Did you know that the average job search can take as long as 43 days, or about six weeks?
Your search will take even longer if you’re hunting for an executive, vice president, or director role. C-level positions average 71 days while scoring a VP or director role can drag out to nearly 80 days!
So if you’ve been frustrated by how long it’s taking you to land your next high-level opportunity, you’re not alone. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait forever.
Follow the advice in this free resume writing tips for 2020 guide, and you’ll learn what it takes for an executive resume to stand out in this ultra-competitive digital job search market.
To do that, I’ll share the four foundational elements your resume and cover letter must have, at a minimum. Then we’ll level-up to more advanced techniques to optimize your work experience for search engines and hiring managers.
Tackle all the steps in this guide and you’ll be several steps ahead of your competition — and much closer to landing your next career opportunity.
Get These Four Basics Down First
Before we get to the top four resume writing tips for 2020, it’s important to get these foundational pieces out of the way first.
The rest of the strategies in this resource won’t be as effective if you’re missing these elements:
#1: Get Crystal Clear About What You’re Looking For
It’s a common mistake to first find jobs worth applying to and then blast out as many resumes and cover letters as you can per day.
But as you may have already experienced, this strategy rarely works well. It usually leads to a significant amount of wasted hours and loads of frustration.
So many people get stuck in this fruitless cycle because they skip a very important first step: figuring out what you want before you job search.
Have you spent any time deciding your next move?
Or do you plan to be in the same position at another company?
What exactly are you looking for in your future role?
Hammer out these details first and you’ll save time later. You’ll also laser-focus your search efforts on what you’re specifically looking for and who you’re trying to reach.
Understanding this will give you a better idea of your audience and their needs. So you’ll know how to speak clearly to them and hit on the points they’re looking for.
Take Action: Write down your answers to the questions above. Do some soul-searching to pinpoint the specifics of what you’re really looking for. Write down what you’re not looking for too.
#2: Tailor Your Pitch for Each Position
Despite the extra work, it’s this effort that will pay off big time.
If you never thought of your cover letter or resume as a sales pitch, think again.
Your resume and cover letter show each employer the unique value you bring to their company.
Similar to a sales pitch, it’s crucial to point out the advantages of going with you as a candidate and show how you can help solve their problems and meet their needs.
This requires a different approach for each position, which is why your cover letter and resume should also be unique for each opportunity you apply for.
Taking this a step further leads us to the next tip:
#3: Optimize Your Resume and Cover Letter for The Role You Want, Not the One You Have
People say you should dress for the job you want, not the one you have. And that same advice holds true for your resume and cover letter.
Many job candidates unknowingly position themselves for lateral moves, which is taking a similar job to the one you have but at a different company.
This goal is fine if you’re trying to show a new employer that you can run a bigger or more complex operation. But it will hurt your chances if you’re hoping to advance in your next career role.
When you spend time getting clear on your focus, think about your future career plans and how the next position fits in with them.
You want your resume to match this focus.
And it just takes a little savvy editing in the revision phase of your resume writing process to get it there.
#4: Take Editing and Rewriting Seriously for Both Your Resume and Cover Letter
It should go without saying that your executive resume should be 100% error-free.
It may surprise you to learn that a simple typo or misspelling could cost you your dream job. But here’s why you have to be so careful:
Employers and hiring managers are looking for a specific skill set when they assess your resume and cover letter. It’s not just about your years of work experience.
These important documents show them how well you think, clearly communicate your ideas, and whether you follow directions.
Though they may seem insignificant, typos show potential employers that you don’t have an eye for detail. It may also signal that you lack the insight to go over your own work.
These are two traits potential employers see as red flags.
No one wants embarrassing mistakes like these to represent their company. So you cannot afford to have typos on your executive resume and cover letter.
But typos aren’t the only area to focus on during your editing phase.
It’s crucial that the wording on your resume matches your career goals and relevant skill set.
Instead of describing your “duties,” for example, you’re better off using action words that describe your true impact.
When you avoid overused phrases like “strong leadership skills” and “responsibilities include,” your resume stands out from the other applicants simply copying and pasting their keywords.
So as you read over your resume, notice if you’re positioning yourself for the role you want versus the one you have.
If you’re in the latter group, focus on how your accomplishments have prepared you for the next step in your career. Quantify these successes on your resume as proof.
