By Stephanie Hammerwold
One of the most common HR-related requests I get from friends is to review their resume. Even in the age of LinkedIn and online portfolios, there are still countless articles about how a great resume can be your ticket to success. There are no magic tricks that can guarantee your resume will land you your dream job, but there are things you can do to keep your resume from automatically being tossed in the reject pile. After years of reviewing thousands of resumes, here are my tips for creating a clean, easy-to-read resume that showcases your experience and qualifications.
What (Not) to Include
I am once and for all taking the HR Hammer to the objective section. If you have an objective section lingering at the top of your resume, I’ll give you a moment to go delete it right now. Most resume objectives are the same, and it is some variation on “To find a job that challenges me and where I can be a positive member of a dynamic team.” A company already knows you are trying to find a good job, so there is no reason to waste valuable resume real estate space with an objective. You want to showcase your skills and experience rather than write a generic statement that is similar to what many other job seekers have at the top of their resume.
Now that we have the objective out of the way, let’s tackle the question of length. It used to be that one page was the generally accepted length of the resume. This was in the days before online applications and emailing in a resume. These days, it is not very common to mail in a resume. Length becomes less important when a recruiter or hiring manager is scrolling through resumes on a screen rather than flipping pages. This does not mean you should send pages and pages to a prospective employer, but it is perfectly acceptable to fill two pages. Unless you are applying for an academic job or a highly specialized position, I would not recommend going much longer than that.
It is important that your resume is easy to read because your resume usually only gets a minute or so to make a strong enough impression to warrant a closer read by a recruiter or hiring manager. Have clearly labeled sections (e.g. work experience, education) and create bullet points rather than lengthy paragraphs.
The star of your resume should be your work experience. I prefer to see work experience listed chronologically by job rather than sectioned out by skill. If you want to showcase some skills relevant to the job, include a short section at the top with a few sentences summarizing your experience. For those who are new to the workforce, include any volunteer experience or school activities as part of your work experience if you have not worked before or have only had one job.
Do not forget to include education and any relevant training at the bottom. Avoid listing every single training you have attended, but instead focus on including things relevant to the job.
Show, Don’t Tell
Some job seekers fall into the trap of simply listing skills without showing that they have used those skills on the job. For example, take this statement:
Experienced in using Microsoft Excel
Consider rewriting this statement to show that you know how to use Excel:
Used Microsoft Excel to manage the budget and expenses for the annual company picnic
When I see this on a resume, I know that a job seeker has experience using the software.
Focus on ways that you used a skill in a previous job that is relevant to how the skill will be used in the job you are applying for. This is especially useful if you are jumping careers and want to show how your skills from other jobs will be applicable to a new career.
Good Writing Matters
Write your resume in clear language that is easy to understand. Do not get bogged down in buzzwords and inflated language. Say exactly what you did. A prospective employer does not need to read phrases like this:
Collaborated with team members to build capacity in an impactful manner that increased optics, learnings and upward velocity.
Instead, be clear in what you did and accomplished:
Managed recruitment and training of 100 new employees for a new store location; implemented new hire training programs that reduced turnover by 10% from the previous store opening.
Do not send out your resume without having at least one other person proofread it. I have been in situations where I was deciding between two high-level candidates with similar experience. There have been times where it has come down to spelling and grammar mistakes. If a candidate does not make the effort to make sure they are sending me a clean resume, why should I hire them to be a manager?
Remember that your resume is often the first impression you make with a potential employer. Be honest about your experience. Take the time to put your best effort forward. Write cleanly and clearly, demonstrate your skills and qualifications through your experience, and make sure it is free from errors.
Still not sure your resume is in good shape? Use the contact form on the about page to get in touch with the HR Hammer for a resume review.