By: Gretchen Adams, a regular contributor to The UMA Blog
To get a job, you need to land an interview first—and that starts with a strong resume. So how do you create a resume that gets attention and stands out from the crowd?
It’s all about preparation and customization. One-size-fits-all resumes are not the most effective way to get noticed. Technology has changed the hiring process, and your resume needs to meet today’s hiring standards to avoid getting lost in the shuffle.
Seventy-five percent of hiring managers use software for recruiting or applicant tracking, according to a recruiting software study by Capterra. Since so many employers use this type of software, it’s important to customize your resume to the job you’re applying for.
Use this guide to learn the steps you can take to build a successful resume. You’ll also find tips to help you during the job search process.
Before you begin, take time to learn the pieces you need for a successful resume. Remember that your resume should always be tailored to the specific job you’re applying for. That means you may not need to include every past job or experience on every resume.
Keep this guide handy when you build your next resume. Based on the specifics of the job you’re going for, you can decide which of the components below to include.
An objective statement is a brief overview of your career goal and how you plan to achieve it. Though this is a common resume element, it isn’t used as often anymore.
When employers look at a resume, they want to know what you can do for them. Since objective statements tend to focus on you instead of the employer, it may not be the best choice to begin a resume.
However, there are some opportunities where an objective statement could work. For example, if you are changing careers.
During a career change into a new field, many of your resume highlights may relate to your old job function instead of the one you’re applying for now. In this case, an objective statement could explain why you’re right for the new job.
If you decide to use an objective statement, it should include specifics that show the employer why you fit the new role.
Objective Statement Dos and Don’ts
- Do: Make sure you’re being specific about how your skills will be an asset for the job
- Don’t: Use generic language that doesn’t say anything tangible
- Do: Show how skills from your last job will connect with the new role when you’re changing career fields
- Don’t: Include an objective statement unless it adds something of value to the employer
Summarize Your Skills
A skills summary is a place to highlight your qualifications. This is a crucial part of a resume because employers are looking for a specific set of skills. Ideally, you want your skills section to show the employer that you have the skills needed to excel in the position.
This section of your resume can be done in different ways. You can create a skills statement, which is a short paragraph explaining your talents. Or you can do a bulleted list or a set of columns that feature your skills.
Keep in mind that most people skim over resumes, so lengthy paragraphs might cause an employer to miss important information. Try to keep it to the point.
When you summarize your skills, use strong, descriptive words to make your resume stand out.
Skills Summary Dos and Don’ts
- Do: Make it easy for employers to skim through your resume
- Don’t: Use long paragraphs that may hide your skills
- Do: Highlight skills listed in the job description
- Don’t: Include generic skills or skills that aren’t needed for the specific job
- Do: Focus on a small number of highly relevant skills to keep this section brief
- Don’t: Use this section to go over technical abilities (these will be in another section)
Professional Work Experience
Another section you should include in every resume is your professional experience in previous jobs. This portion of your resume should provide tangible support for the skills you list and your objective statement (if you include one).
In this part of your resume, you’ll go over your experience in previous career roles. Typically, you want to arrange these in reverse chronological order, with your most recent position at the top.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to list every position you’ve ever held, especially if you’ve worked for a long time. If your previous positions have nothing to do with the skills needed for the position you’re applying for, they shouldn’t be included.
When you present your work experience, it should achieve a couple of things: summarize your previous job duties and demonstrate your career achievements.
Include your job title, company name, and the dates you held your previous position. If you’re still working in your most recent position, you can indicate that. For example, if you were hired in January 2014 and still work in the position, you would write, “January 2014 — Present.”
To demonstrate your career achievements, focus on things you can quantify with numbers. For example, “strong sales record” isn’t specific enough to really show an employer what you accomplished. Instead, show your strong sales record by listing the specific dollar amounts you brought into the company, and the timeframe in which it happened.
Always try to connect your previous experiences with the skills necessary for the job you want. This customization can help increase the chance that HR software will find your resume. It also helps you get the attention of hiring managers when they’re reviewing stacks of resumes.
