Creating a Perfect Resume in the Time of Coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic may have changed the job market overnight, but while companies in hard-hit industries like travel, hospitality and tourism are announcing heavy job cuts, there are other sectors that are benefiting from the crisis and have ramped up hiring for roles in a world shifting increasingly to digital.

Thousands of jobs are still opening up in healthcare and in companies with a big online presence, including giant global corporations, online retailers, tech companies and supermarket chains as they move to take advantage of people confined at their homes and practicing self-distancing because of concerns about Covid-19.

Retail giant Walmart, which has seen a strong demand in its stores amid the coronavirus crisis, is looking to grow its workforce by 150,000 to fill service and delivery roles in its stores and distribution centers. Meanwhile, some 100,000 jobs are opening in online retailer Amazon due to a surge in demand in online shopping. Companies are also increasingly hiring for people in communications, research or medical assistance, according to online jobs portal Glassdoor in its recent economic research report

If you are one of those people looking for new opportunities at this time, you are likely to find jobs and strong demands from companies in these fields. Competition is going to be tough, so it is important to have your first line of defense ready: your resume.

Think of your resume as your sales pitch. Will it be convincing enough to create a strong first impression with hiring managers and recruiters and get you a step closer to a job offer? How do you make it stand out from the competition? 

“The most unforgettable resume I received came with the subject line ‘Why you as HR should hire me’,” says human resources professional Olga Alvarez, who also had her share of “crazies”: “An applicant sent me her resume 133 times in a span of two days. I invited her for an interview, though she never showed up.” 

The HR manager for a global hotel chain handles between 600 to 1,000 applications daily during peak hiring periods, with 100 applications going to one vacancy alone. With stacks of resume to sift through, what catches her attention? Alvarez shares her secrets to a perfect resume:

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Keep it Short

With declining attention spans in mind, aim for a one-page resume but if you’re struggling to fit everything into one page, then spread your resume into two pages. 

“We recruiters only have about 8 to 10 seconds to scan your resume, considering the number of applications we receive every day, so make your resume a maximum of two pages only,” says Alvarez.

illustration of different resumes

Figure out what resume length fits your experience. Recent studies have shown that applicants in more senior roles have longer resumes compared to junior applicants, and that recruiters were twice likely to hire these two-page resume applicants over applicants with one-page resumes.

Alvarez says entry-level workers with less experience should stick to a one-page resume. “As you take on more job experience, we expect a two-page resume,” she says. 

Cramming everything in the page? Don’t, says Alvarez. “Your resume is not a journal so don’t explain everything there. Keep some mystery about yourself so that when you get invited for an interview, there are still a lot of things you can talk about yourself and your accomplishments,” she says.

Keep the Layout Simple

Don’t let recruiters hunt for the information they need in your resume, so keep the styling simple but with carefully curated content that makes an impact.

“Write tight, lean and clean,” says Alvarez. Use a clean layout with margins and spacing to create breathing space and highlight important information in the right place, she adds. Be guided by reading patterns, too. Research from consultancy firm Nielsen Norman Group revealed that one of the most common reading patterns is the F Pattern. According to that research, the average person reads in a pattern that resembles the letter “F”. 

heatmap showing people read in an F shape
Heat maps reveal the common reading pattern. Image by Nielsen Norman Group

Here’s how you can break up your resume with the F Pattern in mind:

  • Put your most important info at the top
  • Put key points in bold text to draw attention
  • Break up chunks of text with bullets and headers

Great resumes also use easy-to-read fonts. “I highly recommend Arial, Verdana or Helvetica. Do not go for Calibri, Tahoma or Comic Sans,” says Alvarez, adding that fonts must be in black and at least 12 points so they are easier to read.

Use visual breaks like headers to emphasize your experience, education, summary and skills. Keep job titles bold, supported by a bulleted list of accomplishments. “Including your photo can add visual interest but please don’t use selfie shots. Use one from a professional photographer,” Alvarez says. 

