Landing the job you’ve had your sights on is a step- by- step process. The first step in finding a job is to get noticed, evaluated and scheduled for the all- important job interview. All of this could take place 10 to 30 seconds from the time the recruiter opens your resume.
If you know how to write a resume that grabs the attention of the recruiter, then you should already be preparing for the interview. The following article will show you how to make a good resume, but do consider that it’s very long.
But sadly, it doesn’t work that way. Even if you thought you wrote and submitted the greatest resume of your life, you may be setting yourself up for a big letdown. What you think is your best may not get you invited for the job interview.
This is because the effectiveness of a resume is not based on what you think but what the recruiter thinks. It is not merely a piece of paper that details your work experience, educational attainment and skills; those are just component parts that make a resume.
What matters is how you bring those component parts together and craft a resume that compels the recruiter to take action; that is, to schedule you for an interview. Every resume that you send out requires thought, strategy and purpose because companies and their recruiters view applicants from different filters.
Ask any recruiter and most of them will tell you they’ve come across more poorly written resumes than well- written ones. This is because applicants are formulaic when it comes to resume writing.
The job market can get very competitive. Every day thousands of people are sending out their resumes. Some are hoping to get their first job while others are trying to transition to a new career. Whatever the motivations are, job hunting remains first and foremost a competition.
If you want to stay ahead of everyone else, you need every advantage you can get. The good news is you are already off to a good start by coming to us.
We will show you how to write a resume that will get the job done and send you to the interview. If you want to familiarise yourself with the correct way of resumes, don’t forget that we have over 200 resume samples on our website.
Let’s start out by telling you what a resume is not:
- It is not a litany of your accomplishments
- It is not a summary of your work experiences
- It is not a formality prior to job appointment
If you believe a resume is any of these, then it is time to change your way of thinking.
A resume is a marketing tool that seeks to highlight the experiences, skills and accomplishments relevant to the job or designation. As a marketing tool, it has to deliver its message with pinpoint accuracy to its intended audience: the recruiter.
Think of the job market as a collection of different products. Each product is advertising its own unique value proposition to the recruiter. The product whose message resonates clearly and loudly with the recruited will be selected for the interview.
Immediate is the keyword. Recruiters do not spend a lot of time on a resume. They receive hundreds of resumes every day and they need to be efficient in their approach to their job.
According to a ground- breaking study by The Ladders, a recruiter spends only 6 seconds scanning a resume. In that limited amount of time, the recruiter is looking for very specific information. Many utilize keywords to fast- track the qualification process.
If the recruiter cannot find what he or she is looking for in the top third of your resume, it will be game over. You will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to make a resume that gets it done in 6 seconds.
In marketing the rule is essentially the same.
Studies show consumers have a shorter attention span than a gold fish. If your content cannot deliver the message in 8 seconds, it will be ignored by its intended audience.
Your resume must be able to capture your unique value proposition and represent it in such a manner that it immediately grabs the attention and interest of the recruiter.
This objective remains the same whether you are writing a resume for the first time or if you want to write a resume for a job in a new field.
Unless you are well- connected with the owner of the company and he or she has guaranteed you a position within the organization, then perhaps you don’t need a resume.
But what happens if:
- The contact period of your job ends?
- The owner decides to sell the company?
- You decide the job isn’t for you and you want another career?
At some point in time, you will eventually need one. Thus you should know how to make a resume. And not just a run- of- the- mill, by- the- numbers resume. It should be one that will put one foot inside the interviewer’s door.
Learning how to create a resume is important because times have changed. Businesses are no longer just looking for candidates with the most glowing achievements and decorated work history.
In fact, companies are looking outside the traditional technical and fundamental competencies required in a job and are focusing on the personality that fits the job.
“Company culture” has been a by- word the last few years. Employers are looking for people who can contribute to the success of the company by helping to propagate its culture.
Company culture in a nutshell is the company’s personality; the collective of values, beliefs and practices that influence the decisions it makes every single day. They want to know if you’ll fit into their culture and that usually takes place during the interview.
However, a well-written, purposeful resume can give the recruiter an early indication that you might just fit in. That’s why your resume should not just be a piece of paper; it must be able to communicate with the recruiter.
How will you know how to communicate with the recruiter? The same way you would try to identify your target market: Learn more about the company.
- What is their main enterprise?
- Who are the people behind the company?
- What are the latest developments?
- What are their core values?
- What is their company culture like?
- Who is the Head Recruiter?
You have to do a fair amount of research to know more about your target employer. This help you frame you mind in developing your approach to writing the resume.
Technology also plays a significant role in the recruitment process. The use of Automatic Tracking Systems or ATS has allowed recruiters to scan and pre-qualify resumes faster.
ATS works by analyzing your resume for specific keywords. It will then base its score on how well your resume matches with a list of keywords provided by the company you hope to land the interview with.
In marketing, keywords play an important role in having your content found. It doesn’t matter if you wrote a perfectly crafted blog or article. Without the right keywords and in the correct ratios, it may never see the light of a computer monitor.
We have clearly articulated why you should view the resume as a marketing tool. By using the correct resume writing format, the recruiter will be able to identify the right keywords and information right off the bat and get you on your way to the job interview.
In order to create a resume that stands out, you must not only focus on the content but you should also pay attention to the aesthetics. But your resume must stand out for the right reasons not because it sticks out like a Hawaiian shirt in a black tie event.
Your resume is the first point of contact with the recruiter. Without even reading its contents, an experienced recruiter can gauge who you are or what you are like by the look of your resume.
