One thing my wife and I disagree on when we go on vacation is whether we should make the bed when leaving a hotel. I tell her that the kind staff would rather we don’t make the bed, because if we do it’s more work for them.
I try to convince her that the staff who make our bed before we arrive for vacation, and while we’re there, make hundreds of beds. It’s easier for them if we leave the sheets and covers on the floor. She insists it’s better to leave a good impression than leave the bed unmade.
Similarly, hiring authorities read hundreds of resumes per week. You need to make reading your resume as easy as possible for them. Making it easier for them to read your resume depends on six obvious factors.
1. Make the paragraphs short
I tell my clients that readability is a big sticking point for me. I’m opposed to 10-line paragraphs, as they’re difficult to read. In fact, I won’t read them. The important information they’re trying to convey gets buried in all that text, much of which is usually fluff.
Instead, they should write paragraphs that are 3 to 4 lines each. When we read we digest information easier if the text blocks are shorter. This is important if you’re trying to make a hiring authority’s job easier.
- You should use bullets to highlight your accomplishments and, again, the lines should be short, no more than 2 lines at most. One line can suffice in some cases.
You’ll note that none of the paragraphs in this article exceed four lines; most are three or two lines. My valued LinkedIn connection, Donna Svei, reminds us that resumes aren’t only read on the computer screen. She writes:
A big trend impacting all content consumption, resumes included, is the practice of using mobile devices as people’s preferred reading platforms.
Thus, your resumes needs to be easy to read on a phone. Send your resume to yourself, open the file, and make sure you can easily read it. Check for:
- White space.
- A font suited to being read on a mobile phone, such as Calibri.
Adequate font size. I like 11-point.
2. Prioritize statements
This means strategically placing on your resume the information relative to the job ad in order of priority. You want to make it easier for the reader to see that you meet the requirements of the job.
This applies to every section of your resume, even your Education section. For example, if you notice in the job ad that a Bachelor’s degree is the first or second requirement, strategically place your Education section under your Summary.
In the sections below, I’ll talk about resume areas where you can prioritize statements, starting with the very next one.
3. Use a Headline
Only professional resumes, it seems, have a Headline that brands them. You can call it a branding Headline if you will. It simply tells the hiring authority the title for which you’re applying and some areas of expertise. Here’s an example for a candidate applying for a Project Manager position.
Operations Management | Team Building | Lean Six Sigma | Business Development
Prioritize statements in your Headline. With the example above, the project manager identified Operations Management, Team Building, etc. as the important areas of expertise in order of priority. This makes it easier for the hiring authority to place your qualifications with the requirements of the job.
4. Point out your relevant accomplishments
Have you ever read a resume and said to yourself, “So what.”? You don’t want the hiring authority saying the same to themself. Rather, you want them to say, “Exactly, this is what we need.”
In the job ad you noticed that the marketing manager position requires a candidate who can lead a team of more than 5 staff, coordinate multiple projects with sales, and oversee external communications on a global scale.
Start of by highlighting your relevant communications in your tailored Summary statement:
Meets deadlines while leading teams to communicate companies’ external global communications.
Expand the broad accomplishment you mention in your Summary, making it one of the top bullet points in your Experience section:
Earned accolades for leading a team of 10 to meet deadlines—coordinating projects with Sales department—producing compelling external communications.
But wait; the job ad also states the successful candidate will have to manage the team, on a limited budget, to revamp the company’s social media campaign. You’ve successfully done this, so you write:
Saved the company $100,000 over the course of two years by bringing the social media campaign in house; revamped the campaign while managing a team on a limited budget.
5. Keep your work history shorter rather than longer
You’ve accomplished a great deal in your 25-year employment history. Here’s the thing, employers are more concerned about what you’ve accomplished within the most recent 5-10 years. Anything beyond 10 years is probably irrelevant. I can hear the silent boos from my clients when I say this.
I understand their displeasure when I tell them to cut their work history to 10—okay 15—years. They’re proud of what they’ve done throughout their career, but they have to realize that their resume should be written for the employer, not them.
Am I saying that your resume must be one page long? No, the winner of page length is two pages by most career-development pundits. This article, which includes many resume luminaries, settles the great resume-length debate.
6. Include keywords
We can’t forget the keywords that will help your resume to be found when hiring authorities are searching the applicant tracking system for winning resumes that will lead to interviews.
(There is much debate as to if the ATS automatically selects resumes to be read or if recruiters and HR do manually search for them.)
Most important, though, is that your resume is readable and demonstrates the value you’ll deliver to the employer. You can stock your resume with keywords, but doing so will make it negligible if your resume fails to accomplish the aforementioned.
Your keywords should be sprinkled throughout your resume. I tell my clients that the job-related and transferable skills should be highlighted in the Skills area, while the personality (adaptive) skills should be implemented in the paragraphs within the Experience section, NOT the Summary.
The argument of to make the bed or not after our hotel stays is not one I find worth fighting; however, I pity the poor staff who have to unmake and then remake the bed after my wife makes it. I also feel sorry for hiring authorities who struggle to find the value candidates offer as they read their resumes.
Make it easier them to read your resume.
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