An interview-winning resume that spells out the specific value that you have to offer an employer remains an integral tool in your search for a job As you seek guidance on how to create your resume, your search is likely to skid to a halt when you realize that much of the information you find is contradictory. As a nationally certified resume writer and a practicing physical therapist, I want to help you untangle these contradictions and guide you in current “best practices” when creating your resume.
Your resume must first be able to pass through an applicant tracking system (ATS). The ATS uses algorithms to score resumes for keywords to determine the best fit of the applicant pool for a job. More than 90% of companies use an ATS to filter applicants so it’s very likely that you will be dealing with one during your job search. There are specific criteria that should be adhered to in order to create an ATS compliant resume – I will cover the ATS in more depth in my next blog post.
It is vital that a resume is able to pass through the ATS, but it also must appeal to the human eye. Your resume should be clean, precise, and free of grammatical errors. Check it and then double check it for errors. Let it rest overnight and then check it again. When I proofread a resume I’ve written, I read it out loud to myself to check it for accuracy and continuity. Fonts should be classic (serif and sans serif are both appropriate) and sized between 10-12. Margins should be set between .5 to 1.0 to allow for plenty of eye-appealing “white space”.
The days of the generic resume are gone – now it is imperative to customize your resume for each job that you are applying for. You must understand the specific needs of the particular role and tailor your resume to the needs of a company. For example, if you are applying for an out-patient position, you want to include the skills and keywords that are used in the job posting in order to match your qualifications for the position. If you are applying for an acute care position, you would need to address the applicable skills that you possess to the ones on that posting. Job postings and company websites provide invaluable information that are rich with resume keywords….use them to ensure that you match the job that you are applying for.
After your name, contact information, and the exact title of the position you are seeking, your resume must lead with the “wow” factor to be noticed. Your resume needs to quickly tell an employer why you are the one for the job. The objective statement has been replaced by a “qualifications profile” that immediately showcases who you are and what you have to offer. This can either be as a headline of a brief 3-5 sentence paragraph.
Each section of your resume should be clearly labeled (Education, Licensure & Certifications, Professional Experience, etc.) so that the ATS can easily process your resume. Under Professional Experience, you should list the company name, dates, job title, job description, and accomplishments/achievements. In the Education section, you want to include your degree, the academic institution, the city/state, pending date of degree, and any honors/awards. Your GPA should be included if it is 3.0 or higher. There does not need to be any reference to references on you resume either! Hiring managers already know that your references will be available “upon request” so don’t use up valuable resume space to repeat the obvious.
Resumes are generally one page for careers ten years or less and then no more than two pages for careers over ten years. HOWEVER! There are exceptions and the rules are no longer written in stone. The most important factor is to have the right content to attract the interest of the hiring manager.
Volunteer work and affiliations are important to include on your resume if they pertain to your professional “brand”. Avoid including any references to religious or political affiliations that would allow you to accuse an employer of discrimination. Many companies will pass on your resume if these are included just to avoid potential conflicts.
Finally, it is important to get your resume in front of the hiring manager. Many resumes sent through job boards and human resource departments get lost in the abyss. Discover the name of the hiring manage and address your cover letter to this person specifically and send it by US mail. Going the extra mile to do this says a lot about you! Your cover letter and your resume should be printed on watermarked paper and should be white, cream, light blue, or light grey. You should also avoid folding your documents – use a flat envelope.
Anything that you can do that sets you apart, speaks to your eye for detail, and demonstrates your professionalism is going to propel you to the job you want – make sure that your resume projects that!