Many websites offer advice on how to improve your resume via fancy fixes and attention-getting flourishes, but it’s the simplest details that make critical differences. Your resume’s path to the “yes” pile lies in your ability to master the fundamentals. Take a step back and ask yourself what is really necessary.
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To improve your resume, go back to basics and tighten up the seemingly insignificant aspects of your application. This includes demonstrating focus and being consistent with your content.
How to improve your resume’s focus
Focusing your resume means knowing what is appropriate and relevant for a given industry or position.
You should let this kind of professional discernment drive your resume writing process from the beginning to the end. This concept encompasses everything from the content to the form.
For example, the type of language you’ll use and the level of detail you’ll provide will change from one industry to another. The same thing applies to your resume formatting, layout, and style. Make sure you research your industry thoroughly and review successful resumes for you to follow.
Here are some ways to focus your resume:
Narrow down your content to align with your desired position
Nothing is more annoying to recruiters than a candidate who lacks focus and understanding of what the position and the company entail.
Review every aspect of your resume asking, “How does this make me a good fit for this specific position?” If it doesn’t, consider removing it.
Make sure you’re using the appropriate language and tone for the job
Don’t hesitate to get a little technical if it’s called for.
When you review your resume, make sure you replace every vague word for more meaningful terms that resonate with people in the industry. For example, instead of writing “increased online sales by 15%,” write “increased web traffic conversion rate by 15%.”
Shine a light on your past accomplishments
Carefully pick the achievements that show your ability to overcome the challenges at the job you’re applying for.
It’s better to expand on fewer relevant accomplishments than selling yourself short by mentioning everything you’ve ever accomplished.
Choose winning keywords for your position and industry
Focusing on exact keywords found in the job description may help you rank higher in an ATS. Jobscan’s resume optimization tool analyzes your resume against the job description to show which keywords you need on your resume.
Delete any clutter and words that don’t matter
This advice cannot be overstated: respect your reader’s time.
Strictly limit the information on your resume to the minimum necessary, or information key to helping the recruiter make an informed decision about your candidacy.
Some ATS even use something called “signal to noise ratio” when analyzing the content of your resume. The higher percentage of words in your resume that relate to the job description, the higher you can rank. Filler could land you in the “no” pile.
How to improve your resume’s consistency
Once your resume fits your industry and desired position, you need to make sure your resume fits itself. Pay attention to every detail. This kind of minutia will strengthen your credibility and boost your professionalism.
Proofread your resume for typos and grammatical mistakes
Typos and grammatical mistakes speak so much about your rigor and professionalism that most recruiters will shamelessly dismiss you if they find them in your resume.
There are many online tools out there (like Grammarly) that can help you proofread your resume for spelling and grammar. Ask friends to take 10 minutes of their time to give you a hand spotting the last few errors in your resume.
Make sure your spelling, sentence structure, and usage are the same throughout your resume
Sometimes there are several ways to express an idea or a concept, so make sure that you use the same one throughout your entire resume.
For example, if you wrote “increased profit margins by 50% over a 4-month period,” don’t write “increased customer base by 40 percent over a six-month period” somewhere else in your resume (“%” to “percent” and “4-month” to “six-month”).
If you use the serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma), use it everywhere.
“Say their last position they were there from ‘10/12/2010 until 11/1/2017’ but in the previous company the person said from ‘November 2, 2008 until January 3, 2009,’” a recruiter told Jobscan. “That’s misformatted in the way the dates are conveyed. I know that’s a very nitpicky thing, but I’ve had candidates not move forward in the process because of something like that.”
Consistency is your best policy.
Make sure your resume is easily skimmable
Try to read your resume as fast as you can, skimming from one section to the other. What do you take away?
If recruiters can’t get a sense of who you are by only skimming your resume, then all your hard work was in vain. It was proven times and again, recruiters spend just a few seconds looking at your resume before they make a decision.
Jobscan’s resume optimization tool checks for things like sentence and bullet point length to ensure that recruiters can easily skim your resume.
Need help getting started?
Start by scanning your resume with Jobscan’s resume optimization tool for a checklist of missing keywords, ATS insights, recruiter preferences, and other resume best practices: