A resume is more than on-paper-proof of your technical skills and previous experience. It's also your professional first impression, and when a recruiter receives an average of 250 resumes per corporate job posting, yours needs to stand out if you want to be invited in for an interview.
However, before your resume even reaches human hands, it first must beat the robots -- The Applicant Tracking Systems recruiters and hiring managers use to find candidates. And if your resume isn't formatted the right way, neither will read it.
Take these top to bottom formatting tips into consideration when crafting your candidacy.
Leave off headers and footers
Not all Applicant Tracking Systems and parsers are created equal. Applicant Tracking Systems can't read what's written within headers or footers, so if you've included your contact details within either, your resume won't be found. Instead, leave the headers and footers off and include your full contact details at the top of each page.
Melissa Bieth, a Technical Recruiter with Procom explains, "Recruiters and hiring managers will conduct radial searches by postal code to find qualified candidates closest to the job site first, so if your postal code isn’t listed, your resume won’t show up."
ALWAYS include your postal code or zip code within your contact details.
Replace a lengthy summary with an impactful headline
A recruiter or hiring manager will only spend up to seven seconds glancing at a resume before deciding to continue with or dismiss it, so you need to gain and keep their interest – quick! "Do so by leaving off lengthy executive summaries and career objectives in favour of a clear and concise headline detailing your experience and what you can offer," Melissa advises.
List a summary of technical skills
Direct the reader to your technical qualifications by including a bullet point list that details any program languages and/or technologies you’ve used. Melissa adds, "Although this information will be found within the body of your work history, it should also have a separate section on your resume."
Write your work history descriptions in chronological order
Ensure your work history is listed in chronological order, starting with the most recent role, and include these 4 key pieces of information: Project overview, quantifiable achievements, keywords and program languages used.
However, if you have an extensive work history spanning anything beyond 10 years, only include company name, dates and title. You could also include a bullet point indicating further details.
"It’s important to let your reader know what you were responsible for, but it’s more important to highlight what you did," Melissa explains. "What was the outcome of the project(s) you were involved with? What were the budgets you managed? Were you recognized for any awards?"
List your post-secondary education and any continuing studies related to your field of interest beneath your work history section. Did you receive any certifications, professional designations, educational awards or other degrees? Be sure to include these as well.
Word format vs. PDF
When uploading a resume onto a job board or Applicant Tracking System, always use a MS Word format rather than PDF. "Although a PDF holds more visual appeal, it will be uploaded as an image, and any keywords within will not be read by the ATS during the radial search," says Melissa.
Keywords are critical
Without keywords in your resume, the ATS won't find your skills or experience. Resume keywords are the skills and qualifications used in the original job description that need to be mirrored in your resume. However, they must be formatted to echo the original job description exactly— to an ATS, there’s a difference between “Microsoft Word,” “MS Word” and “Word.”
Check and double check for spelling and grammar
If a resume is littered with spelling and grammatical errors, it’s an automatic no. Sixty percent of surveyed recruiters will reject a candidate because of poor grammar or a spelling error on a resume. Once you’ve double checked, send your resume to someone else you trust to go over it as well.
Use a basic font with unified text
Getting fancy with your fonts can be frustrating for the reader, and can show a lack of judgement. Stick with something basic, and ensure all text is unified and only one colour.
Leave off charts and boxes
Similar to headers and footers, an ATS can’t read what’s written within any charts or boxes, so keep your layout simple.
When you want your resume to stand out in a recruiter’s inbox, a well-written one will get the job done, but only if you put in the work.