You can design your resume to appear modern and appropriate for today's job search, but it is equally important to include relevant content to appeal to the hiring manager. Most companies today are using a computerized system (known as an applicant tracking system, or ATS) to evaluate your materials; this means a human is not likely to see your resume unless you pass the initial, computerized scan. If you do not identify key words and phrases from the job description, or forget to incorporate the most important content in your resume, you may lose your chance for an interview – and it may have nothing to do with your age or experience.
Keep these tips in mind so your resume will make the cut:
1. Use keywords.
Study job descriptions to identify what the employer wants and include key words in your document. For example, job titles are keywords – use your targeted job title in your resume's headline. Incorporate nouns and noun phrases describing the skills the employer is seeking. For example, "cross-functional teams and internal and external customer service." Include degrees, certifications, and memberships – all may be keywords for the job.
2. Use up-to-date language to reflect modern skills.
Avoid old-fashioned references and language that makes the reader think you are stuck in the past or lacking useful skills. For example, while some offices still use fax machine, don't highlight your ability to fax a document as if it's your most important accomplishment. If you work with computer programs, be sure to reference the most up-to-date software versions.
If you work in customer service, demonstrate your ability to use social media in your resume to help distinguish you from other applicants. If your skills are lacking, sign up for some classes or look for online opportunities to learn new information. Then, include the course work or just list the new skills in your resume. Don't underestimate informal ways to learn new things; you may be surprised by how much you can pick up by watching YouTube videos.
4. Demonstrate flexibility and adaptability.
One stereotype some employers may have about experienced workers is that they may have a hard time learning new things. How can you show you're ready, willing, and able to learn? Emphasize how you've used up-to-date tools, and showcase accomplishments related to those tools. For example, even if you're unemployed, consider creating a YouTube channel for a non-profit organization where you volunteer. If the non-profit reaches more people via the channel and increases their donations, you will have a great story for your resume that also makes it clear you aren't stuck in 1995.
5. Highlight results.
Avoid language such as, "responsible for" or "assisted in;" these are dated ways to describe what you offer. If the description asks for a detailed, customer-service oriented candidate, don't say, "Responsible for providing strong customer service and answering phones." Instead, include specifics, and highlight skills and results:
"Use strong attention to detail to provide customer service support to patients, guests, and staff. Answer telephones, transcribe messages, and route calls, resulting in winning customer service awards (2011 and 2012)."
When you create bullet points that draw direct connections between what you did and what the employer wants you to do, it will be easier for the reader to envision you in the job.
6. Don't cling to the past.
A mistake many job seekers make is they insist on including an in-depth work history, even if it does not interest the employer. Make every word count: Review your resume and compare it to job descriptions. Highlight the parts of your resume that relate specifically to your target job. If the majority of your resume is not highlighted, it is time for a major overhaul.
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