While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, when writing a resume for the first time or for your next job, you should only focus on making it look professional.
Some of you may think the “Professional Look” is subjective. So let us simplify it:
- The resume must be easy to read
- Its orientation, format and design should not put off the recruiter
- It’s look must not detract from the content
Keep in mind that the recruiter only has 10 to 30 seconds to go through your resume. You would not want the recruiter to spend those precious seconds squinting, adjusting the light or cleaning his or her glasses just to get a better read on your resume.
If you want your resume to stand out visually, keep its overall look simple. Here are some useful tips on how to craft the look of your resume:
Let’s get this out of the way. Never under any circumstances use these font styles:
- Courier New
- Comic Sans MS
- Century Gothic
These font styles are difficult to read and do not convey professionalism.
Recruiters are only giving you 10 to 30 seconds of their time; why will they take you seriously with these font styles?
The best fonts to use are as follows:
- Gill Sans
These are some of the most preferred font styles by recruiters. They’re easy to read, simple in design and look professional.
You might be asking, “Where’s Times New Roman?”
Times New Roman remains a popular choice among resume writers but it did not make it into this list because of one reason: It is overused.
There’s nothing new about Times New Roman; you may be perceived as boring and uninspiring. The recruiter may think you play it safe and are averse to exploring possibilities outside your comfort zone.
Although Times New Roman is an accepted font among recruiters, it might be a better decision to use another font style. Helvetica is frequently regarded as the best choice for resume font styling. Recruiters find its design as honest, simple and uncompromising.
With font size, your focus remains readability but at the same time you have to consider its proportion to the entire page. You would not want to submit a 4- page resume that could have been whittled down to 2- pages had you selected a 12 Calibri instead of a 14 Calibri.
Font sizes are also not proportionately the same. Some font styles such as Arial are naturally larger and bolder than Calibri.
There are some word processing programs that allow you to change font sizes by half points. The idea however, is to make your resume readable without sacrificing legibility or adding unnecessary volume.
As a general rule to follow, font styles with sizes 10 to 12 are the best to use in your resume.
You may want to send a hard copy of your resume to a potential employer. The best format for printing would be to keep your margins at 1” on all sides of the paper.
You would not want valuable information cut out because of faulty margins. 1” margins all around will also give your resume a cleaner look. It adds better symmetry and balance to the look of your resume.
Spacing and Alignment
The standard for work- related documents is single spacing. The text must not appear cramped up; a blank space must clearly be visible between lines.
The ideal line spacing would also depend on the font style. Calibri and Cambria work well with single spacing but not Helvetica. You may need to adjust your line spacing to 1.5 if you plan to use Helvetica.
As for the alignment of the resume, you have 2 choices: Left Aligned or Justified.
Left Aligned is often recommended because it supposedly follows the reading orientation of the recruiter. However, Justified gives your resume a cleaner and more organized look.
It may be wiser to use Left Aligned because there is a functional basis for it rather than cosmetic which is the case for Justified.
Type of Paper
For printing, always use off- white, ivory or bright white paper and stay with the standard dimensions of 8.5” x 11” paper. Buy the highest quality paper you can afford and it should be compatible with a laser or ink jet printer.
How the recruiter perceives your resume from a visual standpoint could determine where you will end up in the recruitment process. Don’t take chances by trying to be creative with the design of your resume. It’s not about you; it’s about the recruiter.
You can never go wrong with the classics or with simplicity. When writing a resume for the first time or for a new career, always keep your resume professional- looking, simple and easy on the eyes.
How you present your resume will depend on its purpose. Before we discuss the different resume formats, it would be best to first understand the basic structure of a resume.
The simplest way to describe the basic structure of a resume is that it is composed of sections or categories which highlight your varied qualifications. These sections are as follows:
This section contains all the pertinent information that the recruiter wants to see.
Some applicants give incomplete information which is a definite red flag for the recruiter. If your information list is not complete, the recruiter may move on to the next applicant.
What sort of information is the recruiter looking for?
- Full Name
- Phone Number
- Professional E-mail
- Social Media Accounts
- URLs to Personal Website or Blog Page
Should you include your address?
With the availability of e-mail, indicating your residential address is no longer necessary. You may write down the name of your city, state and zip code if you wish to include your address.
A few notes on the required information:
- Give your birth name; do not use your nickname.
- A professional e- mail is one that is dignified, respectful and formal. [email protected] reads more professional than [email protected]
- With regards to social media, recruiters are partial to LinkedIn and Twitter. But 26% of recruiters do check Facebook accounts. Make sure to clean out your social media accounts of potentially damaging posts before submitting your resume.
- Having a personal website or blog page is a smart idea. It is an effective way of developing your personal brand. Similar to your social media accounts, make sure content in your website will not discourage recruiters from pursuing your application.
Objective or Resume Summary
An objective summary details your employment goals with the company you are applying at. A resume summary is a short but compelling introduction that showcases your skill set and value offering to the company.
Which one should you choose?
Use an objective summary if you are:
- Entry Level Applicant
- Fresh Graduate
- Changing Careers
- A Professional who is targeting a specific position
Use a resume summary if you are:
- An experienced applicant
- Changing employment within the same industry
- Applying for a job that requires your specific skill set
Not many applicants realize how important this section is. Recruiters want to get an immediate idea of who you are.
This is where you should apply a narrative to set in motion a story about who you are. An example of a narrative applied to an objective summary would be as follows:
Experienced Cook desirous to become Sous Chef of a high-end, fine- dining restaurant. Worked my way up from dishwasher, prep crew, stock man, fry man, grill man to line cook in a casual diner while fulfilling obligations at home and in culinary school. Student in the ways of the kitchen and in life; I am always ready and willing to learn and grow.
