After years of working in the executive staffing and recruiting industry and working with countless hiring managers and staff administrators across different industries, I gained a thorough understanding of what these individuals were looking for in potential job candidates. I began to see patterns, consistencies, universal trends, and I began to see how important a good resume really is.
As a matter of fact, hiring managers uses only approx. 15 seconds to review a new resume and they are really only looking for a few things when they do. They are on autopilot for the most part. They want to know:
1) Who did you work for?
2) Have you had a steady job?
3) What remarkable achievements and accolades have you had throughout your career?
4) What do you have to offer that meet their specific needs?
An effective resume will answer these questions with minimal effort, and as with any effective marketing tool, it will also leave the reader wanting to know more. You want to give them just enough information to make them take action. That’s when they pick up the phone and call you for an interview!
So your resume is your professional introduction. It’s your only chance to make a memorable first impression, and I can tell you right now that if you don’t take your resume seriously, your resume will never be taken seriously. It’s really that simple.
Now, if you feel that you are capable and qualified to write a compelling and dynamic resume, then by all means give it a shot. However, if you are not very confident in your skills as a writer and / or marketer, I would sincerely recommend you to join a professional resume writer to help you create the perfect resume for you. An experienced veteran of these issues can be an invaluable resource. After all, I trust my mechanic to work on my car because he works on cars all day, every day. Well, there are people out there working on resumes all day, every day … so trust us!
For those who are confident that they have what it takes, this article should help you with some of the finer points. Although job markets and technologies are always changing, there are some things that are quite universal and form the basic principles of a winning resume. To guide you along, I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of resume writing Do’s and Don’ts, complete with trade secret tricks as well as a collection of common mistakes people make. So pay close attention, take my advice into consideration and you are about to land this dream job in no time!
Wrong representation of the truth – It is never a good idea to lie on your resume. You do not want to start a professional relationship based on a false representation of the facts. Just as you hope the employer is not lying to you about job requirements, pay, etc., they expect you not to lie to them about your background and / or skills. It is the decent and respectable way to behave, and there is no room for dishonesty at work because sooner or later these things always tend to come to the surface. Remember: The truth must set you free!
Use Slang or Jargon – You must be as professional as possible with your resume if you expect to be taken seriously as a professional. For this reason, avoid using known lingo, slang or jargon in your resume. The exception to this rule is when you use very industry-specific terminology to describe your particular skills. This can actually help to lend you credit as a knowledgeable person and an expert in your field, but your such terms with care and rightness.
Include a photo – Unless you are a model or in a professional depending on physical characteristics, I always advise against putting your photo on your resume. In my experience, it can do more harm than good. So formatting the resume is simple and let the hiring manager use their imagination until they call you for an interview. In addition, your look should have nothing to do with your professionalism or the credentials that qualify you for the position. In the business world (even legally), your appearance should have no value as a point of sale for you as a competent job candidate.
Include irrelevant info (AKA “Fluff”) – If it’s not important, don’t add it to your resume. If you were a chef 10 years ago but are now looking for a job in retail management, don’t hide your resume with irrelevance. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager and ask yourself what they would see as important. How does your background correspond to their needs as an employer? Everything else is fluff. Do not add your hobbies to your resume. Do not add your references (if they want them, they will ask at the appropriate time). And don’t include your high school either. Finally, do not be superfluous and repeat yourself in connection with your resume. It’s OK to amplify themes, but don’t push it. If your title has been the branch manager at each of your past three companies, find a way to differentiate each of these positions and highlight your most notable achievements. Don’t just copy and paste the line “Managed a team of branch employees” three times. It gets you nowhere.
Include a core competency section – I think core competency sections are pretty worthless in a professional resume, and I’ll tell you why: It doesn’t matter if you are a waitress, administrative assistant, nurse, teacher or sales director – it doesn’t matter what kind of background you have – anyone can describe themselves as “Self-motivated”. Anyone can say that they are “goal oriented” and “result driven” and all have “strong verbal and written skills” when applying for a job. I can say with some certainty that the majority of hiring managers and HR managers skip right past a section on core competencies and for good reason. The key to a successful resume is to show a manager how you are “Performance driven” and “Goal oriented” instead of just telling them! Your achievements speak volumes, let them speak. If you want to include a core competency section, make sure it’s unique and adds value. Again, obscurity will often work against you here because the cheaper experience of reading your resume.
Trust templates or sample samples – If you’re browsing the web and looking for a good resume sample or template to use as a guideline for your own resume, make sure the sample you settle on is appropriate given your background, the industry you are in and your career intentions. Because when it comes down to it, different kinds of resumes should be used in different industries. By way of illustration, a computer programmer’s resume can vary greatly from a sushi chef. They both have very different skill sets that need to be highlighted in very different ways to be effective. If both of these individuals tried to write their resume in the same format, it would be a disaster. Hiring agencies have their own expectations, respectively, and some CV formats are better than others for meeting those individual expectations.
Write a novel and call it a resume – I repeat: DO NOT write a novel and call it a resume. Too many people make this mistake. They want to write this clumsy, drawn-out thesis outlining their life history and career efforts. They have all these skills and achievements and they want to include them all in there somewhere, but the problem is that most people just don’t know when to stop. Don’t be afraid to leave out some of the details and explore them further in the interview process. My advice is to highlight only those aspects of your background that are most applicable to the job or the types of jobs you plan to apply for.
