'I'm impressed if it appears that the resume was rewritten for the specific job I am hiring for.'
- Hiring Manager
Remember: A great resume targets a specific job, which typically requires a fairly narrow skill set.
Tips for a well targeted resume: List all that you have done that is relevant to your job target. From this list, choose 5-7 skills/accomplishments that are the most relevant to your job target. Make sure that the statements focus on action and results.
A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize the truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself as well as for others.
- Fyodor Dostoevsky
Use action words, ditch the adjectives
For example, 'Organized successful teams' instead of 'great team player', which says nothing.
Now these are the tips to make sure your resume is read with interest by humans or scanned easily by software (Screeners or Applicant Tracking Systems).
The tips are listed in order of importance, with the most important tips on top. As a result, you will find the tips not arranged by resume sections (see above).
1. Avoid the Objective: They add no value. For higher paying jobs, maybe an 'executive summary'.
2. They notice the career summary first: The career summary section has two parts
- Title: That best describes what you do, often ending with a unique adjective – e.g. Digital Marketing Expert)
- Summary: 2/3 lines about 2/3 best things about your work performance, also indicating your passion for the job.
For example: 'Dynamic Marketing Manager with 5+ years in B2C eCommerce in the Mobile Business. Consistently delivered handsome ROI with Adwords, Affiliates and Special promotions by keeping costs in control without compromising on quality of the marketing message and brand expectations.'
Career summary become personal branding statement if you don't have enough experience.
In that case, the above career summary example can be made more concise:
'Digital marketing enthusiast excited by the promise of online marketing in bringing sustainable, quantifiable and verifiable returns for brands and all sellers.'
Or, 'Digital marketing enthusiast who takes the numbers-only analytical approach to getting the most returns from proven online marketing tactics'.
(Notice that the summary contains two kinds of relevant information: Some key skills related to the digital marketing (E.g. Adwords) and deals with a main concern concern in this niche, i.e. control costs and get best value for money from online marketing.
3. Write benefits, not skills: Give examples of how you used them to get success- 'Created a successful team, on time, within budget'
4. Show your successes in the skills summary section: Numbers over everything else. For example, 'Improved digital marketing performance by 150%, while reducing Adwords spend by 60%.'
5. Use the numbers-approach in the work experience section: Show your successes in concrete terms, and don't be wordy.
6. Explain your work gaps: Especially the longer ones. Did you learn a new skill/s during this time? A side project or two?
7. Avoid vague terms: Repeat the 'accomplishments over words' mantra. Avoid things like assisted, helped, teamwork, responsible for, etc.
8. Remove any polarizing information: Cut out any religious, political or social beliefs. Just be relevant, friend.
9. Don’t lie: Recruiters cross check (Google, specialized services etc) out of habit nowadays. Even with small white lies, they play on your mind during the interviews.
10. File format: Commonly accepted file formats are .pdf, .doc, or .rtf. Check if they want the resume file in a particular format.
11. Avoid keyword stuffing: Google doesn't like it, Neither do the Online screeners (ATS). Be relevant. Don't spam your resume with keywords repeated after every couple of lines.
12. Let someone else proofread your resume: Someone who knows grammar and spelling. It is very hard for us to very objective about our own masterpiece.
13. Be humorous and vibrant in the job interviews, not on page
14. Customize your resume for each job application: By now, this must be standard practice for everyone.
15. Focus on the keywords: Start with making sure the relevant keywords are mentioned at start- in summary, work experience and qualifications
16. Keep formatting consistent: If you make one section heading bold, all section headings must be bold. Similarly with your other formatting decisions- italicizing achievement phrases e.g. 'increased revenues'
17. Put spaces between sections: Use white spaces. Don't cram the sections. Start with a couple of extra white space between each section.
18. Create a balanced resume: How well content is distributed across the page- For example, are all the bullet points on one side of the page only?
19. Quantify your achievements: The numbers, the metrics- productivity increase, revenue, profit, turnover etc.
20. Order your sections by importance: The best practice is, summary and work experience come before your education.
21. Focus on relevant skills and accomplishments: Start from the job description and accordingly modify.
22. There is no 'I' on the resume: Write in third person. Instead of 'I improved...', write '... improved by 5%...'
23. Respect confidentiality agreements: This may be the case in high tech or consulting industry. If you are bound by any agreement, don't tell the name of the company, nor describe it (location etc are a giveaway)
24. Use the right job titles in work experience: Write job titles that employers will search for online- e.g. Digital marketing manager
25. Graduation date matters only for fresh grads: Otherwise you don't them to think you are old. They will know age from your resume anyway.