Professional Work Experience Dos and Don’ts
- Do: Showcase your achievements with measurable results
- Don’t: Use non-specific statements
- Do: Focus on achievements that are relevant to the position you want
- Don’t: Include every job you’ve ever had if the experience doesn’t relate to the position you’re applying for
- Do: Make sure to highlight your most recent or current job
- Don’t: List every detail of your job duties
Present Your Education
Education can be an asset for your career. College degrees, career training, and relevant professional certifications should be included on your resume. However, the way you present your education on a resume will depend on the job and your level of experience.
If you’re at the beginning of your career path and you don’t have much professional experience yet, your education section can be more expansive. Since you don’t have work experience to help show employers you’re right for the job, you can use relevant education experience.
If you‘re still in school when you apply for a job, include your anticipated graduation date so the employer knows you’re a current student.
For an entry-level position without career experience, you can place the education section toward the beginning of your resume. For any other position where you do have relevant career experience, you should place your education toward the bottom of your resume.
Education Dos and Don’ts
- Do: Include relevant education experience
- Don’t: Put your education toward the top of the resume unless you have little relevant work experience
- Do: Include professional certifications that relate to the job you’re applying for
- Don’t: Forget to include your anticipated graduation date if you’re still a student
Add Technical Skills
Most jobs include some sort of technical requirements. You may need to know specific programs or have experience with a particular operating system. Perhaps the job requires you to know how to use a few different programming languages. Maybe you need Photoshop abilities.
The technical skills portion of your resume will list out these specific skills. If the job you’re applying for requires technical abilities you have, make sure you include these on your resume.
If you have technical abilities that aren’t listed in the job requirements, but you believe they will be an asset to the position, include them! For example, if you’re applying for a front office position and you have experience in common healthcare billing software, include that. Even if the job description doesn’t list that skill, it could help you in the front office role.
Technical Skills Dos and Don’ts
- Do: Include your experience with relevant programs, software, and other equipment
- Don’t: List technical skills that have no relation to the position you’re applying for
- Do: Include any technical skills that can help you excel at the job or give you an edge over other applicants
- Don’t: Forget to use the right keywords to help HR software find your resume
Showcase Volunteer Work and Organization Memberships
A resume should give potential employers a complete snapshot of your professional abilities. This can include volunteer work and membership in professional organizations, which may help you provide a bigger picture of who you are and what you care about.
You can label this section based on what you include. If you’re focused on professional organizations, you might call this section “Memberships and Affiliations.” If you’re focusing on volunteer work, you could label it “Volunteer Experience.”
If you’re including both, you need to decide if you want to keep them together or make separate sections. If there are only a couple of things in each section, you could combine them into one. If you have extensive experience in each area, you could keep them separate.
For entry-level applicants who don’t have much professional experience yet, volunteer work or active membership in a relevant professional organization can help round out your resume.
For more experienced applicants, volunteering and participation in professional organizations can showcase your commitment and display new skills that your regular experience section may not include.
Volunteer and Organization Membership Dos and Don’ts
- Do: Include your title if you held a specific position like president or membership chair
- Don’t: Put this information high up on a resume unless you have no work experience yet
- Do: Keep the focus on recent and relevant volunteer work
- Don’t: Forget to include related project-specific work like creating a video or organizing a large event
Consider Resume Extras like Achievements, Awards, or Publications
Take a moment to consider some optional resume components that could help you stand apart from your competition. For example, if you have several noteworthy career achievements, they could merit their own section.
An achievement section should only include big moments in your career. If you don’t have enough big achievements to make a separate section, then you can incorporate your achievements into other sections of your resume.
Awards are similar. If you’ve only won a single award throughout your career, it might not be worth making an entire section. But if you’ve won multiple awards, it could be worth giving them a spotlight in an Awards section.
Depending on your career focus, you might also want to include a Publications section in your resume. If a major industry publication has published your work, this could be worth adding.
Think about relevancy before including this section. Ask yourself if this section is going to help a hiring manager choose you for the job you want.
Achievements, Awards, or Publications Dos and Don’ts
- Do: Highlight major standout moments of your career with these resume extras
- Don’t: Use a separate Awards or Achievement section if you’re just repeating things from other sections of your resume
- Do: Combine these into one section (like “Awards and Achievements”) if there isn’t enough information to have stand-alone sections
- Don’t: Include a Publications section if you’ve only been published in obscure or unrelated publications
Customize Your Resume
One of the biggest misconceptions about resumes is that you create one and you’re done. Even if you craft the perfect resume, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t customize your resume for the job you’re applying for.