If your objective or resume summary does not get the message across, the recruiter may disengage.
The objective or resume summary falls in the top third of your resume. It is part of the 10 to 30 second time period recruiters use to scan resumes.
Experience normally appears as the first section in the body of a resume.
This is regarded as the “meat and potatoes” of your resume; the substance that lends credibility to the objective or resume summary.
Content is king especially when it comes to establishing your work experience. The last thing you would want is to mess up valuable information by presenting your resume in a position that does not highlight or do justice to your qualifications.
So how should you present work experience?
- Present your work history in reverse chronological order; that is, from the latest occupation and moving backward. The recruiter wants to know right away what your current capabilities are.
- Under every work experience entry, include no more than six bullet points on your scope of responsibilities.
- Here’s where more thought and purpose are needed: Write each bullet point to tailor fit the requirements of the position you are applying for.
- Include your most notable and relevant achievements.
- Do not forget facts and figures! You have to validate your achievements.
- Stay in line with the narrative that you started out with your objective statement or resume summary.
Applying these principles to our earlier narrative, an effective write up of work experience would read like this:
2014 to Present
- Tasked to expedite all restaurant orders according to the sequence they came in.
- Primary objective was to reduce waiting time from 20 minutes to 15 minutes without compromising quality of food and service.
- Secondary objective was to improve turnover by 20% from 100 to 120 customers per hour.
- The end result was an increase in average hourly sales during peak hours from $2,000 to $2,350.
- Reduced rate of returned orders from 10% to 2%.
- During my time as Line Cook, Rosie’s was awarded “Best Casual Diner Restaurant” for 3 consecutive years.
Should you include non- traditional work such as freelance work in your resume experience?
Yes but for only 2 reasons:
- It is related to the position
- You have gaps in formal employment
Otherwise, non- traditional work that is unrelated may only serve to detract the recruiter’s attention to the important content of your resume.
Similar to work experience, your educational attainment must likewise be presented in reverse chronological order.
If you completed college, important details to include are as follows:
- Type of degree
- Your college major
- Name of university
- Awards and achievements you received
You do not have to indicate your Grade Point Average or GPA unless it is higher than 3.5. After all, the GPA should already be indicated in your school records.
If you only completed high school level education, simply state the following:
- Name of High School
- Address of High School (City and State only)
- Year Graduated
- Awards and achievements you received
If you attended high school but did not finish, you should only indicate the following:
- Name of High School
- Address of High School (City and State only)
- Inclusive years attended
What if you did not finish high school but completed a GED? You can write it like this:
GED High School Equivalency Diploma
Hillsborough Adult Learning Center, California, 2012
Hillsborough High School
Attended school from 2009 – 2011
If you want to know how to make a resume that stands out head and shoulders above the rest, then you should put serious thought on the presentation of your skills.
When composing your skills section, be aware that recruiters are looking for 2 important qualities:
- Your skill sets cover the requirements of the job post
- You have other skills that will offer greater value to the position
How you present your skills will have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your resume.
But first a few questions for you to ponder:
- What do you mean by skills?
- What kind of skills are companies looking for?
For sure you know what is meant by skills. These are the proficiencies and competencies that you have honed through specialized training over a period of time.
For example, if you want to become a software developer you would be studying different programs such as C++, Zoho Creator and GitHub. You would also include other skills such as market research, finance and project management.
But most companies are not only looking at skills specific to the job requirement. They are also looking for skills that fit with the organization’s work profile.
There are 2 types of skills:
- Hard skills – These are the skills that pertain to your technical and fundamental qualifications.
- Soft skills – These are the intangibles; the attributes that best describe who you are and how you work.
Examples of typical hard skills indicated in a resume:
- Computer Programming
- Foreign Languages
- Content Writing
- Product Development
- Search Engine Optimization
- Social Media Management
- Financial Analysis
By contrast, soft skills would include:
- Ability to work under pressure
- Quick decision maker
- Highly Organized
- Results Oriented
Is a type of skill more important than the other?
Research conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), show that employers favor soft skills at least for new graduates.
Earlier we mentioned the importance of company culture. Many employers prefer to hire people whom they feel fit their culture over those who are more qualified technically and fundamentally.
Case in point is Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos.
Hsieh hardly cares about your hard skills, work history and educational achievements.
All he wants to know is:
“How lucky are you?”
The idea is to bring in a group of people in a Zappos with a positive attitude in life. Hsieh wants to hire only people whose personal values are aligned with their company values.
So does this mean you should put more focus on fine- tuning your soft skills?
No. What it does mean is that your soft skills can act as leverage for your hard skills should you end up in a tie- breaker with another candidate.
There are certain soft skills that are preferred by recruiters. But the most important thing to remember is to be honest with yourself. Do not put in a soft skill just because it is in demand with recruiters. Identify the soft skills that best define you.
Otherwise, you will veer away from your narrative.
It may seem inconsequential but believe it or not, identifying your interests can have an influence on how a recruiter will decide on your resume.
Why? There are 2 overlooked yet valuable advantages of including an “Interests” section:
- Extra Set of Skills – Cooking, playing guitar and participating in Cross Fit may not be related to the job but it gives the recruiter an idea of what attributes are important for you outside work.
- Leaves a Lasting Impression – The Interest section should be short but it could leave a lasting impression with the recruiter.
The interests section could bolster your claim to fit into the company’s culture.