26. Your grades matter only when they especially spectacular: If they want to know, they ask during the interview
27. Remove the references: If they want the references, they will ask after the interview.
28. If you link to your website / blog, make sure it is a professional website, and is updated often.
29. Put job titles over companies: They want to know more about what you did than where you worked, before.
30. Skip mentioning the hobbies: What if one of the interviewers or human screeners hates that hobby? You can't be seriously confident of scoring a job based on your hobby, right?
31. Mention relevant courses only: They know how useful the course are for in their line of work.
32. Better your skills with online courses: And back them up with projects where you put what you learnt into practice.
33. Split test your resume: Show two or more versions of your resume to people and see which one they prefer most of the time.
34. Full sentences not needed for bullet points: Cut out unnecessary filler and explanatory words as much as possible
35. Have professional social media profiles: Google yourself. If your social media profiles come up on top, go through them, scrub out questionable messages, status updates, or pictures.
36. Limit the contact information: Simple contact information. 2/3 preferred contact methods. Mention your city.
37. Don’t confuse expectations with qualities: The employer only wants to see the proof. Give examples, not big, empty words.
38. Only include relevant work experience: Limit the number of bullet points under each job. Include only relevant stuff.
39. Avoid out-of-date terms: In advanced places, 'knowing Microsoft office' or 'internet search' is way dated.
40. Name your resume filename appropriately: At least, include your name in the filename: e.g. MarySueResume.doc. Better idea: Include the position name after an underscore.
41. Bullet points over sentences: Because most of the time resumes are screened, not read start to beginning. Make the resume scannable by using bullet points.
42. No over-complicated 'fluff words': In simple and clear language, explain your value
43. Spell out acronyms: This is especially important for resumes in the engineering fields.
44. Reasonable font size: Keep things between 10-12 points size. Keep in mind that some font's size 10 is equal to the normal size 12.
45. One page limit is not a rule: Good resumes are concise, but as long as you are being readable and relevant, you are okay.
46. Order your bullet points based on importance: Keeping things relevant to the job description and mentioning the value you brought
47. Take credit for good things you did: Without being a braggart about it.
48. Resume templates: Just write your resume in the standard format with headings suggested elsewhere in this guide.
50. Use standard headings for each section: This is also for the online automated resume screeners. They will recognize work experience, skills summary, qualifications, education, summary, awards
51. Avoid verbs that will not get you any interview: Me, need, develop, hard, first, learning, chance...all these make you sound weak.
52. Create a master spreadsheet of your skills: So, you can identify and customize each job application easily when needed.
53. Order jobs chronologically: Because that is how online screeners aka ATS are set to scan resumes.
54. Stick to one or at most, two readable and 'safe' fonts: Helvetica is the preferred sans-serif font. Garamond the best serif font. Times new roman is a good compromise. Calibri is also good.
55. Show people's recognition: Event participation, special invitations, awards, etc.
56. Group similar jobs together: This is especially relevant for frequent job hoppers.
57. Be consistent with bullet point Formatting: Either have periods after after point, or not at all
58. Beware of confusion with dates: Aka the dd/mm or mm/dd confusion. '01/03/16' could either mean the third of January or the first of March. Use this style: '01-Mar-16' or '01 March 2016'.
59. Avoid tables or tabbed columns: Use sequential rows with bigger font size and weight indicating headings. This scenario often arises when you are listing multiple jobs one after another.
60. Avoid colors other than black and white: Color looks poor on any resume. Use only black color for the text.
61. No pictures
What to Put on Your Resume When You Have No Relevant Work Experience
1. Mention Relevant and Transferable Skills
You may not have the relevant experience but you may have some or all the skills needed for the job. For example, you are applying for a job of Blog editor but you only have Digital marketing experience, but then you see that Digital marketing involves writing and editing skills too, and that emans you can mention those skills and apply.
2. Mention Any Related Side Projects
Mention any stuff that you did while studying or in your professional life related to the job advertised. Some advice to have a 'projects' section in your resume if you have done a lot of 'off-the-job' work.
3. Write An Enthusiastic and Specific Cover Letter
Cover letters are iffy nowadays. HR people are swamped with resumes, and maybe they don't need extra stuff to go through. And this is where you can shine out. Write that enthusiastic 'I am the one and I am very excited' cover letter which may charm the screener.
If you are in college, please, please visit your Career Development Center or an equivalent resource center in your college. You can get your resume reviewed for free, attend resume workshops, take mock interviews, as well as benefit from counseling sessions for interviewing.
By now, 50%+ traffic on all web sites comes from mobile devices. Time you optimized your resume for mobile rather than just the print version. This also means that you will have most probably two versions of your resume- mobile and print.