Also, take advantage of templates to help you get the professional look that you are aiming for while giving you time to focus on improving the content of your resume instead of getting stuck on the design. Check out how to create an infographic resume with the Piktochart editor

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Curate a Winning Content

Now that you’ve got the layout and styling in check, we move on to the meat of the matter: your content. Here’s where you can impress with your choice of words.

“The top part of your resume is prime real estate, so use this to give recruiters a snapshot of what they need to know: Your name and contact information,” says Alvarez. You can follow this on with a summary statement. “Write a brief paragraph that highlights your experience and tells your employer how you fit the role,” Alvarez says.

What you should put:

  • Name and contact details
  • Summary statement
  • Skills
  • Employment history
  • Education

Contact details: Everything is now digital, so skip the mailing address in your contact details. “Employers will email or call you if there is a need to follow up on your application,” Alvarez says.

Summary statement: “When adding your career summary, put it in reverse chronological order, starting with the latest job experience down to the old. If you are looking for your first job, then you can add your internship or volunteer experience,” Alvarez says.

Skills section: With employers increasingly turning to application tracking systems to do the initial weeding out of candidates, it is important to make sure your skills section is right on target. Make sure this section contains a short but curated list of skills that show how valuable you can be to the job, and also have the keywords that tracking systems will likely be looking for.

Employment history: Under the employment section, make sure to add your role title and the name of the company. Instead of padding out your employment history section with explainer paragraphs, you can opt to keep it reader friendly by highlighting your accomplishments in bullet points.

“Employers want to know what you’ve done recently so don’t list your whole career on your resume. Leave off positions from more than 20 years ago as these will only clutter your resume and also make you look ancient,” Alvarez says.

Hobbies: “Some candidates will include a list of their hobbies and interests. This is optional, and you may add these only if they add value to your application. For example, you may mention photography, videography, blogging and doing charitable works. This will show your prospect employer that you are determined and will help you stand out if you have limited experience,” Alvarez adds. 

References: “You don’t need to include references on your resume, so keep them until your prospect employer requests for them,” Alvarez says. 

Mind the Tech

With everything going digital, keep in mind that your resume may go through an online filter even before it can reach the recruiter. Test how well bots can read your resume before sending it out by copying it into a plain text file and checking if it throws up odd symbols. Revise the format, if necessary.

“Most employers will ask for a Microsoft Word document or a PDF file of your resume, depending on their applicant tracking system. Follow the format they want. At the end of the day, if you send your resume in a format that is impossible or difficult to open then chances are it is just going to end up in the trash,” Alvarez says.

There are some tracking systems that have trouble processing PDFs, images or graphics so make sure your resume is proofed for these. If you’re working on a Word file, keep in mind that info placed in header or footer sections may not be read properly. 

Don’t forget to name your resume. Keep the file name clear, straightforward and easy for recruiters to file by using your name as part of the file name. For example: YourNameResume.Doc.

File size matters as well. Are you uploading your resume through a job portal or sending it via email? Make sure the file size is light enough to download, upload or just go past email servers. “For emails, anything less than 1mb is ideal so they are not filtered, for portals, do not go above 5mb,” Alvarez says.

Customize Your Resume

If you really want to nail that job, then you have to tailor your resume to the specific role you are applying for. It doesn’t mean you have to make multiple resumes every time you are applying for a job. It just requires subtle changes to highlight specific skills that your prospect employer is looking for.

“Employers today are looking for specialized talents, so your resume needs to be tailored as well. Sending out generic resumes simply doesn’t give you that advantage,” Alvarez says.

“Research about the company and your prospect employer, and read the job description and requirements thoroughly to give you a better idea of what to present in your resume that is going to get their attention,” she adds.

Pay attention to the keywords they used in the job listing. For example, if they mentioned that they are looking for someone will skills on internal communication, you can use that keyword in your summary statement. In your employment summary, you can order the bullet points under your job titles to put this keyword first. 

The more closely you fit the job description at this initial selection stage, the less likely your application will get rejected. This is also going to help you beat the tracking program that will weed out applicants based on keywords and qualifications mentioned in their resume. 

Finally, take it one job application at a time. Creating the perfect resume will get your foot in the door, but ultimately it is finding the best fit that is going to open wide for you. Happy job hunting!

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