Another essential tip? Tighten up your writing.
Eliminate passive language and filler words. You’ll have less information competing for your reader’s attention. This means hiring managers will focus more on your main message.
You may need to go through a few rounds of editing and rewriting to craft a truly effective resume. That’s perfectly normal! You want your sales pitch to be as polished and targeted as possible.
So read over your resume and cover letter several times out loud. This is the best way to hear how your words flow and sound.
Does all this writing and rewriting sound daunting? Been a while since you’ve had to write a resume? Don’t fret — you can always outsource this step to the professionals. Hiring professional resume writers will give you the advantage to stand out from the pack and land your next interview. Get in touch now to learn more!
It’s necessary to complete these four steps when writing your resume and cover letter. But these basics won’t impress most hiring managers.
To truly make a solid first impression, you need to step up your game and follow the top four resume writing tips for 2020, which we’ll tackle next.
How To Follow The Top Four Resume Writing Tips for 2020
Once you have the basics down, you’re ready to create a resume that catches the attention of hiring managers and positions you as the right candidate.
This takes more than listing your graduate school courses or master’s degree.
When you write a resume, you want to highlight your soft skills and hard skills with examples relevant to your industry.
But you’ll also need to weave in modern resume trends and social media skills to show you’re clued into the future too.
Your personal branding statement is the best place to start showing off your personality and goals.
#1: Build a Solid Personal Branding Statement That Stands Out and Leaves a Lasting Impression
To be clear, a personal branding statement differs from an objective statement or an executive summary.
A branding statement conveys how you plan to bring value to a company based on your previous accomplishments and experience.
Your branding statement shouldn’t regurgitate accomplishments from your resume. Instead, treat it more like your unique value proposition. Think about what you specifically bring to the table that other candidates don’t.
Similar to selling a product or service, these key differentiators will help you stand out from your competition.
Take Action: Highlight your top three most impressive accomplishments. List these out in bullet points.
Now list out your biggest strengths.
Combine your strengths and accomplishments to build a unique branding statement that leaves a memorable first impression.
Remember, this is the first thing hiring managers and recruiters will read when it comes to your resume. So it’s essential to use this space wisely.
Get clear and succinct to quickly show your value and explain how you’ll help bring results in this position. Avoid using filler words that distract from your main message.
For help here, re-read the original job description to see what employers are looking for in this role. You can use this key information as a starting-off point for the direction of your branding statement.
Since this topic deserves more attention than just a small paragraph, I encourage you to check out this resource on how to create the perfect branding statement.
Master this step and you’ll be ready for the next pro tip:
#2: Optimize Your Documents for Applicant Tracking Software
Did you know there are over 400 different applicant tracking software systems that companies can use to weed out candidates[*]?
While that number may be alarming, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The latest resume trends show that an average corporate position can attract as many as 250 resumes — but just four to six candidates may be passed through to an interview[*]!
Because of this sheer volume, companies need efficient ways to sift through their pile of digital resumes. Applicant tracking software, or ATS for short, does just that.
When you’re applying for jobs online, there’s a good chance that your resume, work experience, and cover letter will go through ATS. This parsing software will scan your documents for relevant keywords matching the job description.
So if you want to make it through the pre-sorting round and to the hiring manager’s interview schedule, you must focus on sliding your docs through the ATS gatekeepers.
Here’s how to do that:
Find Keywords that ATS Will Be Searching For
Applicant tracking software will scan your profile, resume, and cover letter looking for keywords that match the job description they’ve posted.
So you want to include keywords from the job ad sprinkled throughout your information and where it fits naturally.
Remember, each job ad will be different, which means your keywords should also be slightly different.
That’s why it’s important to scan the job posting first to write down the exact words the company uses. The software is likely programmed to pick up these specific keywords and phrases.
So jot down which skills and titles are mentioned the most. Then be sure that your experience and titles reflect these.
But ATS success isn’t about stuffing your resume with the most relevant keywords. The software isn’t designed to gauge an applicant’s resume based on having the highest keyword score.
If you go overboard with keywords, you’ll come across poorly by trying to cheat the system.
Only use the keywords that make sense. And make sure you have a good balance so the software rates your information with several positive checkmarks.
It also helps to weave in synonyms and acronyms of those keywords you found. These aren’t always caught by applicant tracking software systems.
