For a large portion of my career, I’ve served as a hiring manager. In that role, I’ve reviewed an estimated five thousand resumes, perhaps more.
I’ve hired sales people, tech experts, managers, marketing people and editors. While my experience may not be as extensive as some long-time HR professionals, odds are pretty good that I’ve seen many more resumes than the average guy.
Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on how to build a successful resume. My tips cover 20 recommendations, broken down across three categories: design, audience and other stuff (including a few pet peeves):
1. Use White Space Liberally
Going through a three inch thick pile of resumes makes you immediately appreciate the ones that are easy to read. Do not under any circumstances present a resume with quarter inch margins or less. The goal of building a resume is not to just jam one sheet of paper with information, but to present your qualifications in a readable and professional manner.
2. Font Choice Matters
Don’t use a font that invokes humor or “dares to be different”. Keep it simple. Stick with aerial (or times new roman if you must). Sans serif fonts are generally easier to read in electronic and printed form. Steer clear of comic sans, and never use courier.
3. Use Bullet Points… Sparingly
Do not go to extremes. Avoid crafting a resume with only bullets or with only narrative text. A blended approach is preferred. A few sentences to describe each position, with 3-5 bullet points describing your achievements or accomplishments at each job is a nice balance.
4. Convert the Resume to PDF
PDF is a gift to job seekers. Converting your word processed resume to PDF allows you to control exactly what I see. Uploading a word document to our HR system means you are taking a risk that my settings might skew your resume in some way, making the document more difficult to read. Recent versions of word allow a simple conversion to PDF through the “save as” function. If your word processor does not include this functionality, try an online conversion. Just search for “PDF converter” in the search engine of your choice!
5. Be Sure You Are at Least 80% Qualified
Please… make sure you’re qualified for the position. Pay close attention to the job description and requirements. I know you want to apply for the job that would be just a bit of a stretch assignment. Just be sure it’s not too much of a stretch.
Applying for positions you are not qualified for wastes both our time. Also, applying for any job that has “xyz” word in it just because it was recommended to you by your automated job search agent is rarely a good idea. Research the position and company to ensure a reasonable chance of a good fit.
6. Create a Career Management Document
I recommend not having only one resume. Instead, create a “career management document” that you update quarterly with your workplace achievements and accomplishments. Naturally, this document will grow over time to be fairly sizable. Then, when you see a position you are interested in, pull the specific accomplishments that relate to the job requirements over into a resume. In this way, you are sure your resume is custom built for the task at hand, winning you that specific job.
7. Highlight Elements that Satisfy the Job Description
Pay close attention to the job requirements and consider re-ordering your resume to be sure the elements of the job description are contained in your resume and are easily seen. You don’t want to bury an important element at the bottom of a two page resume. Make those things stand out by either placing them at the top, or bolding them. Especially the ones we label within the description as “not required but preferred” because those elements are likely to put you ahead of the competition.
Miscellaneous (Including Personal Pet Peeves)
8. Keep it Reasonably Short
One page preferred. Personally, I’m OK with two pages, so long as your experience warrants it. However, there is no reason to submit a six page resume. Ever.
9. Create a Professional E-mail Address
Ensure the first part of your e-mail address is “flattering”. You don’t want to submit a resume that with an e-mail address of email@example.com. Every little thing matters. Pay attention to the details.
10. Minimize Your Warts
Here’s a dirty little secret – I could care less about your class rank or GPA. The only way that impresses me if you were top 10% at a great institution, while also juggling an incredible out of class schedule.
11. Eliminate the Personal Commentary
I don’t care that you are into backpacking. And I surely don’t care that you were rush chairman of your social fraternity in college (unless I’m hiring for an event planning position, of course).
12. Proactively Address My Questions
If you know I’m wondering about something, address it directly and forthrightly in the resume. If you were laid off, tell me in the resume. Word it however you want, but I’m wondering about it anyway, so eliminate the open question. Saw a resume that listed that recently and it was refreshing. I’m not going to hold that against you. Similarly, if my job is located in Chicago, and your address is listed as San Diego but you’re willing to relocate for it, say so.
13. If You’re Going to Send a Cover Letter… Make it a Killer
Cover letters are not a requirement in this day and age. I just eliminated 90% of the resumes I received for this latest job opening without reading a single cover letter. That said, if you are going to go to the trouble of including one, make sure it is terrific. Customize it to me, to my company and to my job. Nothing will put you in my dog house faster than being careless and uploading a cover letter addressed to another company because you were resume spamming every job you could find.
14. Get Active with Your Accomplishments
Make sure your accomplishments are written in the active voice and include the business outcomes of your involvement. Quantify everything possible so I know you care about outcomes.
15. Find a Trusted Third party to Give You Feedback
Creating a resume is a difficult thing to do well, partly because we are so emotionally attached to the thing. This one sheet of paper is supposed to represent your professional capabilities. It is not a facsimile of you as a person. Family members don’t count, because they are just as invested in your success as you are. Find a mentor or work colleague you trust to review the document (preferably someone who has hired more than a handful of people), and be prepared to act on the feedback you receive.
When creating the next version of your resume, keep this tips in mind – and then set your sights on getting that phone call from a hiring manager like me!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Ms. Career Girl!
About the Author: Sean McGinnis is a marketing executive at Sears Holdings where he finds and hires high performers. Sean is also a consultant, digital strategist and blogger at 312Digital. Connect with Sean on Twitter.