What is the number one job of a resume? To be read.
If a resume isn’t enticing and easy to read, it will likely go into the rejection folder. Recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds reading a resume, so yours needs to stand out and easily show the recruiter how you match the requirements of the job. Here are some ways to make sure that your resume is doing its job:
Keep it clean. For most fonts, your font size should be no smaller than 10. Use a sans serif font if possible, like Arial, Tahoma, or Calibri. Pick one that reflects your style, and if you have a good sense for graphic design, feel free to use a complementary font for headings or other areas that you want to stand out. A little color can jazz things up, but keep it simple and use it consistently in the resume. For example, you could use navy blue for headings in bold and dark green for company names.
The content in your summary at the top can be professional and creative. Show some personality and avoid the cliché words, like dynamic, dependable, dedicated, and passionate. Use words that reflect the type of role you are seeking and the experience you bring. Pay attention to whether you are using more “doing” words versus “leading” words.
The recruiter or the applicant tracking system (ATS) will play a matching game with the requirements of the job and your experience. Your resume should speak directly to the job posting and still authentically represent who you are, your experience, your skills, and what you want to do. Make sure you adjust keywords to reflect those in the posting. For example, if they use the term “CRM,” don’t assume they will know that Salesforce is a CRM. Add “Salesforce/CRM.”
If you have a summary statement (and you should), change the heading “SUMMARY” to the title of the job or something similar, like “HUMAN RESOURCES PROFESSIONAL.” Recruiters don’t always think about whether you could possibly do the job, but rather, they look at your resume to see if you are that person.
Recruiters are speed reading as they review each resume. English speakers’ eyes naturally read from left to right, so a more traditional resume layout is easier to read. Keep your resume to one or two pages using normal margins and bullets that begin with strong verbs.
Think Twitter. Avoid words that aren’t necessary, like “a” or “the.” Your resume is prime real estate and anything that doesn’t add value needs to go. A job from 20 years ago most often doesn’t need to be included.
Numbers are fine on resumes. No need to spell them out as we might in a formal business document. Graduation dates and GPAs are not relevant unless you are a recent graduate.
Make sure your resume is applicant tracking system (ATS) friendly. Avoid tables, text boxes, and graphic elements unless you are a graphic designer, marketing professional, or otherwise require a more design-forward resume.
Consider adding a sheet with quotes from people like former bosses or influencers with whom you’ve worked. Or if you have space in your resume, add a quote in a strategic place, like under your summary.
Be careful about running your resume through a resume review site. While they often do provide some tips, their insights are not always valuable. I’ve seen people take excellent resumes and ruin them based on comments from those services. Remember, when they’re doing the free review they’re looking for (and sometimes inventing or exaggerating) problems so you’ll pay for their services.