I’m a resume writer. That means I get to talk to people, learn their stories, and figure out the best way to present that information in a marketing document, more commonly called a resume.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. No one likes talking about themselves with a stranger on the phone, and no one likes rehashing the past 10-15 years of their professional life. But I like listening.
When I first started this position, I was mostly working with people looking to change jobs. But now I’m working with many people affected by the pandemic. At the time of this writing, the unemployment rate is hovering around 11 percent and more than one million people have filed for first-time benefits for the fourteenth consecutive week.
It’s fair to say that the pandemic has rocked our world. But there are still opportunities out there, especially if you are willing to switch industries. Here are a few resume tips to get you started:
1. Start with the End in Mind.
Find a few job postings before you do anything else. Read through them for keywords and job descriptions. Try to tailor your resume to use some of the same language; it will help you with ATS. Never heard of ATS? Read on.
2. Choose an ATS-Friendly Format.
Please do not go to Pinterest and search for modern resume layouts! I beg you.
ATS stands for Applicant Tracking Systems, and many companies use them to filter their applicants. Here’s the catch: Text boxes, charts, graphs, and images get jumbled in the scanning process. If that happens, your resume probably won’t make it to the hiring manager.
So, keep it simple. Search for ATS-friendly resume formats, and you should be in good shape.
3. Build Your Resume in Sections.
Start with your name and contact info, including your LinkedIn profile. Don’t have one? I suggest getting one to help with networking and job search. Follow #nowhiring. If you are a military or a military spouse, you might even be eligible for a free upgrade to LinkedIn Premium.
Then, banish the traditional objective statement. They know you want a job. Instead, write a Summary of Qualifications to help an employer understand your professional skills and philosophy. This is the place to say that you are looking to transition into a new industry as well.
Next, you need a Core Competencies or Areas of Expertise section. This is a great place to list soft skills and technical skills, especially the exact ones from the job postings that truly interest you.
Now you can write your Work Experience or Professional Experience section. Make it as results-oriented as possible. Listing your job description is not helpful; an employer wants to know what makes you special, what makes you highly-qualified, and what you have accomplished at your previous jobs. Think numbers, data, and outcomes.
I usually recommend closing your resume with an Education section. If you have a college degree, list it here plus any additional training and certifications. Dates are only necessary if you are trying to show that you were working on some sort of credential during a career gap.
4. Explain Career Gaps in Your Cover Letter.
I meant to stick to resume tips, but cover letters are an important part of the package. If you have been out of work for more than six months or so, an employer is going to wonder about it. So, be upfront. A cover letter is a perfect place to explain anything that needs explaining.
If you are a military spouse, you probably have career gaps. It’s completely fine to write that you have moved across the country (or the world!) as part of a military family. Or that you have been a caregiver for 10 years. Or that you decided to focus on your education. Or that your job was eliminated due to the pandemic. Whatever the circumstances, be honest and brief.
If this is your situation, you are an ideal candidate for putting volunteer work on your resume. It can help fill the gap and showcase your soft skills. Otherwise, volunteer work is tricky. Just make sure it’s relevant.
5. Keep Your Resume to One Page.
I can hear your jaw hitting the floor. Hiring managers spend an average of six seconds scanning a resume (after it makes it through ATS), so brevity is important.
Remember, this isn’t a documentary of your life. It’s more like a snapshot of your greatest hits. If you’ve had three noteworthy positions, you probably only have space for three-four bullet points each. Use them wisely!
Of course, if you have 20+ years of relevant professional experience or if you are applying for an executive-level position, you might need two-pages. It depends on your situation.
Be confident in your skillset and dig in! Then, find a friend to proofread.
If you think you might benefit from a professional resume writing service, I suggest finding one that includes a phone or email consultation and revisions. I think a collaborative experience is going to produce the best document(s) and ultimately, be worth the investment.