Now, more than ever, your resume and cover letter needs to stand out. Unemployment rates have increased since COVID-19, as many industries were forced to lay off senior employees with years of experience and talent. This makes the job market extremely competitive in 2021! Human resource managers are sifting through hundreds, sometimes thousands, of resumes to fill just one position.
In an ideal world, every HR associate would be able to sit back and give your resume a thorough read from beginning to end before making a decision; however, that is simply not the reality. With lots of competing priorities, they just don’t have the bandwidth for it. They need to make quick decisions to get the pile down before going over your resume in detail. This process is what is referred to as shortlisting.
Some HR departments use a software that will automatically shortlist resumes that are submitted online, which means a real person may never even see your resume before it’s virtually tossed in the ‘no’ pile. When employers do sort through resumes, often the decision to pursue a candidate or not is made within seconds. If you have been applying for jobs and haven’t received a callback, you are likely already well aware of how challenging it can be to standout. I know you’ve been wondering…
How do I get my resume and cover letter to standout in 2021?
With the right strategy, it’s easier than you think. Humans are very visual, and we often judge a book, wine label, person or resume within seconds, based solely on appearance. This doesn’t make it accurate or right, but it’s what happens. When you know this and work it to your advantage, your resume will quickly become shortlisted and you’ll get the callback you are after.
With resumes and cover letters, appearance and aesthetics are just as important as your content! If you want to get HIRED you need do the following:
Review resumes and cover letters in your industry.
There are different nuances in each industry when it comes to writing a resume. Search for examples online of other resumes in the industry you are applying to. This will provide you with some guidance and direction when selecting the layout. For example, medical industry resumes will look differently than those of marketing professionals.
That said, it’s important to note that regardless of industry, a resume must always look professional, clean and be easy to read. Use a simple, basic font that is available in Microsoft Word. Speciality fonts that must be downloaded may not appear as intended if sent virtually. Further, font size should be a maximum of 16pt for titles and between 8 and 12pt for text.
Be concise and use metrics.
When writing your summary, experience descriptions and listing your skills, you should be concise while still presenting enough information to give them an accurate picture of your strengths.
Most resumes should be two pages long; you can add a page for every 7 years of experience. One of the most effective ways of keeping your resume concise is to include metrics instead of adjectives. For example, instead of writing “greatly reduced costs and increased revenue by implementing a new process” you should write “implemented a new process that reduced costs by 28% and increased revenue by 85%”. Using active language will also help keep your resume concise.
Set your margins.
Adjusting your margins is one of the easiest ways to create an eye-catching resume.
Use them to your advantage. If you don’t have a lot of information or experience to fill in a resume, you can extend your margins. Alternatively, if you have a lot to include, you can make them more narrow. The sweet spot is between 0.5 and 1 inch.
Show your creative side.
All jobs require creativity. Creative individuals are more efficient at problem-solving, developing innovative processes, and perform better overall. Even if you are creative, a generic, lacklustre resume won’t show off your creative side.
Your resume’s content should follow industry standards, be concise and highlight your experience and education relevant to the position you are applying to. Although content is somewhat regulated, you can take some creative liberties with the design. Use a unique layout, incorporate colour and play with margins – this will display your creative abilities while not taking away from the resume’s content.
Use strategic language and incorporate key terms.
Tailor your resume to every job post. You don’t have to start from scratch but you must optimise the language you use. Although it may have worked in the past, one standard resume that you submit to every job opening just won’t work anymore. You need to spend the time adjusting the language in your resume and incorporating key terms.
Those software programs the shortlist resumes are searching for key terms that are relevant to the job. For example, if the job post requires “superior organisational skills” you should write “superior organisational skills” in your resume. Go through the job posting and write down the terms they are using and make sure these same terms are used in your resume. You can weave them into your previous job experiences, education or a skills section.
Put the most relevant information on the first page.
There are different ways to organise the information on your resume; you can organise experience chronologically, beginning with the most recent or organise experience by relevancy.
Research has shown that the average HR associate only spends 6 seconds reading a resume, and they start on page one. To ensure they are spending those 6 seconds looking at the most relevant information, you must position it on the first page, drawing attention to your strengths. You can also organise the experience points with the most relevant at the top. Although the chronological format is often preferred, it will depend on your experience and background.
Include a cover letter and match it with your resume.
Some employers will require a cover letter; others may make it optional. Even when it is not required, it is best practice to include a cover letter to further set you apart from the competition. A well-written cover letter will demonstrate your interest in the position while highlighting your skills and experiences that make you the ideal candidate. It is also a great opportunity to explain any gaps in employment or a career change.
The look of your resume and cover letter should be complimentary. This shows a higher level of professionalism and will demonstrate your attention to detail. Use the same fonts, colours and coordinating layout as your resume.
Use a resume template.
You don’t need to be a graphic designer or computer whiz to design a unique, aesthetically pleasing resume. Use a resume and cover letter template! You will get a highly professional looking resume and cover letter with ease. Watch the resume template customisation video here to see just how easy it is to use.
We know first-hand how effective our templates are – we’ve helped more than 5000 applicants secure the job of their dreams in a range of industries. As resume writing experts, we know what employers are looking for, and how to highlight your strengths and minimise potential shortfalls effectively.
Proofread, proofread and proofread again.
Typos happen, and although these are typically accepted and understood, they should not exist in your resume. It is so important that you proofread your resume, again and again, to ensure there are no errors. This will highlight your attention to detail and that you are thorough with your work. Ask a friend, family member or even hire a professional to review your resume before submitting it. If grammar isn’t one of your strengths, there are software programs that can help.
According to Forbes, you need to “do everything you can on your resume” in 2021 if you want to get the job. Competition is at an all-time high and a professional-looking, well-written resume is the only way to standout in 2021. When a potential employer sees that you spent the time creating a beautiful, creative, and flawless resume, they will recognise the type of worker you are and will become confident in your abilities to bring the same passion and effort once you are hired.
You now know the secrets to writing a standout resume and cover letter in 2021. The next step is putting these tips in action! We have professional resume templates in every possible style catered to every industry, career, and position. You can check our resume templates on our website and if you still aren’t sure which one is best for you, reach out to our expert resume writing team – we’re happy to help!
Applying for a new job can sometimes feel unattainable. I promise you it is not! When you apply the resume writing secrets listed here, you will soon find yourself securing an interview and landing your dream job!
Still have a resume writing question? Drop it in the comments below!
Photos by cottonbro from Pexels and by Bram Naus on Unsplash