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The Average Recruiter Initially Spends 7.4 Seconds Scanning a Resume, So Use These Strategies to Stand Out in Your Job Search

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If you hope to land a new job, you'll want to make sure your resume catches the eyes of recruiters.

The first thing you should do is shift your mindset, said certified professional career coach Matt Glodz, founder of Chicago-based executive resume writing firm Resume Pilots.

"Stop thinking so much about yourself and think more about what your reader is looking for and expecting to see," he said.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shifted what some employers consider important — including, for example, vaccination status.

In this era of vaccine mandates, the number of job postings requiring candidates to be vaccinated against Covid-19 has doubled since the end of September, according to career site Ladders. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden's vaccine and testing mandate for private businesses is currently working its way through the court system.

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Whether or not you put your vaccination status on your resume is a personal decision, said Amanda Augustine, career advice expert at New-York based resume-writing service TopResume.

"If you are OK putting the information out there and that is the status for you, you are better off because there are employers that are ignoring candidates that don't disclose that information," she said.

In fact, 33% of hiring managers will automatically eliminate resumes that don't include a Covid-19 vaccine status, a survey by ResumeBuilder.com found. It surveyed 1,250 hiring managers across the U.S. in August.

With that in mind, here are five strategies to make your resume stand out.

1. Demonstrate flexibility

Adaptability and flexibility are the top skills employers believe have greater importance since the pandemic hit, an October 2020 TopResume survey of 334 hiring professionals found.

Critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration and teamwork are also important to employers these days.

While it may feel challenging to get these skills across on your resume without simply listing them, think about the most recent work you have done that can demonstrate those skills, Augustine suggests.

"Talk about how you created results, got something done on time, contributed to your organization and the steps you took to get there," she said.

If you've worked remotely during the pandemic, be sure to include that, as well, by simply putting it in parentheses next to your title in the experience section.

"You never know when you may be thrown back into some sort of quarantine," Augustine said.

2. Present a compelling narrative

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Your resume should tell a clear story as to why your experience and skills qualify you for the position you are applying for, Augustine said.

Therefore, TopResume recommends a hybrid-resume format that is not fully chronological. Instead, the top third of the resume should give employers a quick glance at why it makes sense to talk to you, she explained. It should include your contact information, professional title, professional summary and areas of expertise.

Then, dive into your work experience.

3. Show your impact

Recruiters want to see the impact you've made to your prior or current organization. If your experience section is very task-based, focusing on your day-to-day responsibilities, it will read more like a job description instead of painting a picture for recruiters, Glodz said.

"Take the task and turn it into an achievement," he advised.

For example, show how much a project increased the company's revenue or saved the business money.

4. Format matters

The average hiring professional spends 7.4 seconds scanning a resume before deciding whether to look at the candidate more closely, a 2018 Ladders study found.

"When you have such a little time to capture their attention and zero in on your application, you want to make sure it is easy for them to scan and understand your career narrative," Augustine said.

Don't make your experience an endless list of bullet points or dense paragraphs. Instead, create a short paragraph under your job that describes the role and responsibilities. Then use your bullet points, or what Augustine calls bragging points, to demonstrate your achievements.

Stay away from custom or overly intricate font styles. Use a classic resume template, organized with conventional headings, Glodz said.

Carefully proofread it line by line, looking at not only grammar and phrasing but making sure your spacing and fonts are consistent throughout.

"Your professionalism is really going to be demonstrated by how you present your document," Glodz said.

5. Don't forget a cover letter

When TopResume asked hiring managers if they are more likely to read cover letters now than before the pandemic, 48% said yes.

"It won't hurt your application if you include it, but you could be hurting your chances of a call back if you don't," Augustine said.

Don't make it generic. Instead customize it by including what you've learned about the company and what they are looking for in a candidate for the role you are applying for.

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