5 resume hacks that get recruiters to respond

Originally published on workforgood.org on Mar 21, 2018 By Julius Q. Holmes IV

Again and again, job seekers tell me the same thing: “I’ve applied to countless jobs, and haven’t heard back from any of them.” Of course there are always factors outside of your control, but there are quite a few things you can do to drastically improve your chances of getting a response.

Of course, it all starts with your resume. Here’s five ways to improve it:

1. Customize your resume for each job you’re applying to.

Your resume gets just 6-9 seconds to convince a recruiter that you’re the best fit for the job – a difficult feat made nearly impossible if you’re using the same resume for every position. Each time you apply for a job, you must:

  • Add the job title you’re applying for next to your name at the top of your resume (ie, Julius Q. Holmes IV | Technical Writer).

  • Use terminology from the job description to help satisfy any Applicant Tracking Software employers may use (and which are known to eliminate 75 percent of applications).

  • Reinterpret your experience: If the skills cross over, don’t be afraid to change some of your previous job titles to match the job you’re applying for.

  • Remove unrelated experience: Including job titles that have nothing to do with the role at hand makes you look like an amateur. (This isn’t as relevant for entry-level applicants, as you don’t want your resume to appear sparse.)

  • If you include a “Career Objective” (which I generally do not recommend), customize it for the specific job and keep it concise.

2. Widen your definition of “Professional Experience.”

Use volunteer work, community service, or even extra job responsibilities to demonstrate you have the skills needed. A recruiter looking for an HR manager should think, “This person is an HR manager,” not, “This person might be able to fill the role of an HR Manager.” For instance:

  • List relevant college classes and training you’ve gotten since. Applying for an HR manager role, I might include “Recruiting 101” and “Talent Sourcing” in a “Relevant Curriculum” section.

  • Include clubs and volunteer experiences that demonstrate relevant skills under the heading “Leadership Experience.”

  • Emphasize skills from your current job that translate to the job you’re applying for. If I’m a bank teller trying to transition into an HR manager role, I could include my efforts recruiting interns at a local college.

  • Research the skills recruiters find most desirable for your target job. Watch instructional YouTube videos and practice independently, then add them to your “Skills” section.

3. Make sure bullet points are achievement-oriented.

For every bullet point, you should ask yourself, “So what?” (I guarantee every recruiter is asking the same question!) To write your resume from an achievement-oriented perspective, you must focus on what you accomplished rather than what you did:

  • Clearly demonstrate the impact your work has had on the organization, or on its clients, by being sure to include an achievement at the end of each bullet point.

  • Using resume “power words” (like accelerated, fulfilled, or negotiated) helps you avoid the same old clichés and demonstrate your true value.

  • Verifiable achievements are a huge advantage over common claims like “good team player,” which beg the question, “Says who?” Include as many numbers as possible.

For example, take the statement, “Assisted IT team in upgrading company computer software.” Adding power words, numbers, and an achievement, you get something much more effective: “Directed 23 teams in testing 800 software upgrades, then collaborated with the IT Department to repair 400+ defects.” (Find more tips for effective bullet points here.)

4. Ensure your resume is easy to skim.

No one reads anymore: They skim. This includes recruiters, who look at your resume, on average, for just 6 seconds. That makes it imperative to communicate the important information in your resume as clearly and quickly as possible.

  • Make sure your margins and spacing are even, that there are no irregularities in text sizing or font usage, and that there are no spelling errors.

  • Bold the results in your bullet points (not the entire line) to ensure a recruiter giving your resume a quick once-over sees the most important points.

  • Adding color to your resume (strategically!) can make it easier to skim, and make your resume stand out amidst all those boring black-and-white documents.

  • Entry-level candidates must communicate their value in one page, while mid-to-senior-level candidates must restrict themselves to two pages.

5. Apply to fewer jobs.

The scattershot approach – applying to countless openings in the hopes of hearing back from a few – rarely works. Instead, focus on one set of related job titles. For example, I could apply for “technical writer,” “content writer,” and “copywriter” positions without having to make major adjustments to my resume each time.

  • Choose a set of related job titles you’re going to be applying for.

  • Make sure your resume and Linkedin profile are optimized for a particular role.

  • Craft a cover letter that addresses any perceived weakness in your application, like being overqualified or work gaps.

For more help, you can download my free Resume Review Checklist here, and review your own resume like a pro.

Julius Q. Holmes IV is a resume writer, career development trainer, and founder of LordResume.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on LinkedIn Pulse.