Beware: Watch Out for These Issues
Headings are a troublesome area for some ATS, so tucking important information here, such as your address or personal branding statement, is not a good idea.
If you plan to use headers, skip the first page and add your text to the second page instead. This gives you a better chance of picking up keywords.
It’s also essential to use a Word document and save it as a PDF for both your cover letter and resume. Doing so increases your odds of ATS reading what you wrote.
Don’t get cute with fonts. Stick to simple fonts like Calibri, Arial, and Helvetica to ensure the software scans your keywords instead of ignoring them.
Address all the issues so far in this guide and you’ll boost your chances of making it to the next phase of your job search.
And that segues us perfectly into the next important point:
#3: Don’t Forget About the Person Behind the Software
Once you make it through the ATS, an actual person will review your resume and cover letter. This will most likely be a hiring manager or recruiter.
That’s why you can’t stuff keywords everywhere just to make it to the top of the stack. Your resume and cover letter won’t stand a chance of getting past these actual readers.
To make sure your cover letter and resume have what it takes to grab someone’s attention, re-read them both a few times out loud.
If you stumble on your wording or find too many keywords, now’s the time to make edits and cut the bloat.
Better yet, have a friend or colleague read your resume out loud to see if they spot anything strange. Ask for feedback and suggestions too.
Doing this gives you helpful insight about the first items other people notice.
After all, current trends show recruiters spend just six seconds scanning a resume. So it’s beyond important to capture their attention right away and within the first few seconds of them reading your application[*].
Ask your friend or coworker what caught their focus, and you’ll know whether you’ve hit the mark or need to revisit the editing phase.
The last important piece of the puzzle is how your resume looks.
#4: Use a Visually Appealing Layout Emphasizing The Right Information
Even if you’ve optimized your content, it’s hard to capture anyone’s attention with a traditional resume format.
That giant list of bullet points for work experience, education, and other soft skills isn’t inviting or exciting.
So rather than going with what everyone else usually does, show off your personal brand by using a resume template that reflects your modern aesthetic.
How exactly do you do that?
First, think about what would make your resume easier to scan and visually engaging.
The first top half of the page is your prime-time real estate. Here’s where you want to highlight your personal branding statement and your strongest pieces of identifying information.
Go with tight, succinct call-outs that quantify your achievements and skill set in an impactful way. Think of using a bold font or stand-out visuals like logos, badges, and statistics, especially if you’ve worked with well-known companies.
Need a visual example? Check out these free resume sample examples that can be used as templates for inspiration.
After you check out those resume samples, you can use the information you discovered earlier in this guide to fill in your template.
You don’t want to cram in too much information when writing your resume. This makes it so text-dense that it’s virtually impossible to read.
So remember to add white space for breathing room and you’ll guide your reader to the next bit of information without overwhelming them.
These easy tips will help your resume and cover letter get the attention it deserves and push you through to the next round.
Start with These Tips Before Moving On To the Rest
Master these resume writing tips for 2020 and you’ll be in good shape and well ahead of other similarly qualified candidates.
Want the ultimate tool to get your application to the interview round?
Partner with our team of professional resume writers. We’ll review your cover letter and resume and let you know what to improve to help you stand out and land your next role.
To learn more about our professional writing services or how a resume writer can help, please visit this page now.
Not ready for a professional boost yet?
We encourage you to check out our latest ebook: The 7 Mistakes People Make When Writing an Executive Resume. You’ll learn more about what you can do to create a resume that gets noticed (in a good way).
Combine the tips in this resource with those found in the ebook and you’ll climb several rungs closer to your next big career opportunity.
Are you tired of your resume being rejected by applicant tracking systems? I know how frustrating it is to submit your resume and receive no response. I hate seeing qualified people never break through the screening process. It shouldn’t be that way. That’s why I created this guide and I encourage you to download the FREE PDF so you can start seeing better resume response rates!
Share this post:
About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
Leave a Comment
Will your resume impress employers? Take this 2-minute quiz to find out.
Get your personalized plan for a resume that stands out and lands you your dream job!
Need a little help getting hiring managers to take notice? Find out what's standing between you and those magic words "You're exactly who we've been looking for!"
The 8 resume writing tips are really helpful. Thanks for sharing it. To build your resume you can visit us at https://www.careersbooster.com/our-services/cv-writing/