In other words, every job you apply for should have its own resume. If you have a strong base, you might not need to do much to tweak it. But customization can be the difference that helps recruiters and HR professionals find your resume. It can help potential employers see you’re the right person for the job. So let’s work on customization details!
Customize Your Personal Information
Your personal information may seem like the one part of your resume that doesn’t need to be to customized. But sometimes a little customization in this section can make your resume stronger.
Many people include their full addresses on their resumes. However, this isn’t always necessary. For example, if your resume is going to be up in a public place, it isn’t safe to have your full address out there.
If you’re applying for a local position, you could include your city and state to show that you live in the area. If you’re applying for a position in a new city or state, however, your current address might hurt your chances instead of helping.
So if you live in Phoenix but plan on moving to New York, consider customizing your resume to indicate your intentions when applying for jobs in NYC. Instead of your current city and state, you could say “Relocating to New York in May 2018” to increase your chances of being considered for a New York job.
Customizing Your Resume with Keywords
It can’t go understated: your resume needs keywords. It doesn’t matter how good it is if no one ever sees it.
Getting noticed by HR software is often the first step in your application process. So it’s important to include the keywords to get your resume through that step and into someone’s hands.
Even after your resume gets to an actual person, it still needs to make an impact. Studies have shown that hiring managers will scan a resume for an average of six seconds. That’s it!
This means your resume needs to stand out in less than 10 seconds. If you take the time to customize your resume to the job you’re applying for, it can be easier for hiring managers to find what they’re looking for.
Make sure your keywords are used in a way that makes sense. Don’t throw them in where they don’t fit, or you’ll risk confusing the hiring manager.
Here’s a simple tip. Take the job description for the job you want and highlight the keywords that you hope to include in your resume. Then look at your resume components and align the keywords to the section that fits best.
Customizing Your Resume with Action Words
Keywords can help an employer find you. Action words can help them see what you can do.
Use verbs in your resume to show your accomplishments and their results. For example, if you helped improve your department’s budget, you want to use a strong word to describe it along with details on how it helped the company.
You might say, “Reduced the supplies budget by 15%, which allowed those funds to be diverted into a system upgrade that improves patient response time by 21% within three months.”
This statement shows two different achievements (saving the company money by cutting the supplies budget and strengthening the IT infrastructure with better technology). It also gives numbers to support the statement and a timeline to provide context.
Here are some examples of strong action words that can help strengthen your resume:
What to Include in Your Resume
Be deliberate with every element of your resume. Just because there’s a commonly used resume component doesn’t mean it should go in your resume.
Each item included in your resume should serve a clear purpose. Your resume doesn’t need fluff. If you have a skill, list it, but don’t try to stretch the truth with abilities you don’t have.
For example, if you work in the healthcare industry but don’t interact directly with patients, you wouldn’t want to include “patient care” in your resume—even if it’s a keyword your employer is looking for. You don’t want to include anything in your resume that you can’t back up later in an interview or on the job.
Customizing Your First Impression
A resume is often your first impression with a potential employer. Make sure it’s a good one!
Let’s start with the obvious. Double, triple, and quadruple check your resume during the customization process. Make sure that there are no spelling mistakes or typos as you add, change, or move things around.
You should also take a close look at your email address. If your name is Jason Greaves and your email address is email@example.com, that sounds professional. But if your email is firstname.lastname@example.org, that doesn’t sound professional at all.
The same principle goes for your outgoing voicemail message. After you work so hard to make a positive first impression with your resume, the last thing you want is to ruin that positive image with a silly voicemail message when you’re called for an interview.
As you’re applying for jobs, listen to your voicemail message and update it if needed. Have a joke voicemail message? Change it. Does your voicemail message have music blaring in the background? Record it again without the music.
Even things that are sweet in real life can come across as unprofessional to a potential employer. So save that adorable outgoing message of your kids until after your job search is over.
Resume Layout and Formatting
Now that you know what to include in your resume, it’s time to consider where to place everything. Layout and formatting can either help or hurt your chances of creating an effective resume.
