Navigating the competitive and high-tech job market of today, many people wonder “How good is my résumé?” or, “How good is good enough?”
The answer isn’t one-size-fits-all. Instead, it’s important to recognize that what makes a résumé “good” varies based on its audience—whether it’s discerning the requirements of an applicant tracking system (ATS) or the critical eye of a human recruiter.
Let’s explore the specifics of creating your résumé to meet these diverse expectations, ensuring it not only gets seen but helps you achieve your goals.
Understand Your Audience
• The ATS: These automated systems filter résumés based on keywords and formatting. Tailoring your résumé to fit the nuances of ATS can significantly increase your chances of making it to the interview.
• The Human Reader: Once your résumé passes the ATS, it’s time for the human viewer to assess it. Recruiters spend an average of six to seven seconds scanning a résumé. Capturing their attention quickly is vital.
• Human Reader Sidenote: Whether you are applying for a job, a speaking engagement or a consultant opportunity, keep the reader in mind and what they want to see to determine if you are fit to fill their needs. Construct your résumé with their perspective in mind.
Craft For The ATS
The ATS helps determine if the content in your résumé aligns with the requirements of the job posting. Let’s look at a few tips to help you craft to get its attention.
Keyword Optimization: Use keywords from the job description. The closer your résumé matches the job posting, the higher your chances of passing the ATS scan. You may be the most qualified person for the job, but if your résumé does not indicate your qualifications for the job, you may get passed over.
• Simple Formatting: Fancy fonts, graphics and unconventional formats might confuse the ATS. Stick to standard fonts and bullet points and avoid columns. A strategic use of color has no impact on the ATS’s ability to read your résumé, but using it could make it easier for the human reader to digest its content, so go for it.
• Job Titles: When possible, use standardized job titles. The ATS might not recognize unconventional or overly creative job titles. Consider which of your previous positions is relevant to the job you are applying for and eliminate the ones that do not serve that purpose. Your entire career track is usually not relevant. Limit your job history to the past 10 to 15 years.
Write For The Human Reader
Ultimately, people hire people. To develop your résumé only in terms of ATS optimization and neglect the human reader fails to strike the balance that the most effective résumés achieve. Help the reader see how you are the answer to their problems and how you can be the person to help the company achieve its goals.
• Clear Structure: Your résumé should be easy to skim. Use bolded headings and bullet points, and keep each section consistent. Write in a first-person voice and avoid filler, including empty words like “seasoned” or “accomplished.” Often, a reader appreciates a less-is-more approach.
• Relevant Information First: List your most impressive or relevant achievements at the top. Tailor this based on the job you’re applying for.
• Quantify Achievements: Instead of saying “Managed a team,” say “Managed a team of 10 and increased sales by 20%.”
• Clean Design: While the ATS prefers simplicity, humans appreciate a touch of professionalism. Use a clean, readable design and always proofread for errors.
Determine ‘Good Enough’
Your résumé’s purpose dictates the standard of “good enough.” Ultimately, if you are achieving your goals, your résumé is “good enough.” If you are not, an upgrade in strategy is in order. Here’s a breakdown:
• Networking Events: If you’re attending an event for informal networking, a broad overview of your experience might suffice. Visual appeal in an easy-to-read, one-page format is best for this purpose.
• Job Applications: For a specific job application, especially in the most competitive industries, your résumé should be meticulously crafted for both the ATS and the human reader. The goal here is to get an interview for your target jobs. If you are not getting the interview, your résumé may be missing the mark. If this happens consistently, your résumé could benefit from a change in strategy.
• Career Pivot: If you’re changing industries or roles, a hybrid résumé emphasizing transferable skills might be more suitable. The goal is to influence a decision-maker to see that you can add value to them in a role you have not held before. Emphasize how you make an impact and your track record of making things happen.
Invest In Yourself
Consider your résumé as a professional investment. Here are a couple of options you can think about if you need further assistance.
• Professional Résumé Writers: These individuals or services specialize in making your résumé stand out. A qualified résumé writer can save you time, provide insights into best practices affecting your industry and job target and be an invaluable resource if you are not getting interviews with your current résumé.
• Continuous Learning: Regularly updating your résumé with new skills or achievements can make you more marketable. Training you took over 10 years ago may no longer be relevant to the jobs of today, and just because you took a class or training doesn’t make it relevant to the job you want. Include continuous learning on your résumé that supports the reason you are creating it.
How “good” your résumé is, or whether it is “good enough,” depends on your goals, what your motivation is to achieve them, your command of the knowledge needed to create a high-performance résumé and your understanding of your audience’s expectations. Résumé construction is part art and part science.
Develop a résumé creation strategy with your end goal in mind. Your résumé is “good enough” if it helps you achieve your goals. If not, decide where the gaps may lie and revamp your approach.
Want more great tips? Check out https://www.inspirecareers.com/in-the-media/ for recent career-related information I’ve shared on numerous podcasts, television outlets, and radio shows.
Visit the Inspire Careers YouTube channel to enjoy diverse content I share through video https://www.inspirecareers.com/inspire-careers-youtube-channel/ and don’t forget to subscribe to be notified when new content is added. Our Spotlight Series Podcast is also available wherever you find your favorite podcasts.
This article was originally posted on Forbes on August 29, 2023. The original can be view here.