As a career coach, I often help my clients with their resumes and the most common issue I see is that people use their resumes as a way to capture their job history, rather than showcase why they’re a great candidate for a certain job.
Your resume should be viewed as a marketing tool for your job search. It should compel a recruiter to reach out for that initial interview! Not sure if your resume is compelling enough? A good guideline is – when you apply for jobs are you getting called for interviews? If not, it might be a good idea to refresh your resume.
Here’s what I recommend:
Marketing documents are clean, streamlined, and easy to read. It’s a good idea to “de-clutter” your resume from needless info that historically has been recommended for resumes.
Your physical address is likely needless info, and actually might be harmful info if you’re hoping to relocate. The months you held certain positions aren’t needed – only the years. And the years for your degrees aren’t needed, only whether you received a degree or not. Typically, locations of the companies you’ve worked for aren’t helpful (unless they explain different position jumps in your career). I also try to avoid including generalized skills like “hard worker,” or “good communication skills.”
More on other “needless info” in numbers 5 & 6.
Since you might only get 10 seconds of a recruiter’s attention, the first thing on your resume should be a summary sentence about who you are and what you’re looking for. You don’t need to include the words “summary statement” (see #1 above). A couple of examples:
Also, I recommend clients include the job title for the position to which they’re applying in the summary statement. In the second example, the words “Project Manager” would be updated to reflect the job title. Having the exact job title on your resume can help you get through certain keyword searches.
It can be hard to “talk yourself up” on a resume – often my career coaching clients feel it’s easier for someone else to write something nice about them instead of figuring out what to say themselves (which makes me a little sad – but I think is true for a lot of us!). If you look back at the summary statements I’ve shared above, essentially the first 2 words a recruiter will read about those candidates are compliments; they make the candidate sound good!
You’re trying to get a recruiter to think you’re amazing – so tell them you’re amazing! And steer away from generics – instead of “hard worker,” you might say you’re an “achiever” or you’re “energetic.” If your profession values diligence and detail orientation, you might say you’re “meticulous” or “precise.” Get acquainted with a thesaurus while you work on your resume.
This one I’m sure you’ve heard before – but it can be really hard to put into practice. Most people think of their accomplishments as “just doing my job,” and it can be difficult to re-word your duties into accomplishments. But even something like working on an assembly line can be worded as an achievement:
Achievements are more eye-catching than duties. All duties do is tell a recruiter that you’re qualified – along with most of the other candidates. You need to do more than show you’re qualified – you need to tell the recruiter why you’re the absolute best choice amongst all the other qualified candidates.
Just like with a marketing document, think about who your audience is (i.e. what position is that recruiter recruiting for right now?) and then give the most and earliest space to what’s relevant from your background for that position. Make your resume as targeted as possible.
For example, if you’ve held a few different types of positions throughout your career, include the most information about the positions that are most similar to the type of position you’re applying to now. You might only include job title, company name, and employment dates for the other kinds of roles, and only if it helps to explain gaps.
Also, if you’re a new graduate and your degree is the biggest thing that will help you get a job, put that first. If you’re a working professional and your experience is more helpful, put your work experience first.
Nearly all resumes should be one page only. More often than not, I’m a resume editor when I work with my clients, rather than a resume writer, so I feel like I should say that again: nearly all resumes should be one page only.
How are you supposed to add a summary sentence and compliments and achievements and still keep your resume to only one page? By editing a lot of the other boring, unnecessary information out – and sometimes getting creative with fonts, margins – while still keeping it clean and easy to read. Depending on how many jobs you’ve held, you might have only 1 – 3 achievements listed for each position, and that’s perfectly fine.