As competition in the job market rises, it's crucial that job seekers know how to format their resumes to grab the attention of employers. And while college degrees may seem impressive, employers are looking for resumes that showcase high-quality skills and field experiences. To make your resume stand out from other candidates' resumes, focus on format and word choice.
Wendi Weiner, a certified professional resume writer and founder of The Writing Guru, noted that a job candidate's skills and relevant knowledge are substantiated by the keywords they choose to use.
"Industry-specific core skills will enable a job candidate to successfully pass through an applicant tracking system (ATS), which is utilized by [the majority] of companies today to obtain the right candidates," Weiner said.
Each resume should be specific to the job you are applying for. You can easily locate the keywords a company is focused on by looking at the requirements listed for the job. If you have knowledge of, or experience using certain software programs listed in the job description, include them on your resume to draw employers' attention.
Simply highlighting keywords, however, is not enough to make your resume stand out. In a recent blog post, Debra Wheatman, president of Careers Done Write and a certified professional resume writer, discussed the recent shift in resume trends.
"No longer are [resumes] merely a listing of jobs and duties. They are truly promotional materials," Wheatman explained. "As such, it is no longer enough to say that you are a creative, motivational problem-solver. You need to demonstrate it."
The challenge is greater for those who have been laid off or who have been out of work for an extended period of time. For these professionals, the task of proving that their skills are relevant can be more difficult than it is for other job seekers.
Ford R. Myers, a career coach, speaker and author of the book, "Get The Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring" (John Wiley & Sons, 2009), advised job seekers to add transferable skills that they've gained from paid and unpaid past experiences to their resumes.
"Transferable skills acquired during any activity – volunteer positions, classes, projects, parenting, hobbies, sports – can be applicable to one's next job," Myers said. "By adding transferable skills to a resume, employers get a better understanding and broader picture of who they are hiring as well as the interests, values and experiences that the candidate brings to the table."
The idea is to explain your skills and experiences in a way that highlights any gains. Kristen Bahler, Time Inc.'s careers reporter, touches on formatting resumes in her article, "What Your Resume Should Look Like in 2018."
"Be specific and provide relevant statistics wherever you can," Bahler stated. "Revenue wins, client growth, and budget savings are easy to quantify – and are resume gold."
Based on the advice of our expert sources, here are a few categories of skills you could include on your resume, along with unique ways to express them.
Jobs require teamwork. There will be constant exchanges with co-workers, and discussing and sharing ideas with supervisors. Employers want to know the level of communication skills you have and how well you work with others. The specific skills required will vary based on your position. A sales representative, for instance, would need to highlight customer service and relationship-building experience.
On your resume: writes clearly and concisely, listens attentively, negotiates/resolves differences, provides and asks for feedback, offers well-thought-out solutions, cooperates and works well with others, thrives in a collaborative environment
Planning and organization
If the job you want involves working on research projects and companywide campaigns, you want to show off your top-notch planning abilities. "Organization skills" may sound like an overused filler term, but those skills are the ones that will help you succeed. Show potential employers you've got what they're looking for by outlining your involvement in, and results from, current and previous projects.
On your resume: identifies and gathers appropriate resources, thoroughly researches background information, develops strategies, thinks critically to solve problems, coordinates and completes tasks, manages projects effectively, meets deadlines
Management and leadership
Leadership skills can be gained in a variety of conventional and unconventional ways, but it's not always easy to express them on a resume. Demonstrating your management abilities on paper requires you to think about what it is you do best as a leader and how you guide your employees toward success. To give employers a better idea of what you've accomplished, discuss the size of the team and the scope of the projects you manage.
On your resume: teaches/trains/instructs, counsels/coaches, manages conflict, helps team members set and achieve goals, delegates effectively, makes and implements decisions, oversees projects
Social media is one of the most desired skills in a variety of job fields. Socially active organizations are more likely to attract top talent, drive new sales leads and better engage customers, according to Amir Zonozi, chief of strategy at social engagement platform Zoomph. Therefore, when employers look for new hires, they're also typically looking for new internal-brand ambassadors.
Zonozi noted that for positions directly involving work on corporate social media campaigns, hiring managers look for concrete numbers and metrics, including web traffic, audience reach and overall engagement.
On your resume: manages social media campaigns, measures and analyzes campaign results, identifies and connects with industry influencers, sparks social conversation within the brand's community, creates and executes content strategies, drives engagement and leads, enhances brand image through social presence
Samples are available to help you format your resume. You can also join LinkedIn to complete your resume and connect with professionals online.
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon, Jeanette Mulvey and Shannon Gausepohl.