Resume Writing Hacks: 3 tools you’re probably not using

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Photo Credit: KEEPING AN EYE ON RECRUITER BEHAVIOR, TheLadders 2014.

Hopefully, you’re already using your greatest tool in writing an effective targeted resume:  the job description. When it comes to keywords, it is important to use language from the job posting and the organization’s website in describing your experience and background.

There are three tools that you may not be using when writing or updating your resume.

Visual importance

Have you heard that recruiters and hiring managers only spend 6 seconds reviewing your resume before making a decision about whether you’re a potential fit for the job? This is why you have to be aware of where the eye is drawn at a cursory glance and be very strategic about what you’re assigning ‘visual importance’ to. Where are you directing me to look in those 6 seconds? Elements that help to draw the eye include:

  • Placement: Everyone reads top to bottom, left to right, so try to keep important information ‘above the fold’.
  • Formatting: Try bold, italics, underlining, or all caps.
  • Numbers: These not only stand out from the sea of text around them, but have the added benefit of quantifying your accomplishments and the scope of your experience.

Section titles

Especially in the nonprofit sector, our backgrounds don’t always fit neatly into ‘Objective’, ‘Work Experience’, and ‘Education’ sections on a resume. If you’re only using these standard section titles, you may be missing an opportunity to present yourself in the best way. Feel free to get creative (maybe not too creative), but some of my favorites are:

  • Profile: Replace that meaningless objective with a headline that uses all the right keywords to tell the reader who you are (i.e. the perfect person for the job)  
  • Relevant Experience: This is great if you want to showcase volunteer or internship positions that may be more related to the job than your work experience.
  • Leadership and Professional Development: If you’ve gotten an award or taken a course that doesn’t fit anywhere else and doesn’t merit its own section, create a new section!

The backspace key

You’ve worked very hard to gain the experience you have and each line of your resume represents time and effort you’ve put into becoming the unique professional you are today. But, unless the description of the job you’re applying for clearly states that they want someone who’s done a little bit of everything, chances are that any information not directly related to this specific role or organization is going to hurt you. At best, it merely takes up precious ‘real estate’ that could be dedicated to your skills and experience that are relevant to the job; at worst, it distracts from those relevant elements and frames you as the wrong person for the job.

Keeping these three hacks in mind can help you to organize and prioritize the elements in your resume in a way that gets you noticed! Try them out and let me know your thoughts.

About the Author

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Alexis Klein-Ruiz has reviewed tens of thousands of resumes in her years as a nonprofit recruiter. When she’s not busy hiring people, she serves as the Secretary of YNPN Chicago’s Executive Board.