How should you write the Interests section? As short and as concise as possible but with complete information.
Correct way to summarize your Interests section:
I enjoy cooking Mediterranean and French cuisine for my family. I also love playing jazz guitar and improving my numbers in Cross Fit.
Wrong way to write your interests:
Cooking, music and exercise.
So you might be thinking, “What about references?”
References are usually reserved during the interview. A recruiter will make decisions based on the content of your resume. He or she will not have the time to check out your references whether via phone or e-mail.
When should you include references?
- If the job application specifically requests for them.
- If they are relevant to the job position
Otherwise, leave them out of your resume. It will just be treated as unnecessary content.
We’ve discussed in detail the different sections of a resume; what information to include and how to present them for maximum effectiveness.
But they do not have to be presented in the resume in the order we discussed them in the preceding section. With the exception of the Header, you could move around some of the sections to give certain strengths greater emphasis.
Without the risk of sounding like a broken record or looking like a buffering video, a recruiter only has 10 to 30 seconds to review your resume and make a decision. It’s not enough that you craft your resume for maximum effectiveness. But you should also format it for maximum exposure.
When deciding on how to arrange your resume, there are 3 types of resume formats that you should consider:
Reverse- Chronological Format
This is often referred to as the traditional format for a resume. In the preceding section where we discussed the different parts of a resume, the arrangement followed the Reverse- Chronological format.
- Objective or Resume Statement
- Work Experience
- Educational Attainment
The Reverse – Chronological Format can be used under the following situations:
- Highlight vertical progression in your career
- Apply in a job in a similar field
- Promote upward career mobility
- Early stages in the career
- Mid- level stages in the career
- Highlight company loyalty; stayed in the same company or industry for years
- Very few gaps; if any at all, in their employment history
But the Reverse-Chronological format is not advisable under the following situations:
- Significant gaps in their employment history
- In the middle of a career change
- If you have had many jobs throughout your employment history
Recruiters tend to favor the Reverse Chronological Format because it’s easy to pinpoint a candidate’s career progression and experience within an industry.
Functional Resume Format
If the Reverse- Chronological format emphasizes your work history, the Functional format highlights your skills and abilities.
When using the Functional format, the sections of the resume should be arranged as follows:
- Objective or Resume Statement
- Skills and Abilities
- Work Experience
- Educational Attainment
The Functional format can be used under the following situations:
- Frequent gaps in the employment history
- Changing careers
- Highlight a specific skill set or proficiency
- Fresh graduates or those just entering the job market
It should not be used under the following situations:
- If you plan to highlight vertical career progression
- If you don’t have skills that are relevant to the job description
When recruiters see this format, they start assuming weaknesses in experience. Would that be a red flag and diminish your chances of landing an interview?
It would depend if your skills and abilities are in line with the requirements of the job and on how you presented your work experience.
Again, this is the advantage of starting out your resume with a narrative. A well- crafted story helps the recruiter anticipate the contents of your work experience.
For example, if you wrote in your objective statement that you want to resume a promising career prematurely cut short because you wanted to do volunteer work, it may turn negative connotation into positive feedback.
As you may have guessed, the Combination format borrows elements from both the Reverse Chronological and the Functional formats. The Combination format would look like this:
- Objective or Resume Statement
- Skills and Abilities
- Work Experience
- Educational Attainment
You can use the Combination format under the following situations:
- Highlight a proficiency within a specific career
- Change in career path
- Expert level in the technical skill required for the job
Do not use the Combination format under the following situations:
- Plan to highlight education attainment
- Lack experience
- Entry Level candidate
The Combination resume format works best for candidates who are acknowledged as Masters in their field of expertise.
Take your time in deciding the resume format to use. It will make a big difference in how the recruiter will perceive your resume and capabilities.
One item that continues to stir debate among resume experts and Human Resource professionals is the correct length of a resume.
For the most part, you must have been advised to keep the length of your resume down to just one page. The study by The Ladders probably made this point more emphatic. After all, how much time would a recruiter need to peruse through a second, third or even a fourth page?
But times have changed. Even though recruiters may spend only 10 to 30 seconds scanning your resume, it does not mean they will stop on page 1 if the contents are quite enticing.
You have to remember the resume is the first and at least at this point, your only chance of moving on to the next stage which is the all important interview. Why be constrained by an unwritten rule on resume length and place your opportunity at risk by ignoring information that may clinch the deal for you?
As we stated earlier, an effective resume is not just about the content. It’s how you present content. If you start out with a compelling narrative as your objective statement, would the recruiter abandon the story line before he or she reaches its conclusion?
If you place more focus on length rather than overall content when you are writing your resume, you will be undermining your own chances of landing the interview.
Let’s put things into their proper perspective:
- A resume is a career marketing tool. It is not an autobiography. The recruiter only wants to know details in your work and life experiences that are relevant to the job.The language you use in the resume should have only one purpose: to sell your qualifications to the recruiter. At the same time, don’t blow out your gasket. Save some information for the interview.
- Yes, recruiters go through hundreds of resumes every day. They are human beings whose energy levels and focus may wane toward the end of the day. Who knows where your resume is in the stack set for the day’s evaluation?And that’s exactly the point. There are matters that are beyond your control. You should not base decisions on the structure or length of your resume based on probabilities. Instead you should think about the resume in terms of creating opportunities.Once your resume lands on the recruiter’s desk, that could be your life- changing opportunity.A well- written, well- thought out resume will be noticed, read and appreciated by a recruiter no matter the time of day.
