Your resume probably isn't something you whipped up overnight. So it might surprise you to learn that recruiters will only spend about six seconds, on average, looking at that key document.
Because recruiters are more likely to scan your resume rather than read it thoroughly, it's critical that you make a good first impression. With that in mind, here are a few things you absolutely need to have on your resume.
1. A strong opening summary
Your opening summary is your opportunity to grab recruiters' attention and keep them interested. Ideally, you should sum up your qualifications and value in a couple of sentences, using snappy, engaging language. But don't confuse an opening summary with an objective statement. While the former can set the stage for a solid read, the latter is likely to bore recruiters and send your resume trash-bound. Telling recruiters that you're a "seasoned marketing professional with an eye for the outrageous" is a far better message to communicate than "seeking a marketing position where I can utilize my existing skills."
2. Relevant experience
Recruiters are more likely to give your resume a more thorough read if they think you're a viable candidate. That's why it pays to focus on your relevant experience and emphasize those current or former tasks that are most likely to come up in the roles you're applying for. For example, if you're seeking an account manager position at an advertising agency, play up your client interactions at your former or current job, even if your main role involves copywriting.
3. Hard numbers
It's one thing to say you're good at what you do, but it's another thing to back up your accomplishments with actual data. That why it pays to use numbers on your resume whenever possible, such as "increased sales by 30%" or "reduced production costs by 15%." Numbers are eye-catching and easy to spot on an otherwise crowded piece of paper, so if yours are impressive, be sure to include them.
4. Action verbs
A strong candidate is one who makes things happen, so use action verbs on your resume whenever possible when describing your current or former tasks. For example, rather than say "was responsible for key accounts," say "managed key accounts." It might seem like a silly matter of semantics, but a little action can go a long way on a resume.
Fair or not, recruiters will judge you based on their quick skim of your resume, so it's crucial that you make it as clean as possible. To this end, make sure you're consistent in the way you format your resume and list your job history. If you bold the first two job titles you ever held, then bold the last two as well. Similarly, make sure you use the same font and bullet type throughout that document. If your resume looks at all inconsistent, it will send the wrong message to the recruiters who receive it -- namely, you don't pay attention to details.
6. Correct spelling and grammar
Even though most recruiters spend just a few brief seconds reviewing candidates' resumes, you never know when yours might get a second look. And if that document contains any sort of spelling or grammatical error, it could cause an otherwise interested recruiter to instantly move on. To avoid this, run your resume through a spell-check and grammar-check program. Even better, enlist the help of a friend or colleague to review it on your behalf. Computerized programs aren't infallible, and they don't always catch errors that are otherwise blatant. It's hard to self-edit, as your brain tends to automatically read things the way you intended them to be read, so you're better off getting a bit of outside assistance.