Your 2021 Résumé: 5 Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

Whether you lost your job during the pandemic or simply want to test out the job market waters in the new year, you’ll need an updated résumé for 2021. That résumé will need to pass muster with automated and human reviewers, and make you stand out in a crowded field of applicants.

The key here is to target your résumé to specific jobs, rather than creating a generic, one-size-fits-all document. The nuances within job descriptions, duties and requirements are often subtle, explained career advisor and résumé writer Matt Krumrie. By tailoring your résumé appropriately, you’ll ensure that your overall application lands on the right hiring manager’s desk, not the digital trash bin. 

Here’s a look at the small changes that can make your résumé shine for the rest of 2020 and 2021.

Skills for a Post-Pandemic World

“Team player” has been a tech résumé buzzword for decades. These days, however, employers no longer view teamwork as a special differentiator—it’s a baseline requirement for everyone on the team.

Given the trickiness of remote work, recruiters and hiring managers are looking for evidence of emotional intelligence (EI) and success working with people from different cultures and backgrounds, explained Steven Provenzano, résumé writer and president of Executive Career Services (ECS). Being able to effectively work with teammates and convey information in a remote-work environment is a big plus at the moment, and your résumé should reflect that.

Also, use your résumé to highlight your emotional intelligence and “soft skills” such as empathy and communication, which are always important. For example, you could use the bullet-points beneath your previous positions to detail how you communicated project results to senior management, conducted seminars, and trained users, or how you’ve managed to boost team cohesion despite everyone working across multiple time-zones.

In addition, make sure to reference any communication tools or project management software you’ve used to track and document your work. While you may not think of these as “new” tools or skills worth mentioning, they can showcase your ability to work independently and remotely, Krumrie added.

Success in Supporting Roles

Yes, employers want developers and programmers with pure technical skills and vast coding experience. But they also want technologists with a proven track record of supporting others in a team environment.

This is especially important if you’ve assisted other stakeholders in delivering specific and measurable impact to the company’s top and bottom lines, noted Arno Markus, certified résumé writer and founder of iCareerSolutions. For example, if you’ve implemented a SaaS program that’s saved money, or stepped outside your usual duties to train end users, including the details in your résumé will get you interviews. 

Exploring how you’ve played a supportive role in delivering major initiatives can help you identify achievements and quantify the downstream effect of your technical activities (something many tech pros struggle with). These days, it’s important to show all the ways you can contribute to a company.

Talent Over Work History

How do you want to be perceived by prospective employers? Focusing your résumé what you’ve done in the past can leave you stuck in a career rut, Provenzano pointed out.

Don’t lead with work history. Instead, focus on the profile summary at the top of your résumé; including a personal branding statement that highlights your talents and knowledge can prove a winner with recruiters and hiring managers who are only spending a few seconds scanning each résumé.

(To pass muster with résumé screeners, just make sure that the targeted job title at the top of your résumé precisely matches the job title on your LinkedIn profile.)

What if you lack hands-on experience for the role you want to pursue? In that case, list the training and education that will allow you to do well in the role. Even better, launch an independent project or two involving the skills vital to the role; some code in a GitHub repository, or a small app, can demonstrate that you have what it takes.

Updated Formats and Designs

Recruiters are getting younger, and Millennials and members of Generation Z prefer a more visual résumé format with a splash of color that is also applicant tracking system (ATS)-friendly.

Consider including one or two graphics to illustrate key achievements (including pictures, logos and graphs). Use boldface type to highlight keywords and skill summary sections and use Calibri instead of the more traditional Times New Roman font. Need ideas? Check out these samples.

Customized Technical Skill Summaries

Many technologists miss the proverbial boat by failing to create a separate technical skills summary, broken down into more specific subsections that match the job requirements. This is where recruiters and hiring managers sometimes look first. 

When listing your skills, make sure you’re adept in the latest versions of the various tools and platforms that the job requires. Knowing those versions can prove a competitive advantage when it comes to landing the job, as many companies are intensely concerned about candidates’ skills being up-to-date.