There isn’t one right way to arrange your resume. But there are best practices to keep in mind when choosing the format and layout that fits your needs and can help your resume get noticed.
Take time to go over these layout and format tips so you can make an informed decision about the design of your resume.
Resume Layout and Format Tips
When choosing a layout and format for your resume, simplicity is key. Your resume should be easy for applicant tracking software to scan and for hiring managers to review.
Design tends to confuse common applicant tracking software. So using fancy fonts, intricate design elements, or bright colors could make it harder for these systems to scan your resume.
Keep in mind that certain jobs require a flashier resume. For example, if you’re applying for a position as a graphic designer, a plain resume is a missed opportunity to showcase your design skills. For most jobs, however, you want your resume to be clean, concise, and clear.
Hiring managers and recruiters want to be able to glance at a resume and pull out the information they need. Sticking to a simple layout lets them find information without searching for it.
Here is a typical resume structure:
- Your name, contact information, and website or LinkedIn URL (if you have them)
- An objective statement, if you choose to include it
- Your Skills section
- Professional work experience if you have it
- Your educational experience—unless you don’t have relevant professional experience, in which case education could go above your professional experience
The rest of the format depends on which resume components are the most relevant to the job. If the job requires a lot of specific technical abilities, you might want to include the Technical Skills section. If you have a lot of relevant achievements to highlight, that section could be useful to add.
Pay attention to the job description for the position you’re applying for. The order of the job requirements and desired skills could help you decide the best way to arrange your resume.
One of the best ways to make your resume accessible to hiring managers and applicant tracking systems is to convert your resume into a PDF. Since you don’t know if your resume will be read on a Mac or a PC, sending it as a PDF is the safest way to make sure that the layout stays the same.
If you don’t convert your resume into a PDF, there’s a chance your layout and format will upload incorrectly. All your carefully chosen formatting decisions can get scrambled if the hiring manager opens your resume using a different program.
Some employers will specify what format they want your resume in. Always listen to the specifications provided by your potential employer. If they don’t provide one, a PDF is your safest bet. You may be able to convert your resume into a PDF using your current program. Newer versions of Microsoft Word, for example, allow you to save a document as a PDF.
If your preferred program doesn’t let you save your resume as a PDF, there are free PDF converters to help you. Just make sure you do research and choose a safe one, or you run the risk of downloading a virus.
Chronological Resumes vs. Functional Resumes
Choosing between a chronological and functional resume can help you make formatting decisions. Let’s go over each type so you can choose which is right for you.
Chronological resumes are commonly used and easily recognizable. In this format, your resume focuses on your most recent experience, with emphasis on the specific jobs you’ve held, companies you’ve worked for, and the things you’ve achieved along the way.
Your work history is displayed in reverse chronological order with your current or most recent position first. Potential employers should be able to see at a glance your previous positions, employers, and the start and end dates of each job.
Chronological resumes work well when you’re applying for a position related to your professional experience and educational background. If your career path has shifted a lot over time or if you’re applying for a job in a new field, you may want to consider a functional resume instead.
A functional resume focuses on the function of your previous positions and the skills that you used rather than the timeline of when and where you worked. You would choose headlines based on the key skills used during the job, focusing on what is relevant to your potential employer.
Functional resumes may work well if you’ve moved up in one company over a long period of time. If you held a lot of positions, you may have experience in different departments that aren’t as relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Another example where a functional resume might work is if you’ve worked in the same position for multiple companies. If you performed similar duties for each company, you might feel like a chronological resume gets repetitive. In this case, a functional resume might be a better choice to highlight your skills.
It’s important to remember that functional resumes could be frustrating to recruiters or hiring managers. When the jobs aren’t in chronological order, it can be harder to get a clear picture of someone’s work history.
Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when choosing between a functional or chronological resume:
- Chronological resumes are more common for most positions
- Functional resumes work best for career changes or applicants who don’t have a lot of relevant work experience
- Chronological resumes are often easier for hiring managers and recruiters to understand
- Since functional resumes don’t focus on job titles, make sure you’re smart about the headlines you choose
- You can also combine formats for a hybrid resume that includes chronological information while highlighting your skills
Since you’ll customize each resume to the job you’re applying for, you could test out each format if you’re not sure which to use. Just make sure you use the best practices for whichever format you choose.
