A very important question. How does one write that perfect resume?
It depends on who you ask. In my experience, what one manager likes, the next detests.
There are things I like, but for the most part there is nothing I crave seeing. I do have a few pet peeves though that will impact your ability to advance on to an interview. Over the next while, we will consider my idiosyncrasies and recommended resume approach.
Today, a few thoughts on the Business Insider article, “How to Write the Perfect Resume”.
I will break my comments into two posts as this one is getting long. Part II is upcoming.
It may not take six seconds to assess a job application, but it is fast. The reader has a stack of 200 resumes and 75% of them are pretty much identical content-wise. Most reviewers want to limit the time needed to find the 10 people to interview. You want to stand out (in a good way) quickly.
Create a Master Resume
In “Creating a Master Resume”, we looked at how to rebuild a block engine. Wrong, but good guess. Obviously we reviewed how to create a master resume or curriculum vitae (CV).
A master resume that will grow over time, filled with every developed skill, work experience, achievement, etc., you can possibly document.
After a few years in the workforce, that master resume will become a monster document. To appeal to potential employers, you will need to …
Tailor Your Resume
Create a specific and unique resume for each and every position you apply.
I agree somewhat with the Business Insider that you should “mirror some of their language and values in your resume.” Many companies use automated screening systems that look for specific keywords. If you include them in your content, you may have a higher probability of being flagged for further consideration.
Also, “mirroring” works well from a psychological perspective in having the other party more closely identify with you. It is a common technique for salespeople.
But you need to be careful when mirroring language and values. It is usually clear when an applicant is simply filling a CV with buzzwords. Often they feel out of place and contrived. That sends a poor signal to a reviewer.
Only Relevant Work Experience
As the article states, “keep your resume focused and don’t include every single job you’ve ever had.”
Additionally, consider omitting irrelevant work experience in a position you are including.
If you had 10 separate duties in your last job, but only two are relevant for this position, scale back minor functions. In evaluating you, I would rather see four tight bullet points, highlighting the requisite skills, versus the two desired ones buried somewhere within the entire 10 duties.
That said, you need to read between the lines in the job requirements and desired skills.
Some desired skills are seldom directly stated on the job posting. Attention to detail, ability to interact with team members, adherence to deadlines, etc., are usually a given. Many positions want candidates who possess leadership potential, have the ability to learn new skills, and have been successful in prior endeavours.
Certain skills may be complementary to the stated job function.
Consider a sales position. Sales experience, industry knowledge, interpersonal skills, ability to present, etc., are typically required. But what else do most sales people need to succeed? Perhaps database knowledge to track clients and prospects. Maybe a marketing background in creating ad campaigns and product rollouts. Perhaps you will have to process your sales and expenses, so an accounting skills are beneficial. If your target market is South American companies, your ability to speak Spanish may be an asset.
Many new jobs may be precursors to long careers in a company. Your potential manager often wants someone who can grow in the role over time. Do not forget long-term assets when applying for a job.
Do your homework before submitting your application. Do not simply read the job requirements. Research the company and actual job. Identify the explicit as well as implicit job requirements. Know the “nice to haves” for that job function.
Then draw from your master resume to develop a taut, tailored CV that hits all the desired qualities.
Name and Contact Info at the Top
Use Plenty of White Space to Draw the Reader’s Eye
The real key to “name on top” and “plenty of white space” is user-friendliness. And empathy.
Always try and put yourself in the reader’s shoes. It is 10:00 p.m. and he/she wants to go home to family or friends. But there is a large stack of generic resumes that need to be processed. If you were that person, would you want to pore through 3 pages of single lined content, formatted in a size 6 font? Or would you prefer to see something where you could quickly tick off your job requirement checklist without literally reading between the lines or guessing?
User-friendliness is equally important for included content. You are tailoring your resume for that specific position. Make sure you actually tailor it.
Perhaps a job requirement is the ability to model derivatives in C++. If so, do not bury that skill as point four of six bullets. Or stick it in the middle of a five line run-on sentence. Or imply that you might have a bit of that requirement (e.g., Attended a C++ seminar in 2010). All key criteria that you possess must clearly stand out in your CV.
At the end of the day, what is the manager hiring? Yes, maybe an accountant, marketing rep, dental hygienist, etc. But regardless of the actual job, your potential boss is hiring one thing. Someone who can make his/her work life a little easier. An easy to review resume may subliminally suggest that you can achieve this in the actual job.
The other minor point I would make in this section is be professional. Save the firstname.lastname@example.org address for Facebook. For that matter, try to even avoid the email@example.com handles. Try to incorporate your entire name into the address if possible. Or at least come across as serious as you can.
Note that if you buy a domain and set up your own simple website, you will normally get multiple email addresses to use. You will always be able to set up (say) firstname.lastname@example.org. Just a thought. One we will discuss in a future post.
Use Bullet Points
Tight sentences. Bullet points. Does not really matter to me.
Just make it simple to read and easy to identify your key points.
I suggest that you use one bullet for each, single point you wish to convey.
Put a Number to Your Accomplishments
Quantify whenever possible. And be specific.
I saw a resume where the lady “managed approximately $100,000-$200,000 doubling previous sales in 2 years.” That is quite the range. What was it? $50,000 to $100,000? $100,000 to $200,000? She is going to be responsible for sales, yet seems to have no idea what the numbers were. So how do I know that she doubled them?
In itself, it is an achievement worth noting on the CV. But the way it is written? Poor grasp of data, weak communication skills, inattention to detail, etc. The negatives that come through in this “achievement” more than offset the strength.
Instead, what about:
“Increased sales 300% my 2 years in role; $50,000 (2008) to $90,000 (2009) to $200,000 (2010).”
Definitive. Clear. Much better communicated than the original.
And if you followed my earlier advice (document independent confirmation as part of your master resume), you will have data in hand during the interview to prove your assertion.