Tried and True
A resume is not likely to land you a job, but it is a critical step in being considered. Flawless execution is expected. Don’t give the hiring manager any reason to move your resume immediately to the “reject” pile. In the early stages of the recruiting the process, your resume is you. It needs to represent you professionally and accurately so they will want to know more about you. While you resume will not likely land you the job, it needs to catch their attention so you will advance in the process. In order to have an opportunity to sell yourself to the hiring manager with an interview, your resume must sell you first. Your resume needs to catch their attention and show them that you have experience and expertise relevant to this position.
What a Resume Is and Isn’t – A resume is a summary of your professional experience, education and skills. It should focus on accomplishments. A resume is not a summary of your job responsibilities for each position you’ve held.
Formatting Matters – For an initial resume review it is likely that someone will spend less than a minute reviewing your resume. If you want them to spend more time and really see what you have to offer, it needs to be concise, easy to read and the key information must be easy to find. Your resume should not exceed one page unless you have more than ten years of experience. Be sure you use white space to keep it visually appealing. You must have your contact information – address, email and telephone – so they can easily reach you if they are interested. You should always use a professional looking email address with just your name – avoid cute nicknames etc. when job searching. Quickest path to the reject pile is typos or grammatical errors. Be sure to proof your resume and carefully and have someone else proof it as well.
Open Strong – They first thing they read should give them a quick sense of who you are and what you could do for them. I strongly recommend starting with a summary statement focused on your key transferable skills and core competencies. Whenever possible, focus on key words from the job description. The summary gives the reader a lens through which they read the rest of your resume. Catch their attention from their first glance. Employers I work with find a summary statement preferable to an objective. Often job seekers have specific objectives that do not relate to the job they are applying for.
Honesty is the best and only policy – A resume is the factual history of your work experience. Do not embellish or overate your accomplishments or responsibilities. Employers value integrity and you demonstrate that by being honest and forthright in all your interactions, starting with your resume. Many companies will use outside firms to perform verifications with prior employers and schools.
Summarizing Your Professional Experience – This is a critical section of your resume. Always list your most recent position first. If you have had multiple positions within the same company, show the overall dates for employment and then dates for each specific position with the most recent first. If the company is not well know, include a brief, one-line description of the company to provide context. Bullet points should focus on your accomplishments in each position. Why was the company better off by having you in that position at that time? Do not list your job responsibilities. When possible, quantify your accomplishments with the impact on the company – increased sales by 20%, reduced turnover 10%, identified cost savings of more than $50,000. You should focus on the accomplishments that would be most relevant to the employer, not necessarily what you enjoyed the most.
If you are early in your career and your professional experience is limited, be sure to include summer jobs, part-time employments, internships and even volunteer work. Identify accomplishments in each role. Ask someone else to proofread it for you to ensure that it is clear. Avoid company jargon or acronyms.
Focus on Action – Every bullet point under your professional experience should start with an action verb. If it is a current position, use current tense. For all prior positions, use past tense. Action verbs include words such as managed, implemented, designed, reduced, prepared, and many more. Avoid phrases such as “responsible for” in your bullet points.
Academic Experience – The employer also wants to see you academic qualifications. If your degree is recent and relevant you can choose to list it prior to your work experience but for most resumes it should follow the professional experience section. List the school you attended, the dates you attended and the degree you earned with your major noted. If you graduated with an honors status such as “summa cum laude” you can note that as well. While you should never list all your specific courses, if you are a recent graduate with limited experience you may choose to highlight a few, relevant classes. If you were a leader of a student group of were actively involved in campus activities, it is great to include that on your resume but it should be listed separately under activities. The only time you would ever include high school on your resume would be if you did not have a college degree.
Keep the Employer Perspective in Mind – Yes, it is your resume and you need to tell them about you but you have greater impact if you prepare your resume with the employer in mind. You will likely have more content than will fit on one page so when making decisions about what to include, keep the employer perspective in mind. You should focus on the skills and experiences that are transferrable and most relevant to the employer. It should be about what they need not what you want. Consider how you can make a difference to a company and help solve their problems.
Don’t let it stand alone — General rule of thumb for a successful job search, don’t ever send your resume alone when applying for a job. If the position is worth applying to, it is worth preparing a customized cover letter. This gives you an opportunity to clearly “connect the dots” between their specific needs in the job posting and your experience and expertise. Don’t expect an employer to take the time to do that themselves. Show them how you can add value in this role. If you are applying online, be sure you follow all the steps required in the posting. Don’t give them an easy opportunity to eliminate you.
Life Outside of Work – It can certainly be appropriate to show employers a glimpse of your life outside of work. If you have volunteer experience, you can include a volunteer section. Identify the organization, your role and the dates. If you were involved in an organization that could be unpopular or divisive, carefully consider how important it is to include it on your resume. If you have unique hobbies or interests, you can list those as well. Sometimes these unique items make someone want to talk to you. Avoid “spending time with friends and family” since that clearly doesn’t differentiate you.
Consider Having Multiple Versions – For most job seekers, a single resume is not enough. If you are pursuing opportunities in different fields, consider having separate versions of your resume to focus on the most relevant skills in each field. Depending on the specific job you are applying for, you may want to emphasize different accomplishments from your previous experience and you may want to update the key words in your summary to better align with the job description. Yes, this is additional work but it can increase the likelihood of an employer wanting to know more about you. Your work experience overall remains the same, but you can choose to highlight different accomplishments and skills depending on the specific opportunity.
You are the Product – In a job search, you are the product. This is the most important sales role of your life. Be sure your resume is the best possible reflection of you – your skills, experience, accomplishments and expertise. Make employers want to meet you. Make them want to have you on their team.