How to Solve Common Resume Problems
Now that you know the basics of a resume, it’s time to put them into practice. However, problems might derail the process if you’re not sure about the best way to handle them.
Don’t worry! These common resume problems can be solved with a little critical thinking and some smart resume strategies.
Problem: I Don’t Have Much Work Experience Yet
Whether you’re a recent college graduate or someone who has switched careers, you might not have a lot of professional work experience just yet. That’s okay!
To start, arrange your resume in a way that highlights what you do have. Your relevant education, internships, volunteering, or any other type of experience can have value to a potential employer.
Remember that including an objective at the beginning of your resume could work well for someone without a lot of experience. This is an opportunity to show that your goals and skillsets match up with the employer’s needs.
When you don’t have a lot of experience in a field, it’s even more important to be thoughtful about what you include in your resume. Every word should serve a purpose: showing the employer you’re the right person for the job.
Resist the temptation to add things simply to fill space. If the page looks emptier than you’d like, that doesn’t mean that you should include unrelated hobbies or other filler content.
If your resume looks sparse, try using layout and formatting tricks to help fill out the space in a way that still looks professional.
You don’t want to use a huge font or super wide margins to take up the white space. That’s a huge arrow pointing to your inexperience.
Keep the margin to one inch and don’t make the font size any larger than 12 points. Your section headings can be a couple of points larger than your main body text.
Instead, make deliberate design choices that still look good. You can make your name larger than the rest of the resume. Add a space where appropriate, like in between a job title and the job’s responsibilities.
Though the main font size should be no larger than 12 points, you can choose a font that appears larger. For example, Arial appears larger than Times New Roman. Just make sure that you still choose a professional font.
Problem: I Hop From Job to Job
Since there are so many career opportunities out there, sometimes people move through jobs quickly. There are positive aspects of this, because each job can teach you something new.
However, potential employers might worry about a lack of career stability. If you’ve been through a lot of jobs in a short period of time, you’ll have to prove to a new employer that you’re worth the investment.
A functional resume could help with this problem because it focuses less on the dates of your employment and more on the abilities you bring to the table.
Since you only have seconds to impress potential employers with your resume, make sure the first thing they notice is your talent.
Show off the relevant skills that you’ve built throughout all your positions. When this is the main focus, your job hopping shouldn’t be the major takeaway.
Problem: I Have Gaps in My Work History
Work is important, but family is everything. Sometimes you may need to step away from work due to family needs or other personal reasons.
Other times, the reason for employment gaps might be more situational. You could move to a new city and have a hard time finding a new job. Maybe the job market hit an employment lull.
No matter the reason, gaps in your employment don’t have to be a deal-breaker. Step into the shoes of the hiring manager and consider what their fears may be so you can address them.
For example, potential employers might worry your skills aren’t as sharp during an employment gap. To solve this, show any relevant experience you had during the gap.
If you took a relevant class, volunteered in a related position, or did freelance work during your employment gap, highlight those experiences. Make sure you don’t include things that don’t connect with the position you’re applying for.
If your employment gap was prearranged with your previous employer, like a sabbatical or parental leave, you could always include this in your resume. You don’t have to explain the specifics of why you were away—just make it clear the gap was planned.
In that case, you can use a phrase like “planned leave of absence” or “scheduled work sabbatical” along with the dates of your gap. Keep in mind your potential employer might have questions about this if you get invited to interview so don’t label a gap this way unless it really was prearranged with your previous employer.
Problem: I Have Been Unemployed for an Extended Period
While employment gaps are often temporary, unemployment can sometimes last for longer periods of time. This can be one of the most difficult problems to face when you’re searching for a new job.
Here’s the harsh truth: unemployment makes it harder to find a job. Some employers will discard a resume right away when they see that a person has been unemployed for a long time.
That isn’t because you’re not talented or capable of handling the new position. It’s not personal. When hiring managers have a stack of resumes to choose from, they may dismiss people with long-term unemployment because they have other options that seem safer.
Don’t let it discourage you! Work hard to show that you continued to grow your skills during your period of unemployment. That’s your challenge. You need to prove that even while you weren’t working, your skills grew and developed.
