I’ve probably viewed thousands of résumés over the years. And I’ve personally created and formatted hundreds. I’m amazed still by what some people consider a final copy of something that is supposed to market them in the workplace. I don’t say that to be mean; I say it because it is a reality based on some of the résumés I see. When you work in the HR industry you sometimes take for granted that most people don’t know how to create a résumé. I find that out each time someone reaches out to me to help them with theirs. They simply don’t know where to begin.
If you’re not sure what to include or how to format a résumé, it is best to have it professionally done. You don’t want to submit something that could disqualify you because it’s not up to the standards it should be. Listen, we know you’re a catch and any employer would be lucky to snag you — but they don’t necessarily know that. You need to show them why you’re the best candidate for the job.
If you want to forgo having your résumé done professionally and tackle it yourself, make sure your résumé includes everything it should so that your next employer can’t resist bringing you in for an interview. Below are some tips to get you started on tackling your résumé.
If you’re not sure what should all be included in the “bones” of a résumé, there are plenty of templates in programs like Microsoft Word; plus, there are tons of sample résumés you can view online.
A basic résumé should include the following:
- A header with your name, phone number, email and link to either your LinkedIn profile or other online professional profile. You don’t need to include your physical address. I actually recommend you not include it.
- Limit your résumé to one or two pages – if it’s longer than two pages it won’t get read. Trust me.
- Employment history and education should be listed in reverse chronological order.
- Consistent branding of yourself – make sure you list your name the same on your résumé as you do on your online and social media profiles.
- Don’t waste space with an objective – instead provide an “executive summary” or “summary of qualifications” of some sort. This is where you give your elevator pitch of who you are and what you can offer. It’s all about selling yourself.
- Miscellaneous sections that outline other various experience and/or skillsets (more on that later).
Don’t Let the Employer Assume
The number one piece of advice I tell someone when asked about résumé writing is that you should never let the employer assume they know you have a particular skill, experience, or knowledge of something they’re specifically asking for. This is why it is important to tailor your résumé to each job you’re applying to. Most of the time the job posting will list exactly what they require. And not only do they tell you, they break it down into minimum qualifications and desired qualifications. Your résumé should scream to the recruiter or hiring manager that this person is the exact fit of what they want. Now you probably won’t have everything they’re asking for, but most likely no one else will either. Just make sure to include the skills or experience they’re looking for that you do have.
Consistent Formatting Matters
I have seen some doozy résumés come through. It doesn’t matter if the person applying is the most qualified person ever, if their résumé is formatted horribly, has inconsistent fonts, font sizes, and is hard to read, I won’t get past the header section to find out any more about what they have to offer. Consistent formatting matters.
If one header is Arial Black with 12 point font, you better make sure all headers have Arial Black with 12 point font. If your employment dates with Microsoft are set at a specific tab, make sure your employment dates with Yahoo are set at the same tab. If you list one of your titles in bold, make sure all of your titles are in bold. Consistency not only makes your résumé look nicer, it’s easier to read. You don’t want the viewer to have to work at finding out what you’re all about.
List Your Accomplishments
Your résumé is not simply a document that lists all the places you’ve worked and where you went to school. Like I mentioned earlier, your résumé is your marketing tool to sell yourself to potential employers. And what makes marketing successful? If it results in someone taking action. Companies wouldn’t spend billions of dollars each year on advertisements if they didn’t get something out of it. Good advertisements result in action, which is usually buying their product or service. You need to ask yourself, what would make an employer take action with me? One way is to have a résumé that shows them what you’ve accomplished with other employers so they can start to imagine what you can accomplish with them.
Quantify Your Accomplishments
Not only do you want to make sure your résumé is accomplishment-oriented, you also want to quantify those accomplishments. So you worked for 5 years as a top sales producer for so and so and made them millions of dollars each year in revenue with your clever sales tactics and customer-oriented approach. How do we know that? Because you’re going to tell us, that’s how. Spell. It. Out. This is not a time to be modest. And certainly not a time to be vague. Quantify your wins, quantify your revenue growth, and for crying out loud, quantify exactly how many people you had to beat out to win that “Top Sales Producer of 2015”! Provide numbers and data that show how amazing you are. This could set you apart from someone who left those details out. Remember, don’t expect the employer to assume.
Recruiters and hiring managers are busy. And many look through tens to hundreds of résumés every single day. Even if you have the most beautifully written résumé ever, don’t expect them to spend more than 10 to 15 seconds on it before they decide they want to move forward or not. This is not to say they won’t go over it in more detail later, but to make the first cut, it will be a quick decision. In order for your résumé to make that cut it needs to be easy to read, formatted properly and aesthetically pleasing to look at. Because of this you will want to avoid paragraphs. Instead, use bullets to list out your accomplishments and/or skill sets whenever possible. Lengthy sentences and paragraphs simply won’t get read.
Résumés are not one-size fits all. Depending on your job history and the industry you’ve worked in, your résumé will require different sections. For example, if you’re targeting a job as an administrative assistant, you’ll want to include a skills section that highlights things like office equipment you’ve used, the number of phone lines you’ve operated, your typing speed, software program knowledge, etc. If the job you’re applying to requires a specific skill set or knowledge, it is wise to have that in a section for an easy-read to determine your qualification.
Depending on the job you may need to have a section that outlines other things like software program knowledge, projects you’ve completed or power tools you’ve operated. Referring back to the job description will help you with this. You’ll need to determine if you need to highlight anything you didn’t have a place for anywhere else but needs to be listed to show you’re qualified. Plus, keep in mind many résumés are scanned by a computer to pick up key words to determine if you’ll be handed off to the recruiter. Making sure you include certain skill sets and knowledge on your résumé will help ensure you make it past the automated system and into the hands of a human.
Spelling & Grammar
This seems like such a no brainer. But unfortunately I still see spelling and grammatical errors from time to time. There’s just zero excuse to have these things on a résumé. It will be the first thing that sends your résumé at record speed to the trash bin. Have a friend or family member scan your résumé (the more eyes the better!) to make sure there are no errors listed. Plus, it never hurts to get a second opinion on the look, feel and content of your résumé either.
There’s a lot of different advice I could give on creating a solid résumé but hopefully this will get you started. There is no one-way to go about it, but there are certain things you must include if you want to get an interview. Taking the time to tailor your résumé, quantifying your accomplishments, and making sure your résumé is easy to read and appealing to look at, will go a long ways. And please, if it’s the only thing you remember, don’t have any spelling errors. I beg of you.