As recruiters, we spend hours reviewing, editing, and re-writing resumes daily. And we are frequently surprised to see recurring gaffes that hinder our applicants’ candidacies. While most anyone can muster an opinion on what they like or don’t like about a particular resume, many don’t understand how digitization, the internet, and a persistent pool of qualified candidates have transformed the requirements for an effective resume. Herewith some of the recurring opportunities for improvement we see.
- Always remember that the purpose of your resume is to secure an interview. It should not be a treatise on every task you have performed in every position you have ever held. Think of it as an ad, not a novel. While you may need to include addenda like project lists, publications, patents for certain roles, these are best included as attachments to your resume and/or followup documentation.
- Avoid resume templates that emphasize form over function. Yes, a nifty presentation can draw in a reader, but if your format isn’t easily parsed and keyword-searched by the “bots” that do most of the early sorting of “possibles” and “rejects”, your resume will never see the eyes it is designed to attract. Further, all that fancy formatting creates a nightmare for recruiters who must often edit your resume to improve your narrative when applying for a particular position.
- Avoid adding lengthy career summaries, objectives, and keyword lists at the top of your first page. Put your keyword list at the end, after your education. Remember, you only get a few seconds of your viewer’s eyes before they decide whether to read on or toss your resume aside. Make them count; launch right into either a summary of your career achievements or your employment history. The bot will find your keywords no matter where they appear on the page; it’s what they do.
- Make sure to include the basics. These include employers, employers’ business models, dates of employment, position titles, a brief statement of your responsibilities (no more than three sentences), and most importantly, a listing of significant accomplishments in your last few positions.
Most hiring managers want to see that you have experience in an industry similar to theirs, that you have worked in a similar business model. Don’t make the recruiter and hiring manager’s job more difficult by requiring them to Google your past employers to determine in which types of businesses you’ve worked. While we really want to find strong candidates, making the job too hard may relegate an otherwise-qualified candidate to the “no” pile.
Also, the typical hiring manager wants to see that you have performed well in a role similar to that for which they are hiring. They want to know that you are functionally capable and have somehow gone above and beyond. Your summary of responsibilities takes care of the former, your Significant Accomplishments section(s) takes care of the latter.
- Ensure that your keywords align with appropriate industry jargon. In the effort to stand out, job-seekers often list creative keywords. Remember, the bots are looking for specific skills and experiences, not your creativity. If they find only creatively-worded skills that don’t match their search list, they’ll pass you by.
Resume writing is indeed an art-science, but heeding these few recommendations will ensure that your submission gets its due.