So when should you use a short, one- page resume?
- If you have less than 10 years of work experience
- If you’re planning a radical change in career and your work experience at this point is not relevant to the job you are applying for.
- If you’ve only handled one or two positions with your only employer.
The strongest argument for a one- page resume is that it is concise and less intimidating for a recruiter to review. However, you may short change yourself if you decide to leave out valuable information that may turn out relevant for your job search.
When should you use a two- page resume?
- If you have 10 or more years of experience related to the job or position you are pursuing.
- If the job requires specialized or highly technical skills that need detailed proof of qualification and certification.
- If you’ve been constantly promoted by your previous employer and the job is related to the one you are pursuing.
Remember the points we discussed in Section two, “How to Craft the Look of Your Resume”.
The resume has to be readable and easy to navigate for the recruiter. Can you imagine if in your quest to keep your resume to just one page, you summarized 15 years of work experience using Helvetica font size 8, single spaced with only 0.5” margins all around?
The recruiter will remember you for the migraine you gave her.
You can still be concise and direct to the point with a two- page resume as long as you:
- Use bullet points
- Focus only on relevant experience
- Include facts, figures and other numbers in your work achievements
Is there value in submitting a resume that extends past 2 pages?
You should not hesitate in submitting a resume that is 3 pages or longer:
- If you’re a senior level manager or an executive with an exemplary work history and track record of leadership accomplishments.
- If you belong in the academic or scientific field where you have to highlight your summary of publications, number of speaking engagements, professional courses designed and number of registered licenses or patents.
If your resume appears like it would extend past 2 pages, you could use an addendum after page 2. This will summarize the relevant details of your resume. The rest can be submitted upon request by the recruiter.
The final word on resume length:
Whether it is 6 seconds or 60 seconds, we can be sure of one thing: recruiters know how to go through resumes at light speed. But in their case, speed does not equate to carelessness.
Recruiters know exactly what they are looking for. They are trained and highly experienced professionals who have been evaluating resumes for years.
You on the other hand, are competing with hundreds of applicants quite possibly for the same job.
If the resume is your first point of contact, it may only be the only chance you’ll ever get to state your case to the recruiter.
Don’t take chances by leaving out important information just so you can subscribe to people’s advice that you should only keep your resume at one page. This is your career opportunity not theirs.
You should go for it!
Write down all the information you need to share with the recruiter. If you have more than 10 years work experience, one page will simply not do.
If you have moved up the corporate ladder in companies engaged in the same industry, one page will not be enough to do justice to your achievements.
If you are well- learned; highly educated and have gone through diverse trainings and seminars, you simply will not be able to summarize your competencies and proficiencies in one page.
The information that you present in your resume will determine whether you will receive that life- changing phone call or not.
The answer to the question “Why should you customize your resume?” comes down to one person: The Recruiter. Think about what the recruiter goes through every day on the job.
The recruiter has to sift through hundreds of resumes every hour. Recruiting is an important task for the company. He or she is the person designated for finding talent which could contribute to the fortunes of the company.
The responsibility is great because the recruiter could miss out on talent who could end up with a competitor.
Put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter who told Portland to draft Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan during the 1984 NBA Draft. Portland could have ended up with Jordan and Clyde Drexler on the same team. Instead Jordan went to Chicago and win 6 NBA titles while Bowie ended up injured the rest of his career.
The recruiter is beleaguered enough as it is. He or she could be sifting through resumes that all look and read alike. There is no message that resonates with the recruiter.
But the truth is, somewhere underneath that pile of unspectacular resumes could be incredible talent. There are hundreds of highly qualified applicants as there are hundreds of unqualified applicants. They end up in the same stack only because the good ones didn’t give their resume much thought.
The talented ones probably thought their work experience and educational attainment would be enough to get them to the next round. Instead the indifference to the importance of the resume has gotten them lumped up with everyone else.
When it comes to career- making decisions do not take any unnecessary chances. Cover all the bases while you have time to do so. Approach your resume with thought, purpose and strategy.
You should submit a resume that will make you stand out. Its content may be good enough to catch the attention of the recruiter but taken in its entirety, its message must resonate loud and clear.
This is why you should customize your resume. It must be crafted with the recruiter specifically in mind.
There are 2 schools of thought when it comes to resume distribution.
This is the approach where you send out copies of the same resume to as many recruiters and distribution channels as possible.
With Market Saturation, the belief is the more resumes you send out the greater the probability of landing an interview.
Think of how a shotgun finds its target. You aim at the general direction of the target and fire one shot. The shell explodes into several smaller bullets. Eventually one or a few will hit the target.
The problem with Market Saturation is that it will dilute your brand. By sending out the same resume to different recruiters, you are sending the market mixed signals on who you are and what you can do.
If you are currently employed, Market Saturation will put you at risk of your employer finding out of your future intentions. Depending on the provisions of your employment, it could have legal consequences that will not do your career any good.
Market Saturation may land you an interview but it may not be for the job you really want.
Unlike Market Saturation, Target Setting is a more measured approach. You are customizing the content of your resume to be specific to the needs of the employer or industry.
Instead of using a shotgun, you are delivering your resume like a sniper. You can be 1,000 meters away and still pick out your target. It will take time to set up but delivery will be deadly accurate.
Instead of filing out your resume to every possible resource out there, you become more selective of your conduits. For example, you would only focus on LinkedIn among all social media networks instead of utilizing communities in Facebook or Google Plus.
A creative person interested in a career in Graphic Design would send his resume to BeHance.net while a media- centric person who wants a career in journalism would best distribute his resume to MediaBistro.com.
