Guest contributor Margaret Buj gives us her inside tips on how to optimize your resume.

In my recruitment job and in coaching practice, I see a lot of candidates with good experience but very mediocre resumes. Many of them apply for jobs for months on end and are frustrated that they’re not getting results.

Most people could absolutely get more interviews if they understood how recruiters read resumes and how to tailor their application to specific jobs.

The first thing to understand is that recruiters do not actually “read” resumes. If they have 30-100 resumes to review per each job, your CV/resume will be given just a brief glance to see if you have the relevant experience the employer is looking for.

As a job seeker, you need to learn how to pass this ‘resume scan’ – here are some actionable steps:

Create strong Summary or Skills sections

You need to be able to grab the recruiter’s attention immediately. You might have a lot of skills in different areas, but to pass the resume scan, you need to draw the attention to the few skills that directly relevant to the role. Help the recruiter categorize you into something they understand.

If you are a project manager, for example, the recruiter needs to understand this in a few seconds of looking at your resume. Make it obvious with your headings, the language you use, and skills you list. An effective summary section will help the recruiter identify if you are a viable candidate for the position quickly.

Instead of mundane and boring phrases that add nothing to help you stand out (e.g. “I am a results-oriented team player” or “I can work on my initiative” etc.), use a powerful headline instead.

Tell them who you are and what've done previously. Talk about a relevant impact you've made on a prior team or a key metric you were responsible for and improved.

And you don’t have to be in a sales role either to be able to quantify your achievements. Here are some ways to do it no matter what field you’re in.

I also like to encourage a “Skills” section at the top of each resume. If you are applying for a technical role, your technical skills (software, databases, programming languages etc.) should appear in this section to give a quick recap to discerning readers.

Be careful, though: I see candidates listing 25 different skills they have even if they are not relevant to the job. You’d be better off emphasizing 6 skills that are directly relevant to the vacancy you’re interested in.


Send out fewer applications but customize each one

I have seen the same candidate apply for 20 jobs in one company – most of which they are not qualified for. It is always better to send less applications but tailor each one to the specific job.

Tailoring your CV/resume for each job you are applying for might sound like a time consuming task, but it can significantly increase your chances of securing an interview.

Use relevant keywords

A lot of companies use applicant tracking software to mine data from your resume by looking for relevant keywords or phrases. Therefore, it is important you highlight all of your relevant skills and experience.

If you look at the job posting and say to yourself, “I’ve done these things,” you want to make sure those skills are actually reflected in the same language in your resume. Examples of keywords might include specific computer programs or words like ‘e-commerce,' ‘marketing communications,’ 'Node,' or ‘accounts payable’.

Find out how to choose the best keywords for your resume or LinkedIn here.

Highlight relevant achievements

Many resumes I see as a recruiter either don’t have achievements listed (only responsibilities) or the achievements listed are not specific and measurable. Before you send out an application, you always need to ask yourself the question: “Would someone who looks at my resume understand what I am really good at?”

If you want to get noticed, you must list some accomplishments that demonstrate the value you bring to an organization and what problems you solve for each particular employer. Show prospective employers that you have considered what relevant skills and experience they are after and make small tweaks to your application before applying.

This will significantly increase your chances of more job interviews and, with enough effort and time, more job offers.

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