When creating a resume it is important to keep in mind the purpose of your resume; to get an interview. That is the only purpose of your resume. Getting the job happens in the interview stage. You need the resume to open the door so that you can then “sell yourself”, “show off your personality”. Keeping the purpose in mind when you create your resume will ensure you receive interviews for the positions you are looking for.
When choosing a format or layout for your resume remember the acronym KISS; Keep it Simple Stupid. Human resource departments and recruiting firms are inundated with hundreds of resumes a day. The most important thing the layout of your resume can do is ensure you are not immediately discarded. ATS systems read words not graphics and pictures. The people reading your resumes don’t want to have to search through a resume to find the relevant information and they most certainly do not want charts, graphs, tables and pictures making it harder for them to find the information they need to see. Many large recruiting firms help you to rewrite your resume but if information is in boxes that doesn’t transfer over to the system properly then they may lose important information. Also remember that recruiters have to get information turned around quickly, if the resume is difficult to interpret they may just move onto the next candidate.
Bold, underlining, left/centre/right justified and the occasional bullet is as complicated as your resume layout needs to be. Don’t make the font too little and stay away from gray. With my love of quotes I couldn’t resist quoting the basic “black and white” philosophy.
“One is never over or under dressed with the little black dress”
The same goes for your resume. White paper/background and black fonts. Easy on the eyes and easy to read.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when creating a resume is that they create one resume for all jobs. Customize your resume for each and every position you apply for. The way we suggest doing so is the inclusion of a personal profile section. This section should be no more than two or three sentences and is not an opportunity to tell your life story. This section IS an opportunity for you to list the actual skills that you possess that are relevant for this position in relation to the job description.
Here is an actual job description for a Clerical / Administrative Support position with a major insurance company.
- Entering data and preparing reports, records, and requisitions
- Filling in for temporarily absent employees
- Opening and releasing mail to staff members
- Preparing materials for use at conferences and other meetings
- Preparing correspondence, coordinating appointments, and arranging schedules for meetings on behalf of staff and management
- Demonstrating proficient computer skills
- Arranging meeting facility equipment
If you were interested in this position your professional profile or professional summary section should sound something like this;
Extensive experience entering data from sales reports with Company A. Excellent organizational skills used for arranging schedules and setting appointments while working for Company B. Comprehensive computer skills including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Increased productivity by improving the teams communication capabilities. Set up the company’s social media sites including twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc…)
You are essentially confirming that you meet as many requirements listed in the job description as possible. Each sentence should start off with a strong “action word”.
Education and Training
The one section that should be expanded upon as much as possible is often the one people neglect the most. Companies know when they hire you that you don’t know everything and that you will need to be able to learn in order to succeed. Listing your education in detail and any and all further training you have taken demonstrates that you are someone who is willing and capable of bettering yourself through learning. Now keep in mind that you want to highlight the education that is key to the position you are applying for. If the certificate/training has nothing to do with the current opportunity then leave it off or put it in as an addendum.
Education should have your highest degree/diploma first. You are a professional show your degree. Next would come certifications and then training.
This section is particularly important for technical positions. Be sure to include any certifications you have received already and don’t be afraid to list any that you are in the process of obtaining as well.
Your Education section should be right after your professional summary and be above your professional experience.
The nitty gritty section of your resume. This is where the question “Do you actually have the skills and experience to do the job are answered”. It is important to list your current position first and then go back from there. Don’t get fancy, just list each job as they happened. Don’t break it down by type of job, ie project manager vs business analyst positions. Don’t break it down by self employed vs full time. HR wants to see a history/time line of what you have been doing.
Achievements/responsibilities should be presented in bullet format. Yes, start each sentence with a POW – the wonderful action word!!!. Do NOT use “I created” or “John increased” , just start the sentence with “Created”, “Increased”, “Developed”, “Mentored”, need I go on. Expand upon what your actual achievements/ responsibilities were while at your positions. The number of bullets will depend on the length of time at each job and the type of responsibilities/ achievements you had. The job from 1993 probably doesn’t need to be as expansive as the more current positions. Remember the job description and do your best to make your achievements/ responsibilities similar to what the company is looking for.
It is not necessary to list every position you have ever had. Particularly if you have been with ten companies over the last 25 years. Keep your work experience section to no more than two pages. Check out our sample “self employed resume” blog from a previous post.
No more than 3 pages.
Cover letters are a good idea but a bad cover letter is worse than no cover letter at all.
Keep in mind the resumes purpose is to gain you an interview not to get you a job. Your dazzling personality will get you the job, once you get in the door.
Lynne Carlson started her career off in administration, moved to Cobol Programming and for the last 14 years worked in all things recruitment. Absolutely loves social media and excited about all the new innovations appearing every day!