Whose advice should you follow when you’re writing your résumés? Knowing the answer to this dilemma may require a crystal ball, for without it you won’t be 100% sure of who will provide the right answers.
Do you heed the advice of professional résumé writers, recruiters, HR, or hiring managers? They all offer good advice, but their advice will be different. In fact, you can ask 20 résumé experts their opinions on how you should write your résumés, and you’ll get 20 different answers. So who is correct?
The answer is the person who invites you in for an interview is correct. Résumé reviewers are somewhat subjective when they read résumés, and sometimes there’s no rhyme nor reason.
While one person may like accomplishments listed upfront, another may prefer them listed in your employment section. While one person prefers two-page résumés, another might favor one-pagers. While one person may not be concerned with flowery prose in your professional profile, another may hate it, as I do.
The point being, you’re the one who needs to decide if your résumé is ready to go. Do you want to drive yourself nuts by having a slew of people give you their “expert” advice, revising your résumé twenty times over?
Now, there are certain rules on writing effective résumés that you should heed in no particular order. These are ten sure things that need to be in place to offer you the best chance of success.
- Quantified results are a must*. Employers are not interested in a grocery list of duties; they’re drawn to significant accomplishments that are quantified with numbers, dollars, and percentages. Did you simply increase productivity? Or did you increase productivity by 55% percent?
- Please no clichés or unsubstantiated adaptive skills. The new rule is to show rather than tell. Yes, you may be innovative; but what makes you innovative? Did you develop a program for inner-city youth that promoted a cooperative environment, reducing violent crime by 50%? If so, state it in your profile as such.
- Tailor your résumé to each job, when possible. Employers don’t want a one-fits-all résumé that doesn’t address their needs or follow the job description. It’s insulting. By the way, for all you job board junkies, a résumé using the Target Job Deconstruction method is an adequate alternative to tailoring hundreds of résumés.
- Your résumé needs to show relevance. Employers are interested in the past 10 or 15 years of your work history; in some cases less. Anything you did beyond 20 years isn’t relevant; the technology is obsolete. Age discrimination may also be a concern, so don’t show all 25-30 years of your work life.**
- Keywords are essential for certain occupations that are technical in nature. They’re the difference between being found by the applicant tracking system (ATS) at the top of the list or not at all. (ATS are said to eliminate 75% of applicants.) Again, job board faithfuls must have their keywords peppered throughout their résumé.
- Size matters. Some employers are reading hundreds of résumés for one job, so do them a favor and don’t submit a résumé that doesn’t warrant its length. The general rule is two pages are appropriate providing you have the experience and accomplishments to back it up. More than two pages requires many relevant accomplishments. In some cases a one-page résumé will do the job.
- No employer cares what you need. That’s right; employers care about what they need. If you happen to care what they need and can solve their problems and make them look good, they’ll love you. So drop the meaningless objective statement that speaks only about you and not how you can meet the employer’s needs.
- Start your résumé with a punch. Below your name and contact information lies your branding headline. Within approximately 90 characters you can capture the employer’s attention with stating what you do and in what capacity. Project Manager doesn’t do it like: Project Manager | Lean Six Sigma | Team Building | Enhanced Product Line.
- Make it easy to read. Your résumé should not only be visually appealing, it should be visually readable. Employers who read hundreds of résumé s will glance at them for as few as 10 seconds before deciding to read them at length. Make your résumé scannable by writing shorter paragraphs, three to four lines at most.
- WOW them. Use accomplishments in your Performance Profile. That’s right, grab their attention with quantified accomplishments early on. “Volunteered to assume the duties of website development and design, while also excelling at public relations, resulting in $50,000 savings for the company” will entice the reviewer to continue reading.
At some point you need to go with what works—a résumé that will land you interviews. I don’t care if it’s written on a napkin and delivered in a Starbucks’ cup (it’s been done). If it’s getting you interviews, go with it. If it isn’t getting you interviews, there’s something lacking on your résumé, but carefully chose one or two people who can offer you sound advice. And remember the 10 must have’s on your résumé.
* It is agreed that not every positive result can be quantified with numbers, dollars, or percentages, particularly if you don’t have access to these figures. To simply say you increased…or decreased…can be enough.
** In some cases, executive-level jobseekers, more years of experience may be more helpful. A superintendent of schools with 30 years of experience will probably have more luck than one with only five years of experience.
Photo from Andrea, Flickr