Give your resume a pandemic refresh with these 7 savvy tips

With high unemployment and continued economic uncertainty, job seekers face a competitive job market. Here are seven tips to keep in mind when refreshing a resume or CV.

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Image: iStock/kerkez

In recent months, millions of people have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. Amid high unemployment and continued economic uncertainty, prospective job seekers face a competitive market in the months ahead. Many people will need to update their resume as part of the application process and there are many strategies to increase one's employment chances. Below, we've curated a series of tips and insights from industry experts to help give a resume a pandemic refresh before submitting that next job application.

SEE: Resume refresh: Expert tips to make your CV stand out (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Emphasize collaboration skills

Many companies are using a vast suite of collaboration tools such as Zoom, Slack, virtual whiteboards, and more to assist remote teams. That said, sans the standard procedures of in-person collaboration, there is a bit of a learning curve for some telecommuters. Mike DePrisco, VP of global experience and solutions at the Project Management Institute (PMI), explained that individuals should consider emphasizing their experience with virtual tools in their resume.

"Prove your proficiency with collaborative tools. With so many teams using tools like Microsoft Teams Trello, Slack, etc.–it is no longer enough to mention them by name in a "skills" section. Specific examples of how you applied these tools in your work experiences to complete a project, lead a team or achieve an outcome is more important," DePrisco said via email.

Detail the soft skills

Organizations are increasingly seeking employees with strong soft skill sets during the hiring and recruiting process. These soft skills are particularly valuable virtual collaborative assets to note in the remote work era.

"Demonstrate your "power skills"–those skills that are in high demand and differentiate the great performers from the average. Creativity, collaborative leadership, curiosity, empathy–these are the skills that employers are searching for, and can help you stand out from the rest of the crowd," DePrisco said.

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Highlight transferable talents

It's important to note that some individuals may be looking to switch careers during this time. Caitlin Proctor, a content manager at ZipJob, explained the importance of emphasizing transferable skills such as collaboration and problem solving during a resume update.

"When you don't quite meet a job's desired qualifications, you can double down on how the skills you already have would help you succeed in this role. This tactic won't work if you don't meet basic qualifications (often hard skills or degrees) but can help bridge the gap for years of experience," Proctor said via email.

"Make your transferable skills more compelling by including results and metrics whenever possible," Proctor continued.

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Emphasize past performance and proven results

Prospective job seekers do not have much time to impress hiring managers during the application process. In fact, it's been estimated that hiring managers only spend a few seconds scanning an applicant's resume. Applicants must be sure to make the most of their time and limited resources starting with a thoughtfully crafted resume filled with pertinent data.

"Remember that a recruiter/hiring manager is only going to take about 5 seconds to look at your resume, so you want them to quickly see what you've done (impact) and what you can do for the next company.  This can be conveyed in a few sentences or a few bullet points at the top of your resume," said Ken Underhill, master instructor at Cybrary, via email.

Underhill offered a template for individuals to consider when illustrating their past impact.

"For example, instead of "managed a team of 6" on your resume, try "led a team of 6 that helped increase gross revenue by 13% within the first 12 months of my leadership," said Underhill.

Similarly, DePrisco said that it's important to emphasize the value an applicant has added in past positions rather than simply listing previous responsibilities. Illustrating one's potential value-add shows potential employers what an individual brings to the table based on data and personal experience.

"Refreshing a resume during high unemployment, when larger candidate pools and fewer interview opportunities exist is a challenge. Your resume needs to speak louder than it would at any other time and bring to life the value you could offer a potential employer," DePrisco said. "Focus your comments on the key outcomes you delivered for your organization versus simply listing the set of tasks you were responsible for doing."

Make note of recent upskilling

Online courses and micro-credentials have been popular options for many professionals in recent months. This proactive approach to self-investment and career development will help candidates stand out during the application process. DePrisco explained that individuals who have used this time to invest in micro-courses and upskilling should make note of these efforts in their resume. 

Underhill similarly expressed the value of these courses while providing a more macro view emphasizing the importance of one's comprehensive skill set.

"I've also seen many unemployed people racking up a portfolio of certifications. Certs are OK, but at the end of the day an employer wants to see that you have the skill set to do the job," Underhill said.

Broaden your network reach

While some telecommuters feel as though networking opportunities have been reduced during the coronavirus pandemic, there are myriad ways to connect with others and build one's brand from afar; especially on social media platforms. Underhill explained that a resume should serve as one part of a multifaceted approach to networking, career development, and the application process itself.

"You need to start with networking and positioning. A resume should just be the icing on the cake. I've had discussions with recruiters in the industry and they get hundreds, if [not] thousands, of applications for a single role," Underhill said. "Applying to jobs and battling the ATS systems is the old way of doing things and ineffective if you're really trying to get a job. You need to network, brand yourself on social media, and showcase your skills through projects."

Social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn allow individuals to post and share content as well as provide insights on topics relevant to their industry and personal interests. This varied approach to brand-building offers a richer illustration of a candidate's abilities and interest than a resume alone.

Avoid keyword stuffing

A number of organizations are leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to help shift through employee applications and automate some of the hiring process. To attempt to manipulate these AI hiring systems and boost employment, some have suggested incorporating a wide range of industry-specific keywords throughout a resume. While there may be some benefit to this approach, it's important to remember the significance of clarity and readability rather than focusing primarily on fully saturating a document with every industry buzzword.

"Companies are turning to AI now more than ever to help with the hiring process. It is important to insert key words and phrases into your resume, but in a way that accurately describes your experience and doesn't feel forced," DePrisco said.

Underhill explained that this approach could give individuals an early boost in the initial application process, but emphasized the importance of networking using a personal anecdote.

"Keywords can help you get past the initial ATS (applicant tracking system) screen, but the best way past an ATS is to have an internal champion at the company. This is why networking is critical. Also, many companies don't post open roles because they will be inundated with applications. I've gotten most of my roles through networking and not applying to a job posting," Underhill said.

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