Resume Remix - 5 ways to tighten yours up

It's that time of year. Usually at the beginning of the year, I end up helping folks out with their resumes. I've done seven so far this year. I don't mind doing it, I've spent over 15 years in recruiting and I know what catches a recruiter or hiring manager's eye. But every year, I see some of the same "old school" resume characteristics. Let's drag those resumes into 2012, shall we?

Your resume is your representative. It has to sell me on you at a glance. I need to know within my first scan that you are worth a follow-up email or phone call. I have 400 resumes in my inbox, yours needs to be the one at the top of the stack. I'm not looking for a reason to keep you, I'm looking for a reason to discard you so I can get to the next one. We're all about decreasing quantity and increasing quality in the HR field. Harsh but true.

Okay, so everyone knows the resume basics: name and contact information at the top. An introduction (see number 2 below) then work history, education, and certificates/licenses. No large fonts, no cutesy fonts, no funky colors, no all caps. Spell check is your friend, grammar check is your partner - use them!

1. The One-Page Resume is a myth - If you've been working for more than five years and/or have a robust work history; it's really not necessary to trim your resume to one page. In fact, many times the one page works against you. You want as many opportunities as possible to catch the recruiter's eye. Three pages is fine, more than that (unless you are an executive or highly technical) and you need to have an addendum. For instance, if you have a list of projects or technologies or published works you want to share - put that on a separate one sheet. 

2. Summary of Qualifications is a must - An objective line is take it or leave it. On the one hand, it's a quick way to tell the company what you are looking for. On the other hand, it's a quick way to get yourself disqualified. If you keep it fairly generic: Professional self-starter with over 10 years of finance experience ready to take next step in dynamic company - you're in a good place. I always (always, always) recommend that job seekers have a bulleted section at the top summarizing their qualifications. No more than 5 bullets identifying successes, skillset, background highlights and technical knowledge.

3. Descriptive but short is the only way to go - As you describe your employment history be sure to include company name, location, title, years of service. Your descriptions should be expressive but crisp. You should include duties, responsibilities, successes, accolades, budgets managed in snippets. Do not write lengthy paragraphs detailing all of your accomplishments for the past ten years. This is a place where if you're in doubt about content or format - go to the easy four bullet template. First two bullets should describe your day to day duties and over-arcing responsibilities. Next bullet describes your projects or long-term goals. The next bullet is your success. So if you were a checker at Wal-Mart your description would be
  • Brought efficiency and professionalism to customer service on a daily basis for this multi-national retailer. Handled sales transactions and merchandise bagging.
  • Assisted with inventory, sales & marketing, customer relations and other duties as needed.
  • Based on consistently stellar reviews, working towards management position over course of next two years.
  • Received Employee of the Month award twice in six month time period.
4. Leave off the personal stuff (we're begging you) - It's great that you kayak, mountain bike and lead Girl Scout troops on the weekend but unless you are searching for a job where those skills are revered - leave them off. On the flip, if you are going for a sales or marketing job there's no harm in mentioning that you were head cheerleader or president of the future tycoons of America. Also, never put your marital status on your resume. 

5. "References are available on request" is so last century - We know this. You absolutely do not have to tell us. In an age where companies can ask for a DNA sample prior to employment, you think we don't know you'll give us your references? Just leave that sentence off. It takes up space where you could have told us something useful.

I always recommend that you have a few different versions of your resume to target different fields or industries. If you're really struggling to decide what to write, go out to a job board and pull up descriptions for the kind of job you've done and the kind of job you're looking for and "borrow" key phrases that fit your background. Last but not least, if you are applying for a position that requires X, Y, & Z please make sure your resume addresses X, Y & Z somewhere in the content. Not the cover letter (80% of those don't get read) but inside the body of the resume.

I've seen some tragic resumes in my day. Just yesterday I opened up an attachment for a Project Manager position and the guy had written three sentences and then said "call to find out more" - no sir. Make sure your email address is professional. DoMeBaby69 at gmail dot com is going to get you the side eye. You can fluff a resume but don't pad the hell out of it. Had a guy who was a ticket taker at the fair call himself a Professional Courtesy Transfer and Intake Specialist. What? I'm just saying, when in doubt - leave it out. One of my favorites is the young lady who was imprisoned for four years and stated that as "Personal Sabbatical to Reflect on Life Choices Before Re-Entering Professional Word." Ooookay then. 

I could go on and on, but it's your turn. BougieLand, any questions? Any resume tragedies to share? Thoughts, comments, insights? The floor is yours...