By Bob McIntosh
It’s a fact that if you hire 10 resume writers to write your resume, you’ll get 10 different resumes. It’s also a fact that there are some traits of a resume that are universal. In other words, they are a staple of a resume.
The most obvious traits begin with a Summary statement that effectively expresses the value a job candidate will deliver to employers. Skills/Core Competencies required for the job at hand follow. Of course a value-rich Experience section and Education piece complere the resume. Or is Education placed at the beginning?
Bonus: a great resume writer will most likely include a headline or branding statement at the top of the resume. This is one addition that will give their clients a foot up on the competition.
In a poll I conducted on LinkedIn, some of the best resume writers weighed in on what they consider to make an outstanding resume. I presented two resume groups, both containing some do’s, as well as some don’ts and asked which one they would select.
Thinking that most of them wouldn’t go with Resume A or Resume B, I gave them the option to choose Resume C, which essentially meant they could create a stellar resume based on the traits of the first two. They could also add others. Here are the two groups I presented:
Resume A must:
- Brand a candidate with a value proposition or headline
- Contain accomplishment statements with quantified results
- Be no longer than one page
- Have the Education section near the top
- Utilize graphics and color
Resume B must:
- Be readable with paragraphs no longer than 3 or 4 lines
- Consist of bullets only, as they make a resume easier to read
- Include a candidate’s entire work history
- List the candidate’s home address in the Contact Info
- Be written in sans serif font
Resume C must (voters could customize their idea of a stellar resume)
Surprisingly, only 39% of the voters chose Resume C; Resume A edged out Resume C with 43% favoring this group. Resume B only garnered 18% of the voters.
I was one of 101 commenters who added my two cents. I chose Resume C with the following traits:
- Brand a candidate with a value proposition or headline. This is a two-line statement that includes the title from a job add and below that some areas of expertise.
- Contain accomplishment statements with quantified results. Agreed, not always possible to quantify results with #s, $s, and %s but they have more bite to them.
- Be as long as warranted, all within 15 years. If you have all accomplishments, your resume can be as long as three pages. Acceptation to the 15-year rule would executive-level job seekers.
- Utilize graphics and color is appropriate. Graphics appeal to hiring authorities like visuals. However, applicant tracking systems (ATS) don’t digest them well.
- Be readable with paragraphs no longer than 3 or 4 lines. No one likes to read 10-line paragraphs. Shorter ones are more digestible.
- Be written in sans serif font. Arial and Calibri are most common these days. Times New Roman dates you.
- Include in contact info your name, professional email address, LinkedIn URL, cell phone. Key is a professional email address that includes your whole name, not something like email@example.com.
- Must be ATS friendly. The only way to ensue this is by tailoring your resume to each job. A tailored resume will include the necessary keywords.
The fact that people were torn between Resume A group and creating their own Resume C group is telling. Maybe the traits of Resume A are acceptable, almost preferable. I found the one-page rule, for example, unacceptable. And placing Education at the top? This doesn’t apply for all people.
I decided to include in this article what some of the voters added in comments for this poll. You can read what others said by going to the poll.
What some voters said
Sweta Regmi: One Size Doesn’t Fit All. Have them at hello from the top part, would they want to continue reading? Hook them 👇 Use the marketing commercial of 10 secs to get them hooked and call you.
Less is more, make them curious to call you but don’t leave [out] crucial info related to JD. The education section depends on job descriptions and career level. Personal preferences here. The recruitment industry wants education on top. Coaches customize based on client’s experience and job descriptions.
Adrienne Tom: I can find potential hang-ups with both A and B, depending on the person and their career level. For example, a senior-level professional wouldn’t showcase their Education section near the top of the file (nor should they), and not everyone needs to stick to 1-page.
Listing a complete work history may not be relevant. Ultimately, how your resume looks and is formatted all ‘depends’. You are unique. Therefore, your resume will be too.
Lezlie Garr: I’m not really a fan of ‘musts’ for a resume, except for this one: a resume must be relevant to the position you are applying to. All the other details are subjective and variable, depending on how relevant the information is to the position.
These are some great examples of things that CAN be included, and some typically and probably should be included, while others can be used less often.
Maureen McCann: Every person is different. They deserve a resume that highlights what’s most valued about them. Some people have recent and relevant education, so if that was the case, I’d highlight that. Other people might have direct work experience. For them, I’d highlight their work experience, skills and time spent in the industry.
Derrick Jones: First “There is no one-size-fits-all” when it comes to writing a resume. Both use strong resume writing principles. I could use several strategies from Resumes A and B. It depends on the role and industry. The “No one-size-fits-all” principle is different from essential components of a resume which should have the right: 1. Content 2. Format 3. Design.
Virginia Franco: I’m with you Derrick Jones, CPRW/CEIP. Everything depends on the story and the job target. All my resumes, however, contain a headline and summary, and are designed to be read on mobile just as easily as in print.
Donna Svei: My sister paints. I write. Sometimes we explain how we do what we do to each other, but we both know we’re only scratching the surface. A resume “should” be written by someone who wants to tell a story in a way that will make others want to read it. If you let that be your guiding principal, you will write a good resume.
Loribeth Pierson: I agree with Donna, a resume “should” be written by someone who wants to tell a story in a way that will make others want to read it. Also, Adrienne has a great point, “Ultimately, how your resume looks and is formatted all ‘depends’. You are unique.” A lot of misleading data out there, which makes it difficult for the job seeker today. 🤷♀️
Scott Gardner: 👉🏻Brand a candidate with a headline, tag line and value proposition. 👉🏻Focus in accomplishments and quantify the results. 👉🏻As long as needed, but make sure to highlight the last 7-12 years, and have the rest just form the foundation of the career. Exception to this is an early career success that is truly impressive.
👉🏻 Leverage graphics and color as appropriate. 👉🏻Consumable content with paragraphs no longer than 3 or 4 lines and bullets at 1-2 lines preferably. 👉🏻Use a sans serif font. Contact info Name, email address, and create hyperlinks for the LinkedIn URL and cell phone.
The biggest thing is that these are all just general guidelines. A great resume reflects the candidate, targets their career goals, and speaks to the hiring authority managing an open position at a desired employer.
Julie Walraven: Many job seekers are confused by the misleading data out there on 1 page resumes and ATS-friendly to the extent that they eliminate marketability of the resume. The reality is that focusing on telling your story is key to creating readability and enthusiasm for you as the candidate. I agree with Erin Kennedy, MCD, CERW, CMRW, NCOPE, CEMC, CPRW that all bullets or all paragraphs makes for a dull and boring resume.
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