This week I wanted to talk to you about resumes. This is a document that almost everyone hates to write because so much is riding on how well it functions as a marketing tool. Let me preface the topic by telling you what you face. As a job applicant, depending on the type of position and what's required, some job openings will have well over 500 applicants. When employers get overwhelmed by so many resumes for one job, they have to be very selective. Because of this, it's incumbent upon you to write a resume so that you will be one of the few selected to move on to the interview rather than one of the many who will receive a "thanks, but no thanks" letter or email.
To avoid missing out on an opportunity that's perfect for you, here are a few basic tips that will help you stand out and be considered for the job.
Your Resume Header
There are three pieces of information that you need to have at the very top of the first page of your resume: your name, your phone number, and your email address.
You probably noticed that I didn't mention that you should include your home address. That's because it's better that you leave it off. Why? Because when an employer sees your address, they start making assumptions that could unfairly rule you out.
Additionally, when I was a Recruiter, I often got frustrated when people who thought they needed to be creative and put their contact information in small type at the bottom or the side of the resume. Some folks neglect to include their contact information on the resume altogether, thinking that they already provided this information in the applicant tracking system.
Little did they know, I usually went through all the applications and resumes and printed off the best resumes as I went along. Once I had them all in a stack and stapled, I'd start to contact candidates. But then I come to this resume where I'm struggling to find how to contact them. Remember, if I need to make extra effort, I'm already annoyed with you. I'm swamped with a ton of resumes, do you really think I want to spend an extra couple minutes trying to find your contact information?
Speaking of contact information, double-check to make sure what you typed is correct. You'd be surprised how many wrong numbers I would call in a week's time and how many emails I'd receive from MAILER-DAEMON telling me that my message couldn't be delivered. If this job requires someone with a high attention to detail, how likely do you think it is that we would hire someone who can't even write their contact information down correctly on their resume? I'll give you a hint: only if we're absolutely desperate, and even then, unlikely.
Finally, the general expectation is that you have a professional email address. No, CuteyPie23@gmail.com does not qualify as professional. You might want to consider getting another free email address for your job search. Something like First Name.Last Name@email.com works much better. If you need to add numbers to the email because you have a common name, refrain from using your birth year or graduation year. There's no reason to give them this extra information. The added benefit to creating a new email is that any emails that come from employers won't be hidden from all the other junk email you get on any given day in your normal inbox, so you can identify and respond to them more quickly.
Spelling, Grammar, and Wording
You'd be amazed how often employers come across resumes with really unfortunate misspellings. I've seen resumes where the candidate has misspelled a job title or even their own name! Incorrect spelling signifies that you are not a person who pays attention to the details and/or your intelligence is not up to par.
Beyond spelling, make sure your wording, vocabulary, and punctuation is on point. If you don't, your message will be confusing to the person who is reading it.
Another mistake people make is their word choice. You don't have to use a lot of flowery language to describe what you did. Just be straightforward with it. Also, never use a word if you aren't quite sure that it means what you think it means. Keep that running joke (turned meme) from The Princess Bride, in mind, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Stay away from overused buzzwords as well. It sounds like you're trying too hard to fit in. Likewise, avoid using cliches "like the plague!"
Run on sentences when describing your job can be another pitfall. It's a good way to lose the reader and make them believe that you're poor at writing. Given that we all have to write at some point in our jobs, this probably isn't the best message to convey.
Obviously, spell check and grammar check work to some degree, but they don't catch everything. You need additional help from someone with an editor's eye to catch the obvious mistakes and reword your phrasing so it's easy to read and understandable.
No Pictures, Please
I know that you spent some good money to have a photo done for your LinkedIn profile, but don't include it on your resume. There's several reasons for this advice.
First of all, it increases the size of the electronic file, which can impact the ability of your email getting through to the employer's corporate email system. Second, many applicant tracking systems have issues with photographs as well. You're also providing the employer with personal information (race, age, and gender) which can potentially bias the person who receives your resume. Finally, what if it just isn't that great of a picture? Not everyone is naturally photogenic. I know I'm not.
While it's true that people are naturally drawn to something visual over written words, sometimes that visual can do more damage than good. It's better to be safe than sorry and just leave off that picture of your smiling face.
If you want to make the resume more attractive with something visual, I've seen resumes include company logos next to each company for which that person has worked. I've seen others use visual presentations, similar to a bar graph, to designate their aptitude for skills. These are much better options than a personal photograph.
Make it Appealing to the Eye
There's the misconception that a resume should be limited to one page only. If you're an accomplished person, that's practically impossible unless you make the font 7 point and narrow the margins to .1 inches. Just thinking about a resume like that makes my eyes hurt!
The reality is that resumes are usually two pages for someone with more than one or two jobs in their history and three pages for someone seeking a higher level position. I've seen longer resumes, but I've never read them in their entirety. If you want a Recruiter or Hiring Manager to actually read through the whole document before they call you in for an interview, try to keep it succinct.
You also want your resume to be attractive and enticing upon first glance. This is best accomplished by giving it plenty of white space. Don't try to fill the whole document with ink.
Rather than making it single space, try using 1.5 spacing, and hit that enter key twice between jobs. Rather than writing about your work experience in paragraph form, use bullet points instead. This helps the reader identify your key selling points and is generally easier to read. Use bold lettering and italics for emphasis, but use them sparingly. Likewise, using colors is good at drawing the eye to different sections in the resume, but only use one other color besides black to be consistent and don't go with overly bright colors like lime green. Finally, use an easy-to-read font such as Calibri, Arial, Cambria, or Verdana. That means no Wingdings (as tempting as that may be). While Times New Roman is readable, it's also a dated font that most people have moved away from. You should too.
Write About What You Accomplished, Not Your Job Description
Above all else, Recruiters and Hiring Managers want to know what your accomplishments and achievements were while you worked for an employer.
We already can surmise your basic job duties from your job title. What we really want to know is how you positively benefited the business while you worked there. The reader will assume you'll benefit them similarly in the future.
Did you come up with an idea to streamline a process? Write it down. Did you come up with idea that saved the company money? Mention the idea and approximately how much was saved. Did you increase sales? Talk about what you did in order to accomplish this and by how much you increased it. Were your customer service ratings exceptional? Include that as one of your bullet points. Discuss any awards or distinctions as well to show how appreciated you were at at your previous jobs.
The bottom line is, the person reading your resume is less interested in learning about your past jobs and more interested in learning about you. The purpose of a resume is to effectively market yourself and show what you can do for your future employer. If you're not doing that, you're going to be passed over for someone who is.