- Maximum 4-lines in any block of text.
- 6 Pt space between lines, paragraphs, sections.
- At least 11-point, preferably sans-serif font like Calibri.
- Check your resume on a mobile phone before giving it out.
- Use a single column layout only. Multiple columns look awful on mobile phones. Just have some healthy 1 inch margins.
- Keep things simple and clear. No pictures. No graphs, No flashy stuff. Keep it functional and professional.
Common mistakes to look after you have created your resume
- Unsubstantiated claims/lack of supporting examples
- Lack of relevant information
- Too broad and generic resume
- Errors in formatting, facts, spelling and grammar
- Negative information, such criticism of previous employer/s, difficulties in previous jobs, etc.
- Poor language use (jargon, buzzwords/clichés, lots of adjectives ('problem solver'), wordy and vague
Tips for getting the grammar and spelling right
- Keep it in the first person: Stick to 'I, me and my' over 'he, she or they' (unless it’s a quote about you from someone else). Don't fix the two.
- Use the singular for individual organizations. If you work at Google, for example, you are part of its team, not part of their team.
- Use apostrophes to indicate missing letters, a possessive, time or quantity.
- Control your tenses: Talk about old jobs in the past tense and your current job in the present tense. Exceptions: When you are talking about a past event that happened in your present job.
- Explain the abbreviations: Add the abbreviation in brackets after you first mention it, expanding the letters, and use it thereafter. It is also a good idea to control the number of abbreviations on a resume.
- Too many semi colons distract: Semi colons are used when commas aren't enough. If you can, use something other than a semi colon- smaller sentences, for example.
- Don’t over-use capital letters: Capitals are harder to read than lowercase. Also, if you make the first letter of a job title a capital letter, follow the practice throughout the resume.
Tips for a professional headline or profile statement
- Use dynamic, active language for your profile statement (Linkedin). Passive language bores people.
- Add numbers: increased returns, costs cut down, money saved etc.
- Use strong words, not 'fluffy' words.
- Include keywords- For example, online marketing or search engine optimization (SEO).
How to slim down your resume
- Remove all the adjectives and 'fluffy' big words. Get to the relevant point ASAP.
- Remove or summarize thoroughly irrelevant bits from old jobs (more than 5 years), high school information (you are 40 years old now), temp job held long time ago, etc.
- Formatting: Use single-spacing (if you want to fill a page as you just passed out, 1.5 o 2 spaces then). Use size 10 for fonts (but read after printing. Calibri looks okay when printed at size 10)
Mention temp work
A job is a job. If it is an actual temp agency, make it the main company (employer) and then use bullet points to describe the work you did for companies.
Resume things that employers like
1. A direct style: Use blunt, short words. Most resumes are scanned, not read.
2. Looks: Nice and tidy.
3. Career summary: Short and punchy, summarizing your value with examples.
4. Verbs ending in “d: Shipped, launched, built, sold.
5. Results: Not responsibilities or experience — but what responsibilities and experience helped you accomplish.
6. Bullets: 3 – 4 results per job.
7. Numbers: E.g. traffic from Google 230%, ad spending down by 40%.
8. Grades: Your GPA, even if it was ten years ago, if it was over 3.5.
9. Reviews: Ratings from your last performance review
10. Honors: E.g. Employee-of-the-year.
11. Promotions: If your role changes, highlight that as two jobs.
12. Linkedin endorsements: persuasive, even from your friends.
13. A Link to Your Blog: a blog gives you online street cred. For some, it is your resume.
14. Themes: whether you care about customer service or agile software, tell a consistent story from job to job.
15. Hobbies: I always want to meet people with fun hobbies. And that’s all a resume is: a request for a meeting.
16. Two page-max: If you’re under 30, one page.
17. Anything you did that showed initiative or passion: Math Olympics.
18. Email to the CEO: It takes chutzpah & resourcefulness to go straight to the top.
19. Customization: Tailor your resume & especially the cover letter to the job.
20. Completed degrees
21. Presentable Gmail address: Or your own domain.
Resume things employers don't like
1. Churn: Stints at 2 or more employers of less than 2 years.
2. List of generic skills: Not showing what you actually accomplished at each job.
3. Typos or misspellings
5. “Proven: As in “proven leadership. We all still have something to prove.
6. Printed resumes: Not emailing a Word document, web page or PDF.
7. Buzzwords: Search engines may love it, actual people don’t.
(Source: Adapted from a list by Guy Kawasaki)
Thank you for reading.
This guide is from The Success Manual, which contains 200+ guides to succeeding in business, career and personal life. Get the pdf ebook for $12 only.