Limit Yourself to One Page – Unlike the last point, you may not want to limit yourself to a 1-page resume page. A common misconception is that a professional resume HAS to be a side. However, that is not really the case these days. Although I was back before the miracles of technology, I may have agreed. But now that most resumes are read on a computer screen versus on paper, there’s no need to limit yourself in such a way. Those who try to cram all their information into 1-page resumes usually suggest less font and zero spacing. When viewed on screen, this is not an attractive format and is difficult to read. Now, I’m not saying that you should write a 20-page catalog of your experiences, nor do I advocate the use of font size 20. Instead, I would say that the font 12-14 should suffice, and I recommend keeping it on two sides. It leaves plenty of room to say what needs to be said. Of course, if you have limited experience, a 1-page resume will continue to work fine.
Use bullet points – When it’s time to explain your experiences in your resume, use bullet points to outline your results. It is much easier to read and even easier to foam, which is what hiring managers do most of the time anyway. Bullet points draw attention to important information. They are also visually appealing and make the information seem more accessible to the reader. So keep them short and meaningful. Some people choose a short section explaining their duties and responsibilities, followed by bullet points highlighting their most notable achievements. This is also acceptable, just make sure to keep this section very concise and avoid any layoffs.
Have a Strong Objective Statement – While this is a matter of some debate these days, I certainly think a strong, concise objective can go a long way. First, it immediately tells the reader what job you are looking for. It can be a big deal when submitting your resume to an HR representative who has their hands full with many different job opportunities. Recruiters too. And if you’re a senior manager, you don’t want to throw in the pile of post offices, right? Not only that, but an effective goal will briefly summarize your qualifications so that a hiring manager can make an immediate decision not to continue reading. They do it anyway, so why not meet their needs in the introduction and add value by showing them what you have to offer right off the bat. Remember, I’m only talking about one sentence here. One phrase to market yourself. Once a sentence to arouse their interest. You don’t want to give the reader too much to think about, you rather want them to go on and read the rest of your resume. So grab their attention, establish your professional identity, show them your value, and let them move on to the good stuff!
Choose the Right Format – One thing to keep in mind is that there is no universal formatting methodology because in reality there is no cookie-cutter way to write a resume. What works best for one person may not be best for another. Some people will benefit from a chronological resume, while this format can be detrimental to someone who has skipped a lot in their careers. The only thing I can suggest is that you do your homework. Know the different types of resumes (chronological, functional, targeted and combination) and know the different benefits of each. So, make an informed decision about which style is best for you. If you are browsing the web and looking for a good resume sample or template to use as a guideline for your own resume, make sure the sample you are taking is appropriate given your background, the industry you are in in, and your career intentions.
Cut to the Chase – Don’t waste time … get to the good stuff. As I said before, a hiring manager will most often skim, scan and glance over a resume. Remember, they have specific questions in mind when reviewing a resume for the first time and they expect specific answers. One of the most important questions they ask is, “Who has this person worked for in the past?” For this reason, I always suggest that serious job applicants highlight their experiences first and foremost. Just below your one-sentence goal, switch to and experience the section. In this section, you must state your previous employers, the years you worked for them, your job titles and a brief description of your duties there. Of course, this may not be the best approach for some people. If your background is heavily dependent on your academic experience, you may want to jump into it first.
Focus on your goal – My reasons for saying this are as follows: An unfocused resume sends a very clear message that you are unfocused around your career. And a hiring authority won’t see it. They will see that you have career goals and that these ambitions match their needs as an employer. So remember that a custom resume, changed to a particular position, is always preferable to a generalized and vague resume. If you are serious enough about a job, take the extra time and effort to tailor a resume to that job’s requirements. I can assure you that your efforts do not go unnoticed.
Be articulate and grammatically accurate – In my humble opinion, it is very important to be eloquent in the context of your resume and make sure that you use correct grammar and syntax. Use your current time for your current job description. For past jobs, you will need past. This seems like a no-brainer, but again you will be surprised at how many people make this mistake. Being articulate can also go a long way. Most hiring managers will consider it a plus if you can convey your level of intelligence in your written communication. So don’t be afraid to break out the thesaurus and make sure you have someone else edit your resume before sending it out to potential employers. It is imperative!
K.I.S.S. – A wiser man than me once made this bold statement, and it is extremely useful when writing your resume: Keep it simple, stupid! Too many people do too much to “stand out from the pack” and by doing so they may inadvertently injure themselves. In some professions, such as the creative design field, it may be beneficial to show your originality and imagination, but in other business areas this kind of flamboyancy in a resume is unnecessary and can actually be detrimental to your cause. The same applies to formatting. I have found that people tend to have much more success when choosing an uncomplicated formatting style. Some people still want everything jazzed up with pictures and text boxes and funky font, but that’s just fluff. It’s noise. It is irrelevant to the purpose of your resume, which is to sell yourself through highlighting your skills and achievements. And hiring managers looks right through it!
Take Your Resume Seriously – As previously mentioned, if you do not take your resume seriously, your resume will not be taken seriously. If you choose not to work with a professional, you should at least have an independent third party to edit it for you and give you some constructive feedback. This is for your own sake. What happens when you mistakenly type “Manger” instead of “Manager”? Do you think Spell Check will dance you out? Whatever you do, do not send it out to potential employers without having someone look it over. Some people just need to swallow their pride, because when it comes down to it, you might be the best at what you do, but if you don’t write resume for a living, chances are there is someone Out there, who are more qualified to write your summary that you are. Consider that if you are seriously looking at being taken seriously!
So there it is … everything you need to know about writing your resume. I wish you all the best of luck in your efforts and feel free to contact me if you ever need help. I’m here to help!