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How to Get Your Resume Noticed (And Out of the Trash Bin)

Five ways to catch a recruiter’s attention.

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How long does it take a recruiter to decide if you’re right for a job? It’s actually around seven seconds, according to eye-tracking research. To put that into perspective, close your eyes and take two deep breaths. That’s the time, on average, hiring managers spend skimming your resume, sizing up your history, hopes, and dreams before either tossing it into the trash or moving you to the next round of the application process.

For those of us just entering the workforce or looking to make a career transition, one thing is clear: We need find ways to stand out — and fast. While there is a plethora of guidance on the Internet surrounding how to be a “great” candidate, it can be contradictory or confusing depending on where and when you look.

I’ve spent the past few weeks catching up with recruitment experts who specialize in remote work, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), in attempt to decode the most up-to-date advice when it comes to applying for a new job — especially during this pandemic. I’ve asked them to weigh in on everything from how resumes are screened to how candidates can make connections that might help them land an actual interview.

Here is what I’ve learned:

Outsmart the Robots

According to Sulaiman Rahman, CEO of DiverseForce , recruiters may not be the only ones you need to impress. “Organizations are increasingly using automation to screen resumes, so it’s important for job seekers to use keywords that are also found in the actual job description,” he told me. In short, more and more artificial intelligence (AI) tools are being used to match the language in your resume to the language in the job posting.

This means that, when you apply for any job, you should pay attention to what the company has written about it — everything from the general description to the qualifications. The language they use has been intentionally crafted to highlight the skills and experiences they seek, so weave that language into your CV. If you do, you have a better chance of outsmarting AI and moving your application through the initial screening process.

Rahman also cautioned against overly cluttered or involved design layouts. “Unconventionally formatted resumes may be catchy to the human eye,” he said, “but it can be challenging for automated systems to find keywords on those resumes, and this can backfire on the candidate.”

Pro tip: If you want to show off your creative side, consider making an online portfolio instead of showcasing it on your resume. This is a great way to highlight your career and experience through colorful, eye-catching content. Include a link to your profile on your resume. Another option is to use a cloud-based recording platform like Loom to make a personalized video that can be linked to on your resume.

Show Off Your Skills

Your resume should tell a story about why you are the best fit for this role. And like all great narratives, it should begin with a hook. Underneath your name and title, include a summary about what you have to offer and who you are as a professional, as well as a key skills section highlighting your strengths — focusing on the ones that are most relevant to the job.

Here is an example of what a this might look like:

An aspiring project manager who thrives on creating order out of chaos, I am energized by “wicked” challenges and am comfortable with ambiguity, having served in multiple internship roles with distributed SaaS start-ups. I keep teams on track and have a knack for identifying blind spots and finding elegant solutions to unforeseen problems. Playing a key role in remote product launches has been exciting, but what drives me continues to be the opportunity to forge a path for others as part of an underrepresented group in tech.

“The top of your resume should be a forward-leaning section that shares what you have to offer and who you want to be as a professional,” Brie Reynolds , career development manager at FlexJobs, said. “It’s very different from the rest of the resume, which is backward-leaning and shows what you’ve accomplished thus far.”

For the key skills section, Reynolds also recommends highlighting any remote-work skills. “Because so many roles are becoming at least partially, if not fully remote, a technology skills section showcases your ability to work with and through various platforms.”

Pro tip: Be sure to include any business-related programs you’re familiar with (Microsoft Word and Excel, Salesforce, WordPress) and any remote collaboration tools you’re comfortable using, like IM/chat programs (Slack, Teams, Google Chat), file sharing (Dropbox), document collaboration…

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