Target Setting is also a more discreet approach. You have more control over the distribution of your resume. It will be less likely that your current employer would know what you are up to.
Target Setting is a better, more efficient approach because you have to customize or tailor fit your resume to suit the needs and demands of the recruiter and the company.
Always keep in mind that recruiters are individuals with unique character traits. They know what their company needs but have their own approach of meeting them.
What do you think would happen if you gave your parakeet a can of tuna and your cat a bowl of seeds? They’ll probably check it out but they won’t bite. Now switch things around. Give the seeds to the parakeet and the can of tuna to the cat. They’ll devour it with gusto!
If you are sending out the same resume to different employers, you will not be getting enough interviews. And if you’re thinking recruiting managers are sitting down on their jobs, again you are wrong.
It’s not because recruiters can’t find an amazing talent like you. It’s because you’re making it hard for them to find you.
By not customizing your resume to what the recruiter is looking for, you effectively camouflaged yourself with the rest of the pack.
Like a custom- made suit feels better than one that is bought off the rack, a tailor- made resume will fit the needs of the recruiter more precisely and accurately.
We’ve so far discussed the proper structure and format of an effective resume. Now let us get into the details.
We’ve mentioned how recruiters use keywords to help qualify candidates through their resumes. In the field of recruitment, keywords are words that are associated with the requirements of the job. These could be skills and attributes that are able to trigger cues in the recruiter.
Your choice of words can have influence on how your resume is perceived by the recruiter. The right choice of words can generate interest while ill- advised choices can send your resume to the filing section.
When crafting your resume particularly your achievements and accomplishments focus on using action or power words. Action words are commonly referred to as “verbs” but in the context of the resume, these take on a deeper meaning.
There are many action words that you could choose. They could be synonymous with each other but the overall effect on the recruitment would be different. The same could be said about power words.
These are words or phrases that are used to describe who you are; your abilities and potential contributions to the employer. Instead of elevating your profile as someone whom the company simply cannot do without, the wrong power words could make you the same as everyone else.
Again, let’s be reminded that recruiters will not spend a lot of time on your resume. The will only scan its contents; not peruse over it with a fine, tooth comb. Thus, your choice of words will be critical.
But are there specific words and phrases that you should not use on your resume?
According to a survey of 2,201 recruiters, the following words are the worst you could put in your resume:
- Best of breed
- Go- getter
- Think- out- of- the- box
- Go- to person
- Thought leadership
- Value added
- Results- driven
- Team player
- Bottom- line
- Hard worker
- Strategic thinker
- Self- motivated
- Detail- oriented
In the survey, the following were listed as the best words you could use in your resume:
- Mentored/ Trained
- Increased/ Decreased
- Revenue/ Profits
- Under budget
What would you say are the differences between these 2 sets of words?
The worst words you can use in your resume are those that sound cliché. Everyone has used them before that they’ve run its course. Recruiters find them tired, old and boring.
There’s nothing among these words that imply dynamism or innovation. It’s all old hat. Putting these into your resume will give the recruiter the impression you are the same as everyone else.
Worse, it may send the message you that you did not put much thought and effort in your resume.
What exactly do you mean by “best of breed”? The choice of words itself is questionable as “breed” is commonly used to refer to dogs.
And would you characterize someone as having “synergy”? On that note, what makes a person any of the following?
- Results- driven: “What kind of results did you drive?”
- Value added: “What value did you add?”
- Strategic thinker: “What strategies did you come up with?”
If the phrase or word results in the recruiter having more questions than answers, consider your resume a lost cause. These overused words only serve to prop up your image.
But image without substance is nothing.
When time is limited, it only means one thing: Get to the point.
The best words to use in your resume are one- word terms that effectively describes who you are and what you can do. These words create the perfect segue to your accomplishments and achievements.
Words like “achieve”, “improve” and “negotiate” are great ones to choose when setting up useful information with complete data:
- Within 2 years my department was able to achieve 118% growth in sales; the largest turnaround in the history of the company.
- The implementation of the software program designed by my team was able to improve efficiency by 75% which resulted in a cost savings of $525,000 that was then used to fund upgrades in infrastructure.
- In 2009, I was able to successfully negotiate the terms and conditions of a Build- Operate- Transfer program with Japan that would eventually increase net income of the company by 112% over the next 5 years.
Remember what we discussed in Section III “Basic Structure of the Resume”? When discussing your work experience, skills and achievements you must always include facts and figures. Without numbers, the information that you have provided will appear contrived.
These details are very important to ensure you land the interview. You have to be able to frame them or set up the delivery by using the correct action or power words.
The job of a recruiter is hard enough as it is. The last thing you would want is for the recruiter to stop and analyze what “Thought Leadership” means, its relevance to the job and how it applies to your qualifications.
As a matter of fact, if you leave words or phrases that will make the recruiter pause, there’s a good chance he or she will just move on to the next candidate.
An effective resume is an efficient resume as well. Given the fact that the next 10 to 30 seconds will determine the fate of your resume, you should only present information that is relevant and usable to the recruiter.
Leave out information that may only serve to distract, annoy or put off the recruiter.
When you only have a few seconds to make a solid first impression, you have to ensure every word in your resume counts. They must have purpose and function.
Here are examples of information and items that you should not put in your resume:
- The word “Resume” – A professional recruiter has your document. He or she has been doing this type of work for years. Recruiters go through thousands or resumes every month; perhaps over a million in their own career. They certainly know what this piece of paper is just by looking at it.