Apply for jobs that relate to your skills. Demonstrate those skills throughout your entire resume, from top to bottom.
Customization is important for all resumes, but it can be even more crucial for someone experiencing long-term unemployment. If at first you don’t succeed, make your resume even better for the next job!
How to Get the Most Out of Your Resume
Since all resumes are made up of the same basic parts, it can be daunting to find ways to make yours shine. Your resume is your foot in the door so make it work for you!
To get the most out of your resume, you need a clear vision of what you want, what the employer wants, and how your experience can marry the two.
Know Your Objective
Even if you don’t include an objective on your resume, you should still start the process with figuring out what your objective is.
It’s more than just, “I want this job with this company.” Yes, you do need to know what positions you’re aiming for and what companies you hope to work for. But you also need to know what makes you the perfect fit.
Look at the skills needed for the job you’re interested in and consider how you are uniquely qualified to meet these skills. You want to figure out your unique selling proposition—the thing that makes you different from all the rest.
Think of your personal elevator pitch. If you were in an elevator with a potential employer and had to convince them to hire you by the end of the elevator ride, what would you say?
All of these things embody your objective. Whether or not you include an objective statement, your entire resume should showcase your objective.
Give Employers What They’re Looking For
There is a skill that can be a job seeker’s secret weapon. It can help you build a better resume and wow potential employers in an interview.
What skill is it? Simply, it’s the ability to read between the lines of a job description and figure out what problem the employer is trying to solve with the open position.
When a company has a job available, it’s because they have a specific need that isn’t being met. The job description for the position explains the ideal candidate and the job duties. But it usually doesn’t spell out the actual problem the position is trying to solve.
It’s up to you to figure out what the problem is so you can prove that you’re the person to solve it. Read the job description carefully and look for clues.
If the company mentions they’re growing and the position is new, you could deduce that the ideal candidate might need to wear many hats to meet the increasing needs of the business. Your resume should show that you have the right skills and can adapt to meet the changing needs.
When you use critical thinking skills to figure out what an employer is really looking for, you can focus on showing them you have what they want.
Make the Most Out of Your Experience and Education
Work experience is the most important part of a resume because it shows potential employers what you’ve done so far in your career. Use the tips from earlier in this guide to make the most out of your work experience in your resume.
For example, you know employers often skim through a resume. And you know how to use critical thinking to determine the skills the employer really needs. So you should make sure these skills are prominent and that you include specific examples of how you’ve used them in past jobs.
Here are some other tips to show employers you’re the right person for the job:
- Do some research to find your ideal company’s competitors
- Look at the competitor’s job descriptions for your desired position
- Make a list of the skills competitors look for
These additional skills can help you stand out from the pack because they highlight in-demand experience in the industry.
Education experience can also help fill gaps in your work experience. If the job description includes something you haven’t done at work, you may find that task or skill in your educational background.
If you’ve taken coursework relevant to the missing work experience, highlight that in your education section. Internships, major projects, and classwork can show your experience. Relevant certificate programs can also work.
Volunteer experience may help fill in skills gaps, as well. Let’s say you’re applying for a leadership position but haven’t managed a team. However, you’re the chapter president of a professional organization in your field. Your experience with the organization shows your ability to lead—and your commitment to your industry.
How to Find the Right Job For You
Here’s how a typical job search goes:
- You need a job
- You search online for jobs that match what you’re looking for
- You apply for the jobs you find
You might get an interview or even get hired using this method. It might help you find a job, but you’re unlikely to stumble across your ideal position using this technique.
Follow these tips to increase your chances of finding the job you want.
Figure Out What You’re Looking for in a Job
Most people want a good-paying job that they love. But there are a lot of factors that determine how happy or unhappy a job will make you—not just pay.
Would you prefer a big company or a small one? A set schedule or flexible hours? A job with one clear purpose, or one that challenges you with a number of different responsibilities?
You may not know the answers just yet. Ask yourself these sorts of questions to figure out what you really want. The first step to finding your ideal job is to learn what you value and appreciate in a position.
Find a Company that Meets Your Needs
Once you’ve figured out what you’re looking for in a job, you’re ready to find a company that supports those needs. Then you can be proactive and apply to jobs you really want, instead of just any opening on a job board.
