3 tips for a ‘hyper-focused’ resume to grab recruiters’ attention at a job fair, according to a career coach

Your resume can make or break your chances of getting a new job opportunity. Though some hiring managers and recruiters may spend time thoroughly scanning your resume, at a career fair, you usually only have seconds to make a good impression.

In this current competitive job market, it’s important for candidates, especially new graduates, to have a resume that’s eye-catching and informative.

Emily Liou, a career happiness coach and founder of job search platform Cultivitae, has reviewed thousands of resumes over her almost 10-year career in recruiting and career coaching, and says your resume is “a marketing tool, not a tell-all of everything you’ve done”

“Crafting a resume can be a bit more challenging for a career fair because you’re not tailoring it to just one organization or one position.”

Based on Liou’s advice, these three tips can help you make sure your resume is career fair ready:

Be clear and concise

According to an ex-Amazon recruiter, you have six seconds to grab a hiring manager’s attention when they’re reviewing your resume. If your resume is wordy and drawn out, chances are, they probably won’t take the time to read it all.

Liou suggests painting a “clear narrative” about the role you want and the information that would be most valuable to the company, while also being brief.

“Even if it’s not for a specific company or specific to one role, your resume should highlight who you are, who you want to serve, what you want to do and how you do it. Zone in on that and tailor your resume to it.”

This not only helps you grab the recruiter’s attention early on, but a clear skill set could potentially open doors for other opportunities.

“Having a hyper-focused resume also allows an organization to say, “We don’t have this role, but have you considered this other role that we have open? You seem like a great candidate for that.”

Perfect your personal summary

Your professional summary is the first thing a recruiter will see at the top of your resume. Liou says this part of the resume is especially crucial for college students and recent graduates, who may not have established work experience yet.

“The professional summary should be able to tell the employer who you are before they even have to dissect your experience, your education, your internships and so forth.”

After the professional summary, Liou suggests formatting the rest of the resume in this order:

  1. Skills: Snapshot the hard, technical abilities that you’ve learned throughout your career or education
  2. Experience: Relevant to the direction you want to go
  3. Volunteer Work: Extracurricular activities that have contributed to your professional success
  4. Education: Name your institution along with your GPA upon graduation

Keep it simple

Gen Z job seekers have gotten creative with their resumes recently, with some even going as far as submitting video resumes on TikTok to show their skill sets. Though this approach may be embraced by some companies, for a career fair, Liou suggests keeping it simple. 

“Recruiters literally have like six seconds to review and decide if a person can possibly be a fit for their company. I see a lot of people who are doing video resumes and they’re almost up to a minute long. People are not going to sit there and watch the whole thing before they can assess what your background is.”

Instead, Liou advises job seekers to keep it “standard and traditional,” at least until their first follow-up interaction with a hiring manager.

“There’s always the follow-up. If you know the company’s culture is creative, or your role requires some sort of social media, creativity, or video skills, the follow up would be a great time to add that spin.”

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