5 Little Resume Changes That Can Make a Big Difference
If you’ve been applying to job after job, but haven’t had many interviews, the culprit is likely your resume. Something within that document is telling hiring managers (or the automated systems that eventually lead to hiring managers) that you’re not the right fit for the role.
By Katie Wolf
Now, your first instinct may be a resume overhaul: scrap the entire thing and start from scratch. But before you invest hours re-writing your professional history, take another look. A couple of small changes—that could take just a few minutes—can produce a big return on investment.
According to SoFi career coaches Alexandra Dickinson and Val Olson, these five quick resume changes can make a big difference in your ability to connect with scanners and human eyes.
1. Cut wherever you can
You may have years of valid professional experience, but your resume shouldn’t necessarily grow at the same rate as your job history. Often, hiring managers don’t have time to carefully review every word—especially if you try to cram as much information into the document as possible.
“People just aren’t going to take in as much as you want to put in there,” explains Dickinson.
To cut through the clutter, she recommends starting by removing any jargon or acronyms. “Be as plain as possible,” she says. Then, take out irrelevant or outdated information. For example, if the first job you had out of college isn’t relevant to your new job search, cut it. And get rid of broad, common skills like “written communications”—they’re not specific enough to add any value.
“In reality, hiring managers have about 30 seconds to look at your resume,” says Dickinson. “You have to ruthlessly prioritize what you think is worth sharing.”
2. Use numbers, not words
Your bullet points should showcase your accomplishments, rather than your responsibilities. But to really stand out, both coaches recommend quantifying those achievements with numbers. “People latch onto metrics,” says Dickinson. “It gives them something easy to digest.”
In many cases, this can be a quick change to the bullet points you currently have listed. For example, rather than stating, “Created strategic marketing plans,” you could say, “Created 15 strategic marketing plans, resulting in 12 new client acquisitions.”
Many professionals leave these numbers off because they’re worried their metrics aren’t 100% correct. “Do your best to be accurate, of course, but don’t let that concern hold you back,” Dickinson adds.
If you can’t shake the concern, Olson suggests a simple tweak: “It’s OK to say ‘estimated.’ If you don’t have the numbers written down because it was years ago, it’s fine to guess.”
3. Add in relevant keywords
One of the best—and easiest—ways to come across as a good fit for a position is to add keywords to your resume.
“A lot of people think, ‘Do I really have to do this?’” says Dickinson. “But this is the world we’re living in. Your resume is going to go through a scanner, and it’s to your advantage to take a look at the job description of the position you’re applying to, pick out the keywords, and put them in your resume.”
Of course, the words you choose should fit with your experience. But if, for example, you include the phrase “trial experience,” while the job description asks for “litigation experience,” you can easily make the swap.
Incorporating those terms wherever possible and relevant can boost the odds of getting your resume through the applicant tracking system, but that’s not the only benefit.
“Keywords are the language of your profession,” says Olson. “So they count for human readers as well. Those keywords are going to resonate with whoever’s reading your resume.”
4. Slash broad, overused adjectives
Using vague, generalized phrases—think dynamic, innovative, out-of-the-box, and results-driven—to describe yourself on your resume won’t impress most hiring managers or recruiters. “I see so many bullet points that say things like ‘passionate, multi-dimensional, cross-functional leader,’” says Dickinson. “Sure, that sounds great, but what does that really mean?”
To strengthen your resume, both coaches recommend ruthlessly cutting those adjectives. If you really want to showcase one of those traits, include an accomplishment that clearly demonstrates it. “Rather than say you’re a dynamic leader, highlight a leadership accomplishment,” says Olson. “Be more creative with your narrative.”
5. Give it a new look
There’s plenty of debate over how much creativity belongs in a resume, especially if you’re not in a creative field.
But there is quick change that will undoubtedly strengthen the appearance of your resume: Get rid of your outdated font. A 2015 Bloomberg article once compared using Times New Roman on your resume to wearing sweatpants to an interview—and both Olson and Dickinson agree that it’s still relevant today.
“It’s lazy, it’s old fashioned; it’s like you didn’t even try,” says Dickinson. “At the very least, please change it to Arial!”
Before making any other creative changes to stand out, SoFi’s career coaches recommend first making sure the right content is there.
“There’s always the temptation for people to hope they’ll get more attention by doing something artistic or overly graphic,” says Olson. “But it’s not going to substitute for substance in your resume.”
The content of your resume, of course, is what will get you the job. These changes will simply bring those accomplishments into the best light possible—all without starting from scratch.
Now—with all that time you saved on a resume rewrite—you can start thinking about how to get it in front of the right people.
Need a little help on your resume—or any other aspect of your job search? If you’re a SoFi member, sign up for a complimentary one on one session with a career advisor. Not a SoFi member yet? Head to SoFi.com to learn more.
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