Having a tightly constructed resume is critical, as it is often the first and/or only thing a recruiter and/or hiring manager will use to determine if they want to set up an initial interview. There are several schools of thought around how to write a strong resume, specifically relating to length and what to highlight. Resume writing is a niche skill. You can be a great writer, but not be great at selling yourself on paper. Below are six tips for strengthening your resume.
Make sure it is clear at first glance what you do. A hiring manager should be able to tell what you do within fifteen seconds of reading your resume, otherwise it becomes work. The more difficult it becomes and the longer it takes for someone to figure out what it is that you do, the more likely they are to get frustrated and put you in the “no” pile. One trap I constantly see people falling into is starting their resumes with a general “Skills” or “Objective” section. They will start by listing several qualities like “enthusiastic, collaborative, creative thinker, organized professional with strong attention to detail, etc.” Those are all wonderful traits, but I still have zero idea what it is that you do. I also see challenges for folks who have ambiguous titles like “Consultant.” In one organization “Consultant” might mean sales, in another organization it might mean advising clients, and in yet another organization it might mean you’re a contract employee. If you do have an ambiguous title, make sure that the first bullet point under your job responsibilities is crystal-clear. There are many great ways to structure a resume, but the ultimate gut check is to ask yourself, “Is it immediately clear from this document what I do?”
Avoid paragraphs and try to stick to bullet points. Often when I see a giant paragraph of text at the top of someone’s resume I get overwhelmed. Your goal should be to make it clear what you do in the least amount of words possible. If you do have an “objective” at the top of your resume, it should be one sentence long. Less is more. That said, I have no issues with resumes that exceed one page, as most do! My barometer is always, is the information on here necessary? Does this information support the position I’m applying for? Is this information stated anywhere else on the resume in such a way that I wouldn’t be losing anything important if I cut this sentence? A multi-page resume is totally fine as long as the information is all relevant and not repeated.
Make sure your bullet points are metrics-driven and specific. There is no such thing as too much specificity on a resume. Again, this supports making it clear what it is that you do. One of the missed opportunities I often see with bullet points that outline a role and responsibility is lack of specificity. For example, if you’re a sales professional, “Responsible for bringing in new accounts” isn’t super clear. What is stronger is “Responsible for bringing in X new accounts per year resulting in X% of all revenue for 2020. Brought in new business by prospecting, cold calling, and leveraging a subject-matter expert to close the deal.” If you manage a team, list exactly how many direct reports that you have. “Managed a team of seven Business Analysts who were responsible for X.” This type of specificity not only makes your role more clear, but assuming you have strong data points, it also makes you a more attractive candidate.
Make sure your resume supports the role for which you’re applying. I was recently working with a student a few years out of college in a non-technology related field looking to transition into a career in marketing, yet there was nothing related to marketing on their resume. For the record, I am such a huge advocate of leveraging transferable skills to make a career transition. What we wound up doing was making a list of all of the skills they had leveraged in their work experience that applied to marketing, making sure they were highlighted within their bullet points, and adding an objective statement at the top that they were looking for a position in marketing. This person was such a strong candidate and a solid interviewee. I kept reminding them that if their resume wasn’t clear and didn’t stand out they were not going to be able to get to that interview where they could shine.
Make sure to proofread your resume. This one seems so simple but it is shocking how many typos I see on a daily basis in resumes. Typos are a negative reflection on your attention to detail and being able to write an email without mistakes is such a critical part of most positions. It’s always a great idea to have someone else look over your resume, especially when you’ve been editing and staring at it for a long time.
Include your contact information on your resume. I was recently working with a candidate who had a fantastic resume but their contact information was nowhere to be found. I had to find this person via LinkedIn and ask for their email/phone number so I could set up an interview. Were I not so blown away by this person’s background, I may not have taken that extra step. Make it easy for the hiring manager or recruiter.
If you can follow these six guidelines, your resume will be trending in the right direction. Clarity, specificity, and efficiency are key. When in doubt, ask yourself, “Is this clear and easy for the reader?” To continue the conversation or to ask related questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com.
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