Based on your needs, here are some of the things to consider when looking for the right company:
- Opportunity for growth
- A mission statement that aligns with your values
- Pay ranges and benefits that match up to your needs
- Hours and flexibility
- If travel is required
These guidelines will help you narrow down the best companies for you. Then you’re ready to make some connections to help with your goal.
If you’re at the beginning of your career path, you might need to get some experience before you aim straight for the top of the job search pyramid. Even if that’s true for you, networking is still a good first step.
Make Connections to Help You Get a Foot in the Door
Your network is very important when it comes to a job search. And if you have your sights set on a specific company, it’s even more important. Networking helps you become more than just another resume in the stack.
Approach networking in the same way you approach your resume: start with research. Find events that people from your industry attend. You can also go through your alumni network to find opportunities.
If you have already know which company you want to work for, use what you know about them. People often list their professional associations and networking events on LinkedIn. Get out there and attend events where you know people from that company will be.
When you begin to make connections, you may find an inside track to the job you want. You might find out about an open position sooner. Or you can ask questions to discover more about what the company wants in an employee.
Your resume can be a helpful networking tool. You may not need to bring your resume to the event, but it can still serve as a conversation guide. It will help you keep the focus on your experience and how it relates to the job you want.
Try to build genuine relationships through networking. Showing up and making small talk isn’t enough. You want to network the right way.
Don’t ask for immediate favors or start rattling off your qualifications out of nowhere. Take your time and make real connections.
How to Put Your Resume to Work
Once your resume is ready, it’s time to put it to work! You’ll need your resume throughout each stage of the job application process. Learn how to use it as a tool every step of the way until you have a job offer.
Use Your Resume Effectively with Online Job Applications
Online job applications are the norm for most employers. When you apply for a job online, first take time to create a resume targeted for that specific position.
During the application process, use your resume to help you strategically fill out each field. Don’t rush the process—you could miss grammar and spelling mistakes if you hurry.
Online applications might feel impersonal, but you should treat them with the same care that you would show a real person.
Follow these online application tips:
- Fill out one customized application per company (even if the company has multiple positions available)
- Use keywords from the job description and back them up with relevant experience
- If there’s a field to upload your resume, send it as a PDF so you won’t have to worry about format issues
Keep track of how many jobs you apply for online and which resume you used for each. This will help you keep things straight if you get a call for an interview.
Use Your Resume Successfully During Interviews
Since you need to create a customized resume for every job, keep your resume versions labelled by company and position. When you get a call for an interview, take time to review the resume you submitted to them.
Remember, the employer called because your resume showed a potential fit for the position. Now it’s your chance to support the information in your resume and show them you’re the right choice for the job.
Preparation will help you interview well. Pull out your resume and practice before the actual interview so you can go in feeling confident and prepared.
Here are some things to keep in mind as your prep for an interview:
- Have a specific example to support each skill listed on your resume
- Be ready to explain any gaps in employment
- Bring several hard copies of your resume to the interview (in case you meet with more than one person)
Anything on your resume is fair game for an interviewer to ask about. Your resume should be an honest representation of your experience. So if you mention experience with a specific software, be prepared to explain how you used that software in your previous role.
This is why you should never fake anything on your resume. Even a small exaggeration on your resume could derail an interview and possibly cost you a job.
You also want to make sure your interview stands out as much as your resume did. Job interviews shouldn’t be one-sided. Come up with relevant questions you can ask the interviewer to show your interest.
Questions about the company culture can help you get a better idea of what the company values. You can also use your research on the company and position to form questions that show you’ve done your homework.
How to Stand Out After an Interview
Before a job interview, you may be nervous, hopeful, and ready to show what you’re capable of. Once the interview is done, you probably feel relieved and proud of yourself—but the work isn’t over yet! After the interview, it’s time to take a few extra steps to help you stand out.
Here are some ideas to help you get an edge over the competition.
Write a Thank-You Note
Saying thank you after an interview is common practice. Most people send the interviewer a quick email to thank them for taking the time to meet.
A follow-up email is a good first step. Your follow-up email can thank the interviewer for the consideration and express that you’re looking forward to the next steps.
But to really stand out, you want to go the extra mile and send a handwritten thank-you note. You’ll want to send this out right away so the best strategy is to bring a few blank thank-you cards and stamped envelopes to your interview.