- Salary Information – Salaries should always be treated as a confidential matter. Putting this information in your resume will make you seem presumptuous. Salaries are best discussed during the interview.
- Unnecessary Words – Fluff has no place in your resume. Always keep your information concise but complete. Once the point has been driven, move on to the next one.
- Trash Talk – Regardless of how bad your previous employment turned out, the experience has no place in your resume. Never ever trash your former employer. Nothing good will come off it. It will leave the impression that you may be difficult to manage.
- Unnecessary Personal Information – As much as possible, leave personal information limited to name, e-mail address, contact number and interests. The recruiter will not care about your religious denomination, political affiliation or sexual orientation.
- Headshot – The headshot even when it is done by a professional photographer has grown outdated. Are you familiar with the saying, “The picture doesn’t do you justice”? Recruiters are averse to headshots because it may trigger false impressions. Unless you’re applying for a job as a fashion model or actor, leave the headshot out of your resume.
- Irrelevant Work Experience – So you’re applying for a job as a Financial Analyst? Leave out the experience when you worked as a mascot in a fast food restaurant. It has no relevance to the work you are applying for and will only serve to distract the recruiter.
- Unrelated Achievements – Breaking Joey Chestnut’s world record of eating 70 hotdogs at “Nathan’s Famous” is indeed an amazing achievement but it has no place in your resume. Neither is being named “Sorority Queen” 2 years in a row.
- Strange Hobbies – Perhaps how one defines “strange” is a matter of perspective. But if you’re not sure “taking selfies with my cat” will be considered strange, stick to more acceptable hobbies such as music, running and cooking.
- Attention- Grabbing Tactics – If you ask 10 recruiters, chances are at least half will tell you they’ve received perfume scented resumes. For whatever reason you may have thought about, your favorite scent will not get you the interview.
Last but certainly not the least, there is simply no excuse for having bad grammar and misspelled words in your resume. These oversights are crucial and in all likelihood, end your chances of being considered for the interview.
Start out your resume as a draft that goes through several stages of reviews and edits. As you approach the final version, ask someone you trust to review it. Having a new set of eyes will give you a different insight and perspective on your resume. He or she could even spot errors you missed out on.
Run your resume through a spell and grammar checking program such as Grammarly. You should never get complacent about your resume when it comes to grammar and spelling.
At this point, you’ve gone through several valuable tips, tricks and techniques that were covered by more than 8000 words. That’s a lot of information to digest! Because you’ve showed patience and diligence, we’ve decided to include a summary to make it easier for you to tie everything together and understand how to write a good resume.
Here are our top 10 tips on resume writing:
- Approach Your Resume with Thought and Purpose – A resume is first and foremost a marketing tool. Its objective is to get you to the next stage which is the interview.The job market can be very competitive. You could be fighting for the same position with a hundred other people. Your resume must be written and presented in such a way that it will distinguish you from everyone else.Take the time to do research on the companies you are applying for. Try to get information on what their company culture is like. Learn everything that you can about your prospective employer.Research will not just give you all the necessary information but it will put you in the right frame of mind when writing your resume.
- Always Customize Your Resume – Target setting your resume takes more time and effort but all of this will be worth it when interviews start coming your way.You simply cannot go wrong by customizing your resume. It will deliver the message you want to convey to the recruiter of a specific job or industry.Not all recruiters are alike. They are unique individuals and every industry has its own culture and practices. Choice of keywords, action and power words are different. Expectations, language and standards are also different.Best of all, customizing your resume helps establish and protect your brand. In marketing, the key to effective branding is consistently clear messaging.
- Start Out with a Narrative – Everyone loves a good story even recruiters. A narrative sets out the tone of your resume. It helps establish one of the most underrated yet potentially most important components of an effective resume: Your Character.Remember that as a marketing tool, your resume is a way of introducing yourself to the recruiter. In ways, a resume is like a one- way interview. This time, you have control over what you want to share with the recruiter. So you better make it interesting!A good narrative should start at the objective statement because it rolls out your resume. If your narrative is compelling enough, you should get the recruiter hooked to the rest of your story. At that point, forget the 6.25 second statistic. A good story is hard to put down!
- Make Sure Your Resume is an Easy Read – We’ve established throughout the article how difficult the job of a recruiter can be. The last thing you would want is for your resume to be a burden to read.We also mentioned that recruiters only scan resumes. Whether it takes 6.25 seconds or 30 seconds, that is not a lot of time.Make your resume an easy read by following these basic tips:
- Choose font styles that are appropriate and easy to read.
- Size 12 or 14 font would be perfect.
- Use single spacing between lines although a font style like Helvetica may require wider spacing.
- Keep your margins at 1” all around. This allows for better printing.
- Left aligned format is preferred although Justified is also acceptable
- If you want to print out a hard copy of your resume, use 8.5” x 11” paper that is white or off- white and compatible with laser printing.
- Provide Complete Details – A resume has 6 sections; with the exception of “Interests”, every section should have complete details. By “complete” we mean relevant and usable information to the recruiter.
- Header – Complete name, e-mail address, contact details and LinkedIn account.
- Objective/ Resume Statement – Use a narrative format that best describes who you are; what you hope to achieve and contribute to the potential employer. The narrative should set the tone of your resume and must be supported by the other sections of the resume.
- Work Experience – Follow the reverse- chronological format by starting out with the latest employment and moving backward. Use no more than 6 bullet points to highlight your accomplishments. Always substantiate these milestones with facts and figures.
