moss shares her tips for building the perfect resume one step at a time.
11. Show hiring managers you’ve got what they’re after. Show them you possess the qualities they are looking for, like hardworking and experienced, by referencing times you went above and beyond and your accomplishments and responsibilities to demonstrate just that.
12. Don’t re-hash old clichés and empty phrases that don’t reveal anything about you. Similarly, don’t use subjective phrases like exceptional or innovative. Let your results speak for themselves.
13. Maintain a professional tone throughout the resume. And only include links to websites that you think may be applicable for the job. If, for example, you’re applying for a social media manager’s job, you might want to include a link to your Instagram account.
14. Don’t use casual language. And don’t include social media links that could give a recruiter any reason to think that you may be unsuitable for the position — and no text speak or emojis!
15. Include up-to-date contact information. Ensure that there are no typos that would lead a hiring manager to a dead inbox or a wrong number.
16. Don’t use an old or informal email address. Like [email protected] Be professional. Typically, your email should be your name – or some form of it. When putting these details on a resume, just enter them under a heading that says “Contact Details”. There’s no need to put “phone” or “email”. Hiring managers know what these are.
17. Make each application and cover letter personal. Demonstrate why you have the skills and experience necessary for that specific job. It’s also wise to demonstrate you know a little about the company and appeal to their “ego” by describing why you want to work for them and what you think you can bring to their organisation.
18. Don’t use third person. This is just plain strange. The person reading knows your resume is about you so use ‘I’ and ‘me’ (where appropriate).
19. Include your qualifications with the correct name. For example, a Certificate III in Business is not a Cert 3. Include the name of the place you studied each.
20. Don’t include your ATAR or GPA… Unless it is extremely high and you are currently a student or a recent graduate. After three years, what you scored becomes totally irrelevant.
Happy job hunting.
Fiona Anson and Alli Baker are the co-founders of online jobs platform, JobGetter. It’s a platform designed to get you the job you actually want and provides feedback each time you miss out.