Boost Executive Resume Success with 6 Strategies
A resume has one primary purpose – to secure interviews. So how can you create a strong resume that garners attention from hiring personnel and gets your foot in the door? Beyond the basic tips you’ve likely already heard (customize the resume carefully for every job… keep content sharp and succinct…be meticulous with spelling and format), here are 6 big considerations to support resume success:
1. Understand the “science” behind how a resume is read
Human readers and computer systems are both used to parse and analyze resumes. Applicant Tracking Systems (or ATS) are used by most major organizations to sort applications and identify candidates who lack the required skills for the job. These systems will not note you as a qualified candidate if your resume is not well-aligned with the job target.
HR personnel and recruiters also use a discerning eye to critique resumes to select interview candidates. So what exactly are human and computer readers searching for? Well, according to a recent analysis of 4000 job applications by TalentWorks, 13 key factors drove up interview rates of applicants. Several major resume tips taken from this article include:
- Every 3 sentences, use at least 1 number to demonstrate your (concrete) impact. Folks who did that saw gain a +40.2% boost over their competition.
- Describe your job achievements with different action verbs. This one resume tip is associated with +139.6% boost in getting more interviews.
2. Take the road less traveled
Recognize that resumes are not only for online applications. That’s right – you should diversify job search tactics to increase resume success. Job boards offer a much lower ROI because you are competing with the masses. Referrals and networking are rising as the top job search strategies. According to a recent study by Jobvite:
“Job boards have a .4% effectiveness and employee referrals have 5.2% effectiveness. In other words, an applicant has over 13X better chance of getting the job than applying through a job board.”
Additional emphasis on this topic can be found in a survey from Lee Hecht Harrison:
“The reality is that most job openings are never advertised or posted, which means tapping your network is an essential job search resource to uncover hidden opportunities. In fact, 63 percent of job seekers land new jobs through networking.”
3. Qualify advice carefully and keep up with evolving trends
If you want resume tips ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’, align yourself with experts who know resumes and job search strategies the best. Your friends, parents, and colleagues may have lots of opinions to share, but unqualified advice can be more harmful than helpful.
A starting point is to follow resume thought leaders (career coaches, resume writers, and HR personnel) on social media. These experts have their finger on the pulse of resume trends and will keep you up to speed on new developments and best practices. Need some resources to help? Connect with these Top 15 Job Search Experts to Follow on LinkedIn for regular tips on all aspects of the job search, including resumes (myself included).
4. Modernize the look and be original
You can’t expect to stand out in a stack of resumes that all look the same. While considering the unique needs of each audience, employ design tactics to guide the reader’s eye, and draw attention to important career impacts. Visual resumes are written for people, so save your design resume for modern job search tactics like referrals and networking (not online applications). More on this in point #5 below.
What do recruiters think about the actual LOOK of a resume? In this Jobscan article, a recruiter emphasizes the importance of resume presentation and how professionally written resumes stand out:
“package it in a way that blows everyone else out of the water… the resumes that really capture these facts about the executive have been professionally written by a marketing professional (or professional resume writer).”
On the flip side: a resume that looks old-fashioned, generic, or is just plain difficult to read won’t instill a lot of confidence in the reader. An outdated resume also makes you look just that – outdated. Want to see resumes that showcase well-aligned content in strategic, modern designs? View award-winning samples, like the ones below, on Career Impressions website.
5. Follow job application instructions carefully
I hear time and time again from recruiters and HR folks that job seekers are bypassing critical job application instructions- bad idea. If you want your resume and job application to be taken seriously – and be read – you need to comply with the application requests and guidelines.
If a cover letter is requested with the resume: include one! Even better, customize it! If a copy of your resume is requested to be submitted in Word (versus PDF): do it! The system may not be able to read other formats.
Want to hear what happens when you don’t follow instructions (and learn why employer’s make unique application requests)? Adam Czarnecki, an HR professional, shares a comprehensive breakdown of this topic in a recent YouTube video, in response to this LinkedIn post:
In addition, research by an HR outplacement and consulting firm reveals that:
“Failure to meet job requirements is the most common error of job applicants… Delivering what a recruiter is looking for at both the resume submission and interview stage is crucial to securing that great new job.” “Meanwhile, where candidates do actually have the right skills for the job, badly constructed resumes seem to be at play. Our research shows many job hunters fall victim to focusing on recording general tasks they have completed in their career to date, but not using such experience to illustrate achievements and results”.
6. Finally, aim to get your resume directly into the hands of decision-makers (and your network)
Applying for jobs online is one of the most challenging, and often least successful, ways of getting a resume noticed and read. To enhance the chances of your resume making it in front of person – aim to deliver it to them directly. This means bypassing the system as much as possible, building and leveraging relationships, capitalizing on referrals, and locating decision-maker’s names.
Direct distribution often seems easier said than done, but a good job search strategy involves more than online job trolling and ill-prepared applications. It stems from a reliable network of connections, strong relationships, and increased visibility. Engage your community, connections, and friends to get your resume into the right hands. Let everyone know who you are, what your value is, and what you are looking for. Also, research and pursue right-fit opportunities, companies of interest, and referral opportunities.
According to JobVite’s 2018 Job Seeker Nation Report: “Friends are the job seeking jackpot with social media, referrals, and word-of-mouth being the go-to source of new opportunities”.
The Best Executive Resumes According to Executive Recruiters (Jobscan): https://www.jobscan.co/blog/best-executive-resumes-executive-recruiters/
In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is a Prospect, Indeed (New York Times): http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/28/business/employers-increasingly-rely-on-internal-referrals-in-hiring.html
Job Seekers: 12 Things that Recruiters are Looking For Right Now (HR Bartender): https://www.hrbartender.com/2018/recruiting/12-things-recruiters-want-right-now/
Top 15 Job Search Experts to Follow on LinkedIn (Jobscan): https://www.jobscan.co/blog/job-search-experts-to-follow-on-linkedin/
Job Seeker Nation Study 2017 (Jobvite): https://www.jobvite.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/2017_Job_Seeker_Nation_Study.pdf
Hiring Managers Reveal the Secrets of Success to Job Seekers (Lee Hecht Harrison): https://www.lhh.com/about-us/press-room/2016/hiring-managers-reveal-the-secrets-of-success-to-job-seekers-in-new-lee-hecht-harrison-research
Job Seeker Nation Report 2018 (Jobvite): http://web.jobvite.com/Q218_Website_2018JSN_LP.html