Image: iStock/poike

As COVID-19 continues to take its toll on communities and economies around the globe, millions remain unemployed due to the pandemic and economic uncertainty. Moving forward, many people around the country will need to update their resumes in preparation for the application and hiring process. We spoke with Master Instructor Ken Underhill at the career development and cybersecurity training company Cybrary to discuss tips for writing a resume and common applicant mistakes. We’ve listed some of these top resume writing tips and other insights below.

Keep it simple

A resume is an applicant’s first chance to make a lasting impression. Unfortunately, this window of opportunity is historically limited. It’s been estimated that hiring managers typically spend about seven seconds looking over a resume. For this reasoning, it’s important to provide as much crucial information as possible with brevity in mind. Underhill reiterated this logic and highlighted formatting tips to help strategically compartmentalize this information.

“We need to hook them and then pull them into reading everything else about it. So, it could be a sentence. It could be a couple of bullet points, but it definitely shouldn’t be like 24 bullet points they’re having to look through,” Underhill said.

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

Consider boiling down the main duties of the position into a few key points. In such a limited format, every word carries tremendous weight, so choose your words wisely and pick your spots to use job description keywords and perhaps illustrate your personality.

Show your past impact

Although it’s imperative to include past experience and duties, there are other details often omitted in standard resumes. Underhill emphasized the importance of including one’s past impact within these individual career notes. To demonstrate this, think about the lasting impression you demonstrated in a previous role and what this means for the position you hope to land.

“When I interview these hiring managers and recruiters, what I found is that it doesn’t matter about your font, it doesn’t matter about your pretty graphics,” Underhill said. “What matters is can they quickly see in that five to seven seconds, the impact that you can have, and is it curious enough or is there enough detail in there for them to say let me look at this further.”

To assist, Underhill discussed a hypothetical scenario involving a project manager in a previous position. Rather than noting the job duties, he suggested explaining how the individual reduced costs citing specific numbers in this previous role. This adds a concrete, data-driven component to the applicant’s profile.

Research the employer

When refreshing a resume or crafting a new document, it’s often a good idea to consider the fundamentals of the application process as a whole. In the digital age, it’s easy to apply en masse for dozens of positions by uploading the same resume on numerous hiring sites. However, a better understanding of a particular company could help determine next steps in the application process.

“When you’re applying for jobs and you’re actually ready to apply for jobs at the company, do more research on that company,” Underhill said. “People don’t do this anymore for some weird reason, but do a lot of research on the company and figure out how your job or how that job role would actually fit [with] the company.”

SEE: TechRepublic Premium editorial calendar: IT policies, checklists, toolkits, and research for download (TechRepublic Premium)

Know your audience

Once, an applicant has a better understanding of a company’s culture, values, and direction, they can then tailor the resume for this particular position. Prospective employees can also pepper in keywords from the job description and really drive home their past impact based on the duties inherent in this new role. Underhill emphasized keeping the audience in mind during the resume writing process.

“Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. So, not just the hiring manager but the organization, the executives, etc. And think about, OK when they look at my resume, what do they want to see? We always kind of think about ourselves, but we really need to take a step back and say, okay, what do they want to see?” Underhill said.

Keep it professional

Underhill said that some applicants include graphics and, at times, even add headshots to their resume. However, Underhill advised against including these components. If a hiring manager is interested, they can (and probably will) search for applicants online and browse their social media channels and professional networking sites. Underhill suggested allowing the recruiter or hiring manager to find applicants online where individuals can more aptly brand themselves.

Leverage your personal brand

This element of personal branding is critical during the application and hiring process. In the social media era, the resume serves as a springboard into an applicant’s world. If an individual’s resume makes the first cut, hiring managers can next pore over a candidate’s social channels for more information. Consequently, social media channels from LinkedIn to Twitter serve as powerful personal branding tools. Posting or sharing insightful media and concepts allows applicants to illustrate their interests and personality.

“It doesn’t matter that you’re fresh out of high school or fresh out of college. If you could position yourself as a thought leader, then jobs will chase you down, you don’t have to go chasing them down,” Underhill said.

SEE: Key details: NASA’s mission to Mars (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Show your skills and training

Individuals should also provide information related to recent training and micro-credentials. With millions of people unemployed, numerous organizations are offering free online training courses to help people upskill during the coronavirus pandemic. Demonstrating this proactive retooling between positions may help set applicants apart from other candidates in the months ahead.

“If you show that you’re actually continuously learning, it shows that passion and you can’t really train passion at all. You can train people on skill, [but] you can’t train that passion, that hunger for learning,” Underhill said.