After a few sluggish years, the economy is finally making strong gains. While this is generally great news for job seekers, the long-awaited hiring thaw means stiffer competition for available roles. Making your resume stand out in a crowded field is critical to gaining an edge over the growing field of job seekers; fortunately, it's not as difficult as you'd think.
Write a killer cover letter
Don't neglect your cover letter, as it's often a recruiter or hiring manager's first impression of you, before they even look at your resume, says James Stanger, senior director, product development, CompTIA.
"Cover letters and resumes are the first impression hiring managers and recruiters have of you, so make sure they're solid and professional. This is not the place to be cute with formatting, font or design. Keep it simple and clean so the emphasis will be on the content. Use a font like an Arial which is pretty standard and easy to read; not a swirly, cursive font that's going to annoy anyone who's reading," he says. Another great choice for resumes is Helvetica, according to a recent report from Bloomberg.
Use your connections
Networking and referrals from current employees are how many businesses source their best hires, so leverage your network to the hilt, says Alyssa Gelbard, CEO and founder of Resume Strategists. The beginning of your cover letter is an appropriate place to mention if you're sending your resume and application at the request of someone at the company, Gelbard says, or if you're a friend or former colleague of an employee. "You should lead with this information; this gets noticed quickly by whoever's reading your letter, and will help you stand out," says Gelbard.
Format for maximum impact
Format is more important than you think. Make sure your format is clean, clear, concise and precise so that the content of your resume can shine through. "The format isn't by any means the most important part of a resume, but spend a lot of time to get this part right. If you don't, you'll draw attention to your resume for all the wrong reasons," says Stanger.
There are probably thousands of free resume templates available both within your existing business software suite and available on the Web; use them, says Stanger.
Formatting is also the key to getting your resume past an automated applicant tracking system (ATS) or a resume parser that scans these documents for specific keywords, phrases and skills. ATS use a resume-filtering module that scans and grades resumes on a scale of 0 to 100, with points given for each match in keywords and terms that happens between a resume and a job posting, says Rick Gillis, an author, career coach, job search consultant and speaker.
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