This article originally appeared on AllBusiness.
In a competitive labor market, your resume must get you on the interview pile in 30 seconds or less. Otherwise, you will end up in the reject pile and never get a chance to sell yourself in person.
The best format and structure for resumes is a never-ending debate. Yet instead of worrying about how it is structured, you first need to worry about the content, which is where most resumes fail to get you face to face with human resources and the hiring manager.
Only then should you focus on structure and formatting. Remember, your resume doesn’t stand alone; it gets compared to all the others in the pile, so it isn’t about how good you are, it is about how your resume looks compared to the others. All it takes is a little nudge to get into the “keeper” pile instead of the “reject” pile.
Here are five important things you need to consider when writing your resume:
It isn’t enough to write a custom cover letter. Your resume content must be edited to match the job requirements as closely as possible. You can keep the basic information the same, but rearrange, add, or change bullet points with your experience or accomplishments to highlight the ones most relevant to the job you are applying for and to get the attention of the hiring manager.
You should also carefully consider the key words used in the job posting or the job description and be sure to include those same words in your resume.
2. Be specific
Details are necessary to demonstrate that you are the right person for a job. When describing your past jobs, don’t just give a generic explanation or assume the hiring manager will understand the details based on the job title. Instead, expand to highlight specific things that are important to the job you are applying for, keeping it short and using bullet points.
For instance, just because you were a Project Manager doesn’t mean you were directly involved with estimating costs, for instance. But that skill may be necessary for the new job. So if you were, and it is important, specifically mention it. Don’t leave it to the hiring manager to make assumptions or you won’t get to an interview.
For more on career advice, watch this Fortune video:
3. Transferrable skills
Sometimes there isn’t a 100% fit between your background and the job you are applying for. To deal with that gap, you need to highlight the specific skills and even describe how each is transferrable. Again, don’t leave it up to the hiring manager to make the connection—make it for them. For instance, if you apply for a Customer Service Manager position for a manufacturer, you may want to highlight the skill and experience you have dealing with difficult customer situations in a retail sales environment at one of your previous jobs, which the hiring manager may not be able to relate to or connect to their own situation.
As you gain career experience, you will end up with a longer resume, yet length isn’t necessarily what will get you to an interview.
Review all your past positions and expand those that are relevant using the tips above and reduce the ones that aren’t. This way, the hiring manager won’t have to wade through irrelevant positions to find the ones that match the job you are applying for. This is especially important for your earliest positions where you could combine your responsibilities and accomplishments together if necessary. It’s important to keep everything in your resume, however, since gaps are often viewed with suspicion by hiring managers.
5. Answer their questions before they ask
As mentioned already, you don’t want the people reviewing your resume to assume anything, so think about those questions a hiring manager could potentially have about your resume and background, and answer them directly in your resume or cover letter. This includes why you changed jobs (especially if you have switched jobs frequently), what your true responsibilities are versus the job title, why there is a gap between positions, etc. Any question that the hiring manager can imagine has a negative answer will increase your odds of landing on the reject pile.
Finally, you do need to consider structure and format after you’ve optimized the content. You still must make it easy for them to quickly see the information that matters, remember it, and link it to their needs.
Michel Theriault is an author, speaker, and consultant focusing on topics relevant to Managers and aspiring Managers in businesses of all sizes who want to get results, get attention, and get ahead.