You’ve got approximately 6 seconds to capture the attention of the recruiter reviewing your resume. How do you make the most out of it and ensure your professional CV is communicating itself quickly and effectively?

Understanding what recruiters are looking for – particularly in the current climate of a candidate-rich market due to the pandemic – will give you a massive advantage of standing out from the crowd, keeping them engaged to read on, and ultimately having your resume moved to the “interview” pile.

1. A compelling hook

This could be in the form of including a strong one-line professional summary or mission statement immediately after your name and contact details, which outlines your elevator pitch for the job you are specifically applying for.

Additionally, consider using a free resume or CV template, whereby the design can make a strong first impression because the layout and fonts are simple and easy to read. And importantly, the content is the opposite of cramming as much information on the page as possible.

2. Your key achievements

Recruiters will not spend time digging around a resume to identify your key achievements. Therefore, you need to ensure they are presented front and centre to allow the recruiter to determine that you are the right candidate to be put forward for the job. 

There is also a strong opportunity to weave some keywords in your list of achievements, particularly if the job description provides specific outcomes or responsibilities. Linking those results or requirements to your past and current achievements will help build your case as a strong candidate for the job.

Depending on your experience, industry and function, achievements can be listed as:

  • Revenue you’d made for the company
  • Key projects you managed
  • Strong statistics for outcomes led or driven by you
  • Ideas or innovations you introduced
  • Procedures you implemented
  • Qualifications, awards and promotions
  • Top results in exams or tests

3. Keywords

Recruiters appreciate when you have incorporated keywords into your resume because it means you:

  • Read the job description thoroughly,
  • Possess higher attention to detail than applicant who didn’t use keywords, and 
  • Have taken the time to tailor the information in your resume to suit that specific job you are applying for.

By applying keyword relevancy throughout your resume, it can significantly decrease the time it takes for recruiters to determine whether you are a potential candidate for a phone call or job interview. Ultimately, using keywords will show you are speaking the same language as the recruiter whether it is through your industry skills and abilities, soft skills or specific technical or software skills.

One important thing to note is to avoid keyword overkill. Be very selective in the keywords you use and also avoid industry jargon or buzzwords if they do not serve any real purpose.

4. Two pages maximum

Unless you’re applying for an executive job – which often requires a longer resume to allow space for more extensive career experience at the c-suite level – the two-page resume rule for experienced job seekers should apply. For school leavers and fresh university graduates, it’s common that your resume will only be one page until you start to build on your experience and qualifications.

Keep in mind, studies have shown that an engaged recruiter will spend the same amount of time on a resume’s second page as the first. However, the time spent on the second page is strongly predicted by how compelling your first page is.

Other elements of your resume you must also get right

  • Full name and up-to-date contact details
  • Complete work history and experience
  • Complete qualifications and education
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