Your resume. Cue Beethoven’s fifth. This profile is often the first, and unfortunately sometimes the only, impression hiring officials get of you. There are other channels they can go through to get a more complete picture—your Linkedin, your website, Google Images (God forbid)—but they won’t bother if your resume doesn’t entice them enough to take the time to do so. As a recruiter, I’m buried in resumes. While I’m not a technical expert in each field for which I source talent, I can suss quality at a glance, and good candidates in any industry know how to produce resumes that inspire a longer look. The following are tips based for crafting a resume that makes recruiters pick up the phone.
A resume is inherently a list of your skills and previous experience, but how you choose to lay out your list is important. It’s pretty easy to guess how much time a candidate spent on his or her resume by what it looks like, and structure is indicative of care. If you care about your resume, I care about your resume.
The structure of your resume in terms of both content and format is important for one reason: how easily the reader can find information. It is an oft-stated fact that recruiters and other hiring personnel look at a resume for about six seconds before making that initial decision to either keep reading or move on. Therefore, the more information we can absorb in six seconds, the better. A huge part of this is appearance alone. This article from LifeClever goes into great detail about things like typeface, line spacing, indentation and margins. Sounds super exciting, I know, but the difference in readability and professionalism is astounding.
My favorite resumes are ones that include specifics. How many people did you manage? By what percentage did you increase profit margins? Which softwares did your company use? This information is the hard data I use when I’m crafting candidate presentations. It will also help you in the interview itself—the hiring manager can refer to your resume and ask more direct questions, to which you can provide more direct answers i.e. “What did you change to achieve that 1,000,000% increase in productivity?” instead of “What are three things you are most proud of in your career?” Of course, they may still ask those more open-ended questions, but I personally find that the more definitive the question, the more eloquent the response.
Furthermore, and this should come as no surprise, resumes are often cast aside when a simple CTRL+F search for a keyword turns up no results. This is of course assuming that the resume makes it past the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) of the external site that I may have searched to find it in the first place (CareerBuilder, Ladders, etc.). In other words, if your resume doesn’t show up in my search results, I can’t even give it that six second look. Do yourself a favor and be sure to spell out any acronyms, too.
The keywords we want to see are always in the job description. I’ve had too many phone screenings with candidates who just forgot to include a specific skill or software or certification. Why did I call them in the first place if something is missing from their resume? Usually because they have probably encountered Object XYZ if they are working in the same field as the position for which they applied, and sometimes remembering the sheer volume of things one does on a day-to-day basis is more difficult than it seems. In short, double-check the job description for industry-specific terms, and if you’re familiar with them, make sure they are prominently included on your resume.
This is a tricky part of resume-writing. Do you write in First Person? In Third Person? In No Person? In People? I made up the last two, but if anyone can imagine what those would look like, I’d love to see an example. Generally, resumes are written in First Person, but without the “I”. For example, instead of “I conceptualized the most successful marketing campaign the world has ever seen, and now I am widely regarded as a demigod of social media” write, in bulleted fragments,
- Conceptualized the most successful marketing campaign the world has ever seen
- Widely regarded as a demigod of social media
The First Person is a stylistic preference more than it is protocol, but it’s your resume, the “I” is assumed; including it is redundant. Using bullet points is also a stylistic preference, but no hiring official or recruiter wants to parse through paragraphs to find the information they need, especially at first glance. Bullet points are user-friendly; they let me do CTRL+F with my eyes.
Another important style choice is Verb tense. Should you write in past tense or present progressive (using -ing at the end of the verb)? Personally, I find it looks cleanest, and makes the most logical sense, to write in past tense when describing your duties at past jobs, and present tense when describing your current position. Avoid using -ing, it just looks messy. For example, instead of the following:
- Booking all domestic and international travel
- Planning press events, such as launch parties and tournaments
- Book all domestic and international travel
- Plan press events, such as launch parties and tournaments
- Forecasted sales goals
- Maintained well-stocked company fridge
This is an extension of specificity. While my fellow recruiters and myself not only want to see the numeric facts, we also want to see relevance to the position for which you are submitting your resume. If you choose to include a Summary or an Objective at the top of your resume, and are applying for multiple positions, consider editing it to more closely match the specific job. An Objective that reads simply, “to grow within an organization where I can hone my skills” makes a weak first line—it’s too broad, and it’s what most people want. Similarly, a summary that says you are “a hard-working professional” is pointless. On the other hand, there is the valid point that if you’re too specific you could rule yourself out of consideration for similar, but not quite the same, positions for which the recruiter may be sourcing. It’s a fine line to walk, so many candidates choose not to include an introductory section at all, which is totally fine.
Spellcheck. Tense check. Fix orphaned lines. Ensure your contact info is accurate. Resume writing is hard work, and resisting the temptation to send it out as soon as you’ve written the last line (and exited the emotional roller coaster of pride and self-doubt) is difficult. But grammar mistakes and sloppy formatting will tamp my excitement about what at first looked promising. Also check the length of your document—if you’re fresh out of college there’s no reason your resume should be more than a page or two, and if you’re an industry veteran you can condense your early experience and expound upon your work in the last ten years.
Ultimately, craft a resume that is relevant and streamlined so that it is both easy to find and easy to read. Then, just make sure you are easy to reach when those phone calls start rolling in!