A few days ago, I wrote a spur of the moment post containing interviewing tips. Today, I’m going to do the same regarding resumes.
Getting a job should be simple. All you really need to do is find an ad, send in a resume and wait for an offer, right?
The truth is that resumes do not generate job offers. At best, they’ll get you a phone call, maybe a face to face interview. So stop trying to build the perfect resume! It needs to be good enough to get your foot in the door…and your intelligence, personality and professional appearance can do the rest.
So what makes a good resume?
1) ATTENTION GETTING! — Most employers will receive a stack of resumes, especially with unemployment above 10%. Trust me, they’re scanning them to pick out a few possibilities. Each resume will be lucky to get 30 whole seconds, so you have to capture their eyes quickly.
[Note: I used to review a lot of resumes so I know the truth of it from experience. It needs to be a good kind of attention though. One poor guy had his name misspelled on the top of his resume…unless his name really was BRAIN!]
One way to do this is through creativity. Though not appropriate for all positions, if it fits for your career field using colored or odd-shaped paper may do the trick. But don’t do that if you’re looking for an accounting position! A marketing position or circus performer…go for it!
Another way is to hit them up front with a great skills summary. As Dan Miller recently wrote in a blog post, the old “objectives” statement is meaningless. Hit them with a solid summary of your unique skill set. Remember that it has to be relevant to the position and company to get their attention. Grab them in the first 30 seconds, and your resume may survive make the follow-up stack.
Hitting key words that apply directly to the position and company are more important than anything else. They not only catch the human eye, but also the search algorithms used in most large companies and online job sites. Use the words in the job posting or other words that relate to that career arena.
2) Show Me the Impact! — Except for the most basic of entry level positions, most employers don’t care what your job description was in every job you’ve ever had. Unless it was a very unique position, the job title gives them exactly what they need to know regarding your duties on the job.
What gets their attention and makes them curious about you is pure and simple accomplishments. How much money did you earn the company? What percentage growth in market share was achieved during your term? Any time you can use percentages and dollar signs, eyes will be attracted. Winning awards or other significant achievements will also stand out.
[Note: I cringed at the number of resumes I reviewed that contained little or no content regarding accomplishments. It was probably 90% or more. If all you had to do was show up at your job to be able to put it on your resume, then don’t include it. Show me where you ADDED value.]
3) Readability — So many people worry about the number of pages on their resume. I was always happy to review a long one if it was good, and I dreaded trying to read one in 6 pt font so that it stayed within the “two page rule”. Content is so much more important (see number 2 above).
Beyond the font size and eradication of typos, the resume should be visually pleasing. This is a bit harder to describe and is very subjective. Just remember to include proper spacing between sections and areas of the resume. Look at it without being able to focus on the words. If it’s a constant wall of words squeezed onto the page, it probably isn’t very pleasing to the focused eye. Some white space is okay!
4) Clean and Neat — While not in your control once handed off and around an office, it should be free of coffee rings, tears (as in rips, not from crying) and wrinkles. Remember number 1 above.
Enough said here.
5) Functional vs. Chronological — This debate has been around since the first resume was reviewed. Here’s my thoughts:
If you’re looking for a position that depends on a solid track record over time, go with a chronological format, outlining your job history over time (from most recent position back). Most resumes follow this format, though it isn’t always best.
If you’re looking to move in a new career direction, a functional resume that outlines your specific skills and abilities vs. a list jobs you’ve held may work better. This is especially true for those with limited workplace experience but lots of real life experience, like returning to work moms who’ve raised their children or students who’ve done extensive volunteer work. It also works well if you want to focus on a single aspect of your prior work instead of all areas within your work history.
6) Stretch the Truth? — Some employers expect everyone to lie on their resumes. Perhaps because they lied to get their current job, or maybe just that they’ve conducted enough interviews with people who couldn’t back up their “accomplishments”.
Integrity matters. Don’t put anything on your resume that you can’t back up. Most good employers and jobs worth having/companies worth working for will appreciate your honesty and find it refreshing.
SECRET WEAPON — Customize your resume whenever possible to the position you’re applying for. Have both chronological and functional resumes prepared and ready to go, then use the one that fits best.
I hope these tips help as you prepare or edit your resume. Again, I wrote this in just a few minutes off the top of my head. If you have experience reviewing or submitting resumes, I’d love to have your thoughts and suggestions posted in the comments.
There is much more to concept of resumes that we discuss in the
48 Days to the Work You Love Workshops.
Contact me if you’re interested in learning more about this life changing seminar!