Hey Cultivator! I’m excited to share with you how to write an effective and eye-catching resume. We’ll be going over the exact template that I give to so many of my job searching students and clients who are trying to figure out how to beat the applicant tracking system and stand out from the pile. You can grab a customizable template for this resume by signing up for my free resource library!
In this article, I’m going to walk you specifically through five key sections on the resume that I see so many people struggle with. I’m going to teach you exactly what I’m looking for from a recruiters lens and most importantly, how you can customize this to your own experience and skills. To watch the video version, click below! Or, continue reading along. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
How To Write An Effective Resume That’s ATS-Friendly
#1: The Headline
In tip number one, we’re going to talk about the headline. This section is often missing from a lot of resumes! But it shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s a great way to get a point for a matching keyword and to capture your reader’s attention. In those first six seconds where they’ll decide whether or not to start skimming, you want them to say, “Wow, this person has a similar title. Let’s go ahead and read the rest of what they have to say.”
This headline section goes below the contact information in the highlighted heading below. Let’s imagine for a moment that I’m applying to a social media director position, I may just as simply write down the title that matches here, and then think about two other components or strengths or skills that are important to highlight based on this particular job description.
For instance, if this job, we’re really asking for a creative strategy and team leadership skills, I would put that here right off the bat. This is the first part that people will glance at. I’m essentially stating, “Hey, I’m a social media director just like you asked. And here’s two other main components that I identify as that also matches what you’re looking for.” When you can capture their attention like this, I guarantee they will read the rest of your resume.
RELATED: HOW TO WRITE A KILLER RESUME
#2: Professional Summary
Alright, now let’s move on to tip number two, which is to create a professional summary. A lot of people get this wrong by either leaving this off entirely, or by writing something that’s considered more of an objective statement. They make the mistake of telling the employer what they’re looking for versus what it is that they can offer.
A professional summary is a high-level overview of what you do that’s relevant to what a recruiter or hiring manager is looking for. This is your chance to really summarize your background from a bird’s-eye view of what makes you positioned well for this role. Below is an example of a professional summary. Ideally, you want it to be anywhere from three to five sentences, but it could also be written in a paragraph form.
In this example here as a social media director, perhaps I want to emphasize the fact that I have 10 years of experience designing and executing the social media strategy for Fortune 500 organizations, which resulted in viral videos and posts generating millions of followers. And perhaps as I was writing this, I had in mind that this is what the employer is really looking for in this new position that they have posted, right? So I’m really drawing upon the parallels.
Your Resume Is A Marketing Tool
Let’s say another important factor of this job description is that you have to manage direct reports and a marketing budget. Corresponding with those requirements, I’ve included here what I have managed in terms of people and of financial budgets. I’m really focused on highlighting what’s really important and integral to the job that I’m applying for. I’m focused on connecting the dots for my reader so they can see I’m qualified and have the expertise they desire.
Remember, this is just a marketing tool. This isn’t a tell-all of everything that you’ve done throughout your career history. These are just the main bullet points that help connect the dots between your experience and the job requirements.
#3: Skills & Core Competencies
Okay, so moving on to tip number three, we’re going to move into the skills/core competencies section. You can name it whatever you want, but essentially you’ll want to choose anywhere from 9 to 12 skills you feel are important to highlight. The key trick here is to make sure that for the applicant tracking system, you’re checking off as many matches as possible. So this section is actually really easy once you identify your own strengths against the requirements in the job description. If you need some help here, be sure to check out how to do a SWOT analysis on the job description.
Once you have an understanding of the main skills required for this particular job, your job is to put that into this section. You want to highlight all of the keywords that match the job description.
For instance, as you can see above, I wrote “Staff Management” as one of my skills. Perhaps in the job description, they mentioned something along the lines of, “previous staff management experience required”. Now if they had written, “team management experience required”, you would want to put “Team Management” instead of “Staff Management” because you want to capture the most matches in the job description. This section is a really easy way to customize your resume and make sure you’re highlighting as many keywords listed in the job description.
Now it’s time to move onto tip number four, which is going to be about the experience section itself.
This is going to be the meat of your resume. But now that you’ve done all three steps before this, your resume is already looking rock solid! Now it’s time to take it one step further and focus on both your responsibilities and your accomplishments. I see a lot of job seekers make the mistake of just painting a picture of their roles and responsibilities. Let me remind you that from your title alone, I probably have an idea of what you’re doing. As a recruiter, I really just want to know more about the accomplishments you brought about. Don’t just list your duties, but paint me a picture of the results that came from your main responsibilities! Let’s take a look at the example below.
In this example, let’s say that my professional experience starts with my social media director position at Gap. In this first paragraph here, I’m going to write a couple of lines on what I was hired to do and what I oversaw as the social media director. And as you can see, I’ve quantified as much as possible. I’m not just stating that I was hired to oversee the entire social media strategy. That’s pretty obvious from my title alone.
What I’m really sharing with my reader is the details of my role. Specifically, I was responsible for all social media platforms and focused on organic and paid reach, managing six global markets. These details might not be so apparent or obvious from just seeing that I’m a social media director. Once we have painted a picture of what it is that we are primarily responsible for, it’s time to move on to the accomplishments.
Quantifying Your Accomplishments
In this section here, I really recommend anywhere from three to five bullets. If you have a lot more because you’ve been with the company for many years, you can write a bit more. But for the most part, we’re focused on accomplishments here – not the essential tasks you would see just in the job description alone. And as you can see from my accomplishments, I’m adding a dollar sign anywhere that I can. I’m also putting in percentages anywhere that I can as well as numbers.
Numbers are really important. Anytime you can quantify, that really helps boost your resume. And please note that we understand not every achievement is measurable, so you want to still be able to demonstrate the ultimate result with a strong power verb. As you can see from these last three examples, this is exactly what we’ve done here. We’ve shared the result or the impact that was made just based off these specific tasks we did throughout this job here. In the Experience section, it’s really important to ask yourself, where have I made the company any money? Where have I saved the company any money? Where have I improved any of the processes? And what did that ultimately yield into? You’re in good shape if you can really highlight those three objectives, as those are the key objectives to any business.
All right, let’s move on now to the fifth and the final tip I have for you, which is all about your credibility. This can be in the form of education, volunteer work, involvement in professional organizations, certificates, presentations, lectures, research publications, etc. Showcase whatever it may be in order to stand out from your competition. What are you doing that really shows you’re continuing to be at the top of your game? This will look different for each and every one of you, but if you don’t have anything listed here, I want to challenge you to find a way to get connected with your people. Where are the people in your industry or your niche or your department hanging out in? There are so many ways to continuously evolve, learn, and grow.
You don’t need to be the president of an organization like it says on this resume here. You could just be an active member or a volunteer. Or, you could even be continuously educating yourself online through Skillshare, Coursera, Lynda.com. You should be aware of anything out there that helps you sharpen your skills that are relevant to this very position, and share it in this section.
In this example above, I bolded the main titles /certifications, followed by the organization and the location of that organization. And here, you just put in the dates, be sure your involvement is listed in chronological order, and there you have it! Congratulations! You now have an effective, eye-catching, and ATS friendly resume!