If you’ve spent time job hunting — and who hasn’t? — this scenario might seem familiar: You spot a role on a job board you know you’d be perfect for. You have the qualifications, the skills, and you’re loving everything you read about the work you’d be doing. When you send off your resume, it feels like kismet.
And then … nothing.
Maybe you were ghosted. Maybe your application went to the wrong person by accident. Or maybe you really would have been a great fit for the role, but your resume didn’t make that clear enough.
There’s not much you can do about the first two scenarios, but we’re here to help with option No. 3. Read on for our tips on writing a better resume.
1. Focus on achievements, not responsibilities
If your resume reads like a job description, that’s a problem. Job descriptions are written by hiring managers who need a position filled, but the best resumes are written by people who did a job well and know how to show it.
Focusing on achievements doesn’t have to mean formal accomplishments such as awards, or even quantifiable achievements such as “increased department revenue by 16% in 2022.” If you have those types of achievements, list them, but don’t stop there.
Look for opportunities on your resume to turn a description into an achievement. It’s one thing to say “coordinated internal meetings”; it’s quite another to say “became go-to for arranging meetings across departments, implementing an agenda process that ensured time spent in meetings was more productive.” It’s the difference between saying what anyone in your role would have done and what you did to do the job well.
2. Lean into keywords
There’s a chance your resume’s first screening isn’t done by a person, but by a machine. Many recruiters use automated software known as an applicant tracking system, or ATS, to perform initial screenings of resumes.
What that means for you: If you aren’t using the right keywords for your skills and accomplishments, the ATS might miss them, and your resume goes to the bottom of the pile even if you have the skills a recruiter is looking for. Ever tried to search for information online with no luck, then tried a different search term and found exactly what you were hunting for? Same thing.
You don’t have to be an algorithm whiz to crack the code, though. Indeed has a clear-cut guide on how to incorporate keywords into your resume. You’ll probably need to tailor your resume for each position you apply for, but that’s often a good idea anyway.
3. Fill the gaps
By “gaps,” we don’t mean physical white space on your resume. Instead, it’s about making sure that if there are areas where your resume is lacking, you find ways to authentically enrich it.
For example, if you repeatedly find roles that interest you but that require a specific skill or certification you don’t have, find ways to develop that area. Maybe that means getting a certification in a piece of software or a type of process, or asking for training in that area in your current job.
Upskill with an online degree from Arizona State University
If not having the right education is holding you back, know that it’s never too late to get a degree. In fact, when ASU Online surveyed more than 2,000 hiring managers, recruiters and team members in partnership with Walr, we found that getting an education later in life boosts the impression of a candidate. That held the most true for people who received a degree between ages 25 and 44, but people of all ages received some kind of boost in perception by seeking an education.