Experts Reveal the Dos and Don’ts of a Killer Resume
Chris Chancey, founder of Amplio Recruiting, describes a resume as “the heartbeat of your job search journey.” Your resume, in conjunction with your cover letter, will be your first impression with a potential employer and the driving force behind whether you land an interview.
“A great resume sells you to prospective employers and lets them know why you would be a good fit out of everyone else who is interested in the position,” says Chancey. “A great resume helps an employer form an impression about you even before they meet you.”
Now you might be asking yourself what specifically takes a resume from good to great? Well, we’ve got the answer. To help you create a killer resume and land an interview, we spoke to Chancey and a few other career experts to get their top strategies. Pair this guidance with the dos and don’ts of writing a cover letter, and you’re well on your way to a successful job hunt.
How to Structure a Resume
As a general rule, you should aim to keep your resume to one page, but you can venture to a second page if you are an applicant with extensive experience, says Chancey.
Dana Case, director of operations at MyCorporation.com, adds that you should avoid using “excessively over-the-top fonts” that make it difficult to read your resume. Using bullet points to list your achievements and responsibilities will also help make your resume “easier to read and absorb,” says Case.
If you are using a resume template – there are about a million you can find via a quick Google search – make sure you choose one that “is suitable for your industry or the job and really lets you highlight your best qualities and convey your value,” says Chancey.
If you do use an online template, make it your own and don’t follow the template too closely. Recruiters and hiring managers will know. (They’ve done this before!)
What to Include in a Resume
Every resume should include the following information:
- Contact Information: This should include name, city, state, phone number, email address and LinkedIn page. Case also recommends including any portfolio links; for example, your author page or blog if you are a writer. You can also include links to your social media profiles, if they are relevant to the position.
- Summary: A summary statement “captures the essence of who you are, your skills and past success,” says Chancey.
- Skills: Chancey recommends that you follow the job posting to determine keywords to use when listing hard skills (e.g. graphic design, carpentry) and soft skills (e.g. communication, leadership).
- Professional Experience: Chancey says to describe the impact or result of a project rather than just listing your responsibilities in previous jobs. “Do not forget to throw in some numbers to show that you are results-oriented instead of just saying that you are,” he adds.
- Education: List your academic qualifications, including your alma mater, major/course, and for recent graduates, and your GPA if it is at least 3.5.
- Awards and Achievements: Volunteer experience, recognitions and professional awards can be included in this section.
Providing references should be saved until later in the recruitment process, Chancey says, unless the job listing specifically requests you include them on your resume.
As you work through the recruitment process “you might change your mind about who you want as a reference, so not including references gives you that leeway,” he adds. It also allows you to keep your current employer in the dark about your job search until you are ready to tell them.
How to Customize Your Resume for the Job
When putting together your resume, Chancey says to always follow instructions in the job posting and to “include everything you have been asked to include.”
Following these steps will increase your chances of the applicant tracking system flagging your resume, and then allow the hiring manager/recruiter to see that you are a good fit just by quickly skimming through your resume, he adds.
- Highlight all the keywords and phrases in the job listing that can translate to your resume
- Write the exact job title used in the job description on your resume
- Intersperse your resume with the exact keywords and phrases used in the job posting when describing your experience and skills
Resume Writing Tips
“Every industry or profession has a language of their own to some degree, but there are a few things you can do to get noticed in a positive way,” says Bryan Zawikowski, a vice president and general manager for executive recruiting firm Lucas Group.
- Keep It Short: “Read your resume 12 times and cut out at least 10 words after every reading – you’ll find more than 10 if you look closely,” he says.
- Be Specific: Zawikowski offered the following examples: Supervised team of 12 auditors Led $10M CRM implementation project, which was completed 30 days ahead of schedule and 12% under budget
- Write in the First Person: But don’t use pronouns. Do: Supervised team of 12 auditors Don’t do: I supervised a team of 12 auditors
What Not to Include in a Resume
Chancey and Zawikowski offered the following recommendations on what NOT to include when drafting your resume:
- Work experience and hobbies that aren’t relevant to the job
- Obvious skills such as knowledge of Microsoft Word
- Ambiguous phrases like this example provided by Zawikowski: “Aligned strategies for maximum internal synergy”
- Personal details such as your role as a stay-at-home parent
- The statement “references to be provided on request” or “references available upon request,” which Chancey describes as “dreadful and redundant”
- Including “Email” and “Phone” in front of your email and phone number is also redundant, according to Zawikowski
Zawikowski also advises to avoid the following phrases:
- “Influencer” or “thought leader”: Let someone else do that on your behalf, “ideally someone that you actually ‘influenced,’” he says.
- “Gamechanger”: “It’s one of many overused sports references,” Zawikowski says. “’Change agent’ is better, but not by much.”
Common Resume Mistakes to Avoid
There are some surefire ways you can turn off a potential employer. Chancey recommends avoiding the following pitfalls when building your resume:
- Not Paying Attention to the Keywords or Using Too Many: Customizing the search to meet the job criteria will help but using too many keywords will make it obvious as to what you are doing and “inevitably lower your chances of success in your job search.”
- Not Quantifying Your Results: Chancey says rather than just listing your responsibilities, you should explain “what you did, the skills you acquired or put to use, and more importantly, the results you achieved.”
- Writing a Cliché Or Unclear Summary Statement: Instead, be specific about your career accomplisments and trajectory..
- Using Common Words: “Use clear, refreshing vocabulary to summarize your background,” Chancey says.
Once you’ve completed your resume and removed any unnecessary, unclear or uninspiring information, make sure you conduct a spell check before hitting send, Case says.
Follow these expert tips on what to include and what to avoid on a resume along with the additional guidance on writing cover letters found HERE, and you should be well on your way to getting your foot in the door with a potential employer.