Make Your Resume Easier to Find and Easier to Read

Martin Yate By Martin Yate March 30, 2021
Make Your Resume Easier to Find and Easier to Read

Bestselling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.

Now that COVID-19 vaccine distribution is well underway, we will soon see the economy opening up again. Unemployment is still high at 6.2 percent, but we have a government that appears seriously engaged with the entwined goals of pandemic vaccination and helping America get back to work.

Corporations are ready to start hiring again, and as employment website Monster.com said in a recent report, "2021 is poised to be a big comeback year." New jobs are being posted now, and we'll see more and more jobs until the floodgates open, hopefully in the fall. Now is the time to make sure your resume is in peak condition. 

People won't make the effort to read a resume that is unclear or unfocused. While a lot of jobs will become available this year, there will also be stiff competition for those jobs, so make it easy for recruiters and hiring managers to understand your career story. Your resume should be focused on how your skills meet the employer's needs, and it should be easily found and easily read. Here are some practical tactics that will help you become visible and land job interviews.

Resume Space Is Precious

The employer needs to know your name and how to reach you. However, you are wasting space when you boldface your name and use a font size that dwarfs everything else written on your resume. If you do this, you could be wasting two to three lines of regular text that you could otherwise use to describe your skills. Suggestion: Boldface your name and make it no more than two font sizes larger than headlines used throughout the rest of the resume.

Also, don't make contact information so small that it is barely readable. This is important information that should be presented in a readable font size. Include your location, phone number, e-mail address and maybe a LinkedIn badge. Don't forget to hyperlink your e-mail and LinkedIn profile.

Resume Length

Technology has made most jobs more complex, which means you need more space to explain your skills. You may reach a point where you can't get your resume onto two pages without reducing the font size until it is unreadable by the screen-tired eyes of the recruiters who will scan it. So shrinking font size doesn't help; you just shoot yourself in the foot.

It has long been said that a resume generally should be one page, with a second page acceptable for 10 years of additional experience, and that no resume should be more than two pages. This is a myth that no longer applies and hasn't for upwards of 20 years, again because of the complexity that technology brings to jobs.

Suggestion: Use a 12-point font, and if your second page bleeds over onto a third, that's not a problem. It's fine if you need the entire additional page, but if you don't, then use that extra space to reformat your resume to add more white space throughout, making your content more visually accessible and easier to read.

Focus Is Everything

When an employer posts a job on Indeed.com, the site can supply that employer with a short list of suitable candidates within seconds. This is happening almost simultaneously on all job-related sites.

This means that the focus of your resume and the words used to tell your story are of critical importance. When recruiters use a resume database to search for candidates or review the candidates selected for them by a jobs site, the keywords both the recruiter and a jobs site's automated recruiter will use in their search come from the job description developed by the employer. Consequently, your resume should closely match the emphasis and language of typical job postings.

Suggestion: To get the right focus for your resume, look at a handful of job postings for your ideal target job to identify common deliverables. This information will give you the story your resume needs to tell and the language you need to tell it. Without this focus, your resume will not attract recruiters' attention—regardless of whether they are human or digital.

With this focus, however, your resume will reflect your skills using the employers' language. This means your resume will be easier to find in resume database searches, viewed with much greater frequency and more likely to result in job interviews.

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

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