- Educational Attainment – Similar to Work Experience, use the reverse- chronological format. If you completed college, indicate your degree, name of university, inclusive academic period, honors and achievements.
- Skills – Highlight the hard skills which are relevant to the job description. Assess and identify the soft skills or attributes you have that best qualify you for the job.
- Interests – Sharing your interests outside work will give the recruiter a good idea of who you are as a person. Pick out no more than 3 interests but make sure these will not be thought of as “strange” by the recruiter.
- Present Accurate Information – All of the information you provide in the resume must be updated and accurate.Before you write down the personal information in the Header section, update your online profiles in various channels especially LinkedIn.The facts and figures that you provide in Work Experience must be truthful. The same goes for the information in your Educational Attainment. The worst thing you can do is to lie in your resume.There is no coming back from falsifying information. You will be dead in the water and possibly blacklisted. There are no white lies or half truths in recruitment.
- Don’t Be Concerned About Length – The debate on having a one- page or multi- page resume can be settled this way: If you have more than 10 years work experience, go ahead and use an extra page.There’s been too much attention given to length perhaps because of the reported amount of time recruiters spend reviewing resumes. But even in resumes, content is king.As long as you establish a compelling narrative and present all the information that is relevant to the job requirement, do not worry about the length of your resume.The bigger risk is leaving out pertinent information just to fit everything inside one page.
- Submit a Professional Resume – An effective resume is simple and straightforward. Forget all of the fluff and unnecessary words.Don’t beat- around- the- bush and go straight to the point. Use action and power words that aptly describe what you want to state. Do not write content in a way that gives the recruiter reason to pause and think.
- Write the Resume in Your Own Voice – When you come across an article written by Sir Richard Branson, do you find yourself reading it as if Sir Richard was narrating it inside your head?That’s because Sir Richard as well as other notable figures write content in their own voice.The same technique should be applied when writing your resume. This takes us back to the importance of the narrative. How you write your resume will reflect your character or personality.Even if the recruiter has not met you, the choice of tone, words, structure and phrasing will give him or her an idea of the kind of person you are.
- Review Your Resume Before Submitting It – Mistakes happen but grammatical ones and spelling errors are unforgivable when it comes to the resume.Poor grammar and spelling leave a bad impression on the recruiter. There are no salvageable negatives. In the first place, you had all the time in the world to review, edit and fine tune the resume prior to submission.Use several drafts before making the final copy. Have a second and even a third set of eyes review your resume. Ask people you can trust to give you a second opinion.An effective way to review content is to read it out loud. Sometimes you can identify your mistakes better by listening instead of just reading your content.
When you’re competing for a job, you need every advantage you can get to your side. Sometimes it may not be enough just to write an effective resume. Here are 4 resume hacks you should do because your competition probably wouldn’t have thought of them!
- Create a Personal Website – A personal website gives you the forum to present your overall value proposition.You can add a blog page where you can share your thoughts or a link to a portfolio of your previous projects. A personal website is a brilliant way to push your branding strategy and add more power to your resume.All you need to do is to include a link to your personal website. Recruiters are always intrigued by personal websites.
- Clean Up Your Online Image – Although recruiters generally favor LinkedIn and Twitter, the truth is Facebook is a favorite fishing ground for information on your behavioral profile.People tend to let their guard down in Facebook. They become comfortable because they are interacting in a community where everyone knows who they really are. Posts and comments on Facebook are very organic. Although unlike Twitter, the user has time to edit or second guess posting an opinion.Don’t take chances that a recruiter may view your Facebook profile. Give it a look- over and delete posts that may be construed as offensive or off- putting.
- Include a Cover Letter – Another area of much debate is whether you should send a cover letter or not. Some people will say the cover letter is dead; it is a waste of time and recruiters will not take the time to read it.Here’s a question for you: Why take the chance?What if the recruiter is the type who appreciates cover letters? The reason why some people say the cover letter has outlived its purpose is because candidates tend to submit formulaic cover letters.In the same way that you prepared your resume, you should also customize your cover letter. There is no debate on its length: a one- page cover letter will be effective.A well written cover letter is a great way to introduce your resume and start out the narrative.
- Send a Personal Message – It may take awhile before you hear anything about your resume or if at all. There are some companies that send out letters while others merely stay silent.There is nothing wrong about following up. You can make a quick call or send a short but friendly worded e-mail such as:
Hi (Name of Recruiter),
Thank you for taking time to read this message.
I hope I am not being intrusive because I understand how busy a typical day must be like for you.
I would like to respectfully follow up on the status of my application which I submitted last (date of submission)
You can reply via this e-mail or if you wish, I can place a call to your office at your most convenient time and date.
And if the response is not favorable? Send another personal message:
Hi (Name of Recruiter),
Thank you for your prompt response.
It was unfortunate that my resume was not considered by the company. I understand and respect your company’s decision.
However, I would like to solicit your feedback on my resume. Experiences as these, while unfortunate remain valuable opportunities for learning.
I highly value your opinion and I hope you can take some time from your busy schedule to offer productive advice.
The best and most experienced recruiters will take the time to provide feedback. It may not be sent right away but trust that you will receive it.
The great thing about sending a personal message is that it leaves a strong and lasting impression on the recruiter. You have nothing to lose and everything to lose by sending a personal message.
We certainly hope our article has given you all the information and tools you need to craft the resume that will land you the job.
The fact remains that there are no set rules in writing a resume. What we’ve presented to you are guidelines to help you make an effective resume. But you can and should take liberties in applying them to meet your own goals and objectives.
Good luck on your next application! You are on your way to a new career!