On weekdays, I share a life-lesson learned. Today, I want to share some tips on creating (or polishing) your resume.
I have been doing a lot of hiring lately, and it has reminded how important a resume is. Whether or not you are looking for a job currently, your resume should be updated. It is one of the most important documents in your life (so important I am going to say that twice–it is at the bottom of this post, too). A good resume opens doors and opportunities, sets or changes your career path, and can guide the rest of your life.
A bad resume closes doors, shuts you out of opportunities, and can also set or change your career path–just not for the better. With almost all applications being online today, your resume is more important than ever because it is unlikely to be able to step in front of a hiring manager without first submitting your application online.
As a hiring manager (and someone who moved across the country and had to find a new career recently), I know what recruiters look for. If you search for “resume writing tips”, you will find endless articles on how to punch up your resume. That’s great but I wanted to share the things I rarely see in those articles.
So here goes, a list of 12 resume best practices. By the way, all the examples here are from real resumes.
–Check spelling and grammar. This is far and away the most important tip I can offer. Nothing says “unprofessional” faster than not being able to spell the position you are applying for. Use spelling and grammar check. Then read your resume. Re-read it. Have a friend (who can spell and speak well) read it, too.
–Do not lie, especially on a pre-screen questionnaire, in hopes of getting your foot in the door so you can impress the hiring manager later. If you lied on your resume, you already left an impression… that you will lie about your skills and knowledge or say whatever you think will not get you in trouble or will help you get ahead. No one is looking to hire someone who puts their own needs ahead of the organization’s, especially if they are willing to be untruthful while doing it.
–Don’t use resume jargon:
“Innovative professional with progressive experience in excellent service across multiple industries” This does not actually say anything. It is a zero-sum sentence. What is an “innovative” professional? “Progressive experience in excellent service”? What did it progress from? What kind of service? What are the “multiple industries”? Do not try to sound important for the sake of sounding important. Recruiters actually do not want to decipher from Resume to English.
From a Billing Coordinator position: “focused on creating greater efficiencies in the preservation process resulting in faster turn times and reduced pre-marketing times for clients.” I think (and I am honestly not sure) this person might have meant, “Improved collections process” (and of course, did not specify how).
“Scholastic Navigational Technician” This is one of my hall of fame favorites. After reading the job responsibilities for this person’s position, I realize what he meant was, “school bus driver”.
–Do not state your demands or wants or hopes, especially in your Objective statement.
“I’m looking for a career that allows me to work only on weekdays and I do not work past 6:00pm.”
“My computer skills are old and outdated. I want a new career in a different field or one that will sharpen my computer skills.”
“I am interested in any job that can train me, also that I may advance in and meets the finacial criteria”. Not only is this poorly stated, but “financial” is misspelled, and I am not looking to hire somebody based on THEIR needs. I am hiring based on the needs of my business. It might sound strange, but a resume is not about you. It’s about getting the job and starting with your demands is not going to help you land the job, even if it perfectly meets those needs.
–Drop the “objective” statement. I am surprised how many resumes still have an “Objective” at the top. Objective statements are always vague because applicants want the statement to be applicable to every job they apply to. That means the Objective statement does not apply to any job.
“Objective: To obtain a professional career that utilizes my skills and experience to the best of my abilities”
…this is basically everybody’s objective, Captain Obvious. Also, when you remove the jargon, all this actually says is, “My objective is to find a job.”
–Prepare your contact information. It is confounding how many people seem to use their high school Yahoo account and have their default robot voicemail greeting on their cell phone, hoping to have professional contact from professional recruiters. If you do not already have one, create an email account with your real name. Adjust your cellphone voicemail greeting. It does not have to be complicated, a simple, “Hi, this is _________. Please leave a message!” is fine. Be sure if someone calls you, they know they have dialed the right number. Also, don’t forget to check your Spam or Junk folder regularly if you are job-hunting. Some legitimate messages end up there.
–List your Experience first, every job, in chronological order, most current first. When you list your job history starting with the oldest job first, it is confusing to the recruiter or hiring manager.
–The thing hiring managers care about most on a resume is demonstrative, relevant experience. Tailor your experience for the needs of each job you are applying for. Yes, this means writing a hundred variations of your resume, but the time you put into each one will count. In other words, sending out 100 amazingly specific resumes is far more effective than blasting out 1,000 generic ones. This is especially true of Cover Letters. Generic cover letters are immediately dismissed by most hiring managers.
–Do not use a generic Cover Letter. Make each one specific to the position posted and explain how your skills match. Keep it short, too. As a general rule, your Cover Letter should be no more than 2 four-line paragraphs. It is likely nobody is reading past that.
–Use month and year dates to show when you started and stopped working at each job. Do not use days.
“March 2012 to September 2015” is fine.
“2012 to 2013” is not (did you start in December 2012 and were you let go in January 2013? Or was it February 2012 to November 2013? Big difference to a recruiter. It looks like a shady move and if it is uncovered that it was an attempt to hide your true length of employment, you will be immediately disqualified.)
–Explain gaps in employment (anything 6 months or more). If your resume indicates you being out of work for more than six months (the time it might have taken to find the next position), offer a simple one-line explanation: “Took time off to pursue degree in Geospatial Engineering” or “Chose to be a stay-at-home dad” is fine. No explanation of gaps, though, leads to speculation, and you do not want a recruiter or hiring manager to speculate anything.
–Explain short histories of employment. If most of your jobs are less than a year from start to finish, explain why. Did you work for a temp agency? Was it contract work? Are you pursuing a specific career and have not found work in your field yet? Unexplained short employment terms scream “flight risk” to a recruiter.
–Do not describe yourself or your qualities in the 3rd person. “Jane Smith is a private, independent professional in the public health field. Her qualifications include a Masters Degree in…” Who wrote this–Jane or her secretary? If she has a secretary, then she is either making more money than I can afford to offer or she is unethically using people in the company she is currently working for, or she is extraordinarily pretentious. Either way, not someone I want on my team.
–Do not use a word if you are not certain what it means or how to put it in context:
“Possesses a strong work ethic with a passion for achieving complex problems.” Not sure I want to hire anyone with a passion for achieving problems, let alone complex problems.
“…and an ongoing commitment to excel to the next level of the professionalism, customer scarification, account retention, and a hard working team player with the proven ability to projects from start to finish.” Ugh, what a mess. Wait a second. Customer scarification? I would not hire someone committed to scarring my customers unless I am hiring a tattoo artist. Also, this illustrates the importance of spell checking and proof-reading. Obviously, this person meant “customer satisfaction” but as a hiring manager, I am already not satisfied with the effort put forth.
Hopefully, those 12 resume tips will help you polish your resume for the day you might need it, or help you generate better results if you are job-hunting now.
Just remember, your resume is one of the most important documents in your life. Be sure to treat it that way.