As soon as the interview is over, write your thank-you note. You’ll want to mail it the same day so the interviewer gets it within a few days of the interview.
If you only interviewed with one person, then one note should do it. If you interviewed with several people, you may decide to send more than one.
In addition to expressing general gratitude, your thank-you note should include a callback to something from the interview. You can reiterate things that you love about the company or give a reminder of why you’re a good fit.
Remember, this thank-you card is your last chance to wow the interviewer. Keep it brief but let your passion come through. A good thank-you card can help keep you on the forefront of the interviewer’s mind.
Select and Prepare Your References
This guide can help you create a customized resume for each job you apply for. But what about your references?
Chances are, you have a few go-to sources when you need a reference. However, you should take time to consider each reference and make sure they’re the right fit for the position you’re applying for.
Each employer is looking for something specific. So each reference should know about your experience with those particular skills.
Sometimes the best reference might be a peer who has worked alongside you and knows what you can do. Other times it could be a supervisor who has seen you step up time and time again. In most cases, you want to avoid putting a relative as a reference.
Keep in mind that HR departments might not be the best choice for a reference, either. They can often confirm employment and basic details, but may not be able to discuss the specifics of what makes you special.
Be strategic about which references you choose for each position. And before you list anyone as a reference, you should always speak to them first.
Let the potential reference know about the job and the skills needed for it. After you explain the specifics, ask if the person is comfortable being a reference.
Sometimes they may say no—and that’s not a bad thing!
It’s better to get an honest answer ahead of time if your potential reference doesn’t feel qualified to speak on your behalf for a position. That way you can find a better fit without the interviewer getting any vague or negative feedback.
When someone agrees to be a reference for you, ask for their best contact information to make it easier for the potential employer to reach them.
Follow Up the Right Way
Waiting to hear back from a job is often the worst part. You’re eager for information and may want to reach out right away to see what’s going on. Don’t do that.
Every company has its own process for making hiring decisions, and the process might take some time. You don’t want to be the person who ends up annoying the company with incessant calls before they decide who to hire.
The best way to handle the follow-up is to find out about the company’s hiring process beforehand. At the end of the interview, ask about the next steps in the process and how long they expect the decision to take.
You could also ask the interviewer about the best person to follow up with. This should lead to some specific direction, whether it’s to check in with an HR representative after a set amount of time or wait to hear back.
Whatever direction the employer gives, follow it. If they ask you to wait to hear back, respect that and don’t reach out. If they give you a contact person and timeline, follow through with it as directed.
When you do reach out, remind the person that you were advised to check in at this point. If you find out they went in another direction, be respectful and thank them again for the consideration. You never know when another opportunity could come up. It’s always best to leave a positive impression.
Get Feedback Until You Get Hired
Feedback is your friend during the hiring process. From your resume to your interview, find out what is and isn’t working along the way.
If you’ve applied for a number of jobs without hearing back, have someone review your resume to see if you need to improve it. Your resume is the key to getting interviews, so make sure it’s doing its job.
If you’ve gotten a number of interviews without getting hired, try to find out why. If you call to follow-up and find out that you didn’t get the job, ask if there is anything you can work on.
You can also set up some informational interviews to get feedback on your resume, skill set, and interview skills. An informational interview goes through all of the steps of a traditional interview, but there isn’t an actual open position.
These interviews are great practice. Afterward, the interviewer can let you know what your strengths and weaknesses are.
Maybe there are some key skills that you don’t quite have yet. If that’s the case, you can take steps to bulk up those skills.
Perhaps your abilities are strong enough, but your nerves are getting in the way during the interview. Then you can practice your interview skills and work on calming techniques before you go in.
Treat every step in the hiring process as an opportunity to learn something. And once you get the job you want, pay it forward. When one of your friends or family members starts looking for a new job, pass along everything you learned and share this guide.
The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ultimate Medical Academy.
The UMA Blog covers information and advice for employers and workers at the intersection of healthcare, education and employment. Our contributors are intimately familiar with a wide range of subjects covering professional development, career advancement, workplace politics, healthcare industry specific topics, personal finance, education and so much more. Learn what you need to get ahead and stay ahead.