You’ve worked hard on multiple drafts of your resume. You’ve asked your trusted advisors to review it. They tell you it is fine. But is it?
Will your resume get you noticed? Will you get calls for interviews? Or will your resume only accomplish what most resumes do: get you eliminated from consideration?
There are two keys to writing a great resume: content and real estate. The material must be compelling. But just like in real estate, location matters. Where information physically is on your resume makes a difference to the reader.
Most of us make the same fundamental errors in our resumes. We reflect our past instead of projecting our future. An effective resume needs to do both. We let a typo or two sneak past us. A great resume will have undergone careful editing for grammar, spelling, and length. Be as brief as you can be while still making pertinent, impactful points. A good rule of thumb is two pages to describe a career of ten years or less; three pages for twenty years, and four for more that. Some people may need an additional page to describe publications, speaking engagements, civic activities or board memberships.
The biggest mistake people make regarding their resume is to assume someone in the screening process will read the entire resume before deciding to eliminate the candidate from consideration. That seldom happens.
Readers skim resumes. It is incredibly rare for them to get read from start to finish. The initial screener may be looking for basic facts like education, titles and years of experience. The next reader may be looking for significant accomplishments that show how well the candidate has done prior jobs. The hiring authority may also be trying to predict how well the candidate will meet future challenges.
Writing a resume is the second most miserable part of the entire hiring process. The most miserable part is reading resumes. Resumes are boring. Resumes often lack distinguishing content and do not flow as a satisfying story. The best resumes recognize the importance of capturing and keeping the reader’s interest.
A resume needs to serve several purposes. First, your resume needs to get the reader’s attention. Second, it needs to describe your professional history. Finally, it needs to project how well you will meet the company’s future needs.
It can be an eye-opening experience to review your resume through the eyes of the recruiter, human resources professional and the hiring authority. Objectively examine your resume as if you were doing the selection and hiring. Ask yourself a critical question: “Would I call ME?”
Here are three thoughts on effectively arranging information on your resume so YOU will call YOU.
1. The Billboard
The purpose of a billboard is to capture attention and ignite interest quickly. A billboard doesn’t tell the audience everything they want to know about the subject, but it shows enough to let them decide if they are interested in learning more. You drive past a billboard at high speed and get enough information to determine your next action.
The first third page to half page of a resume is the billboard. You can get your audience’s attention with bullet points that identify significant accomplishments and career highlights. The key is those achievements need to the spark the imagination of your next boss. They need to see you as a potential solution to the problems they are trying to solve.
Imagine your reader glancing at the first half of the first page of your resume. Did they quickly get enough information to know they want to learn more about you? If not, they are not likely to read the rest of your resume. If you fail to capture their attention in the first half of the first page of your resume, they are probably not going to read further. Your resume is now in the reject pile.
2. The Brochure
Brochures are a great marketing tool, except most people don’t read a brochure to investigate their interest in a product. They read the brochure to verify their interest.
The section of your resume following the billboard is the brochure. Describe the company (size, industry), your title and role, and the reason you were recruited. What did the company need you to accomplish when they hired you? What was the biggest problem they needed you to solve? Describe how well you met those objectives. Describe the additional and unexpected accomplishments you delivered. Identify the financial value of your achievements.
Employers are most interested in your more recent experiences. Make sure there is depth to this information, especially covering your last three jobs or the previous ten years.
Like any well-written brochure, this section should show the employer reasons to confidently believe you (the product) will deliver the desired and expected results.
3. The Body of Work
The body of work is your chronological employment history, education, and certifications. Present your most recent employment history in more detail than more dated or unrelated material. Avoid just listing job duties. Focus on critical factors that show how you benefited the company beyond your core job duties. For instance, my first office job was as a receptionist. On my first resume, I didn’t mention answering the phones. Instead, I featured the clerical work I voluntarily did to support the accounting department and sales department, which led to my first promotion to accounting assistant.
Tell the story of your past through the prism of why those skills matter today. It’s not just about what you did. It’s about how what you did prepared you to do the work you desire to do today.
The billboard got their attention. The brochure verified their interest. The body of work laid out the details and facts about your career and employment history.
Create compelling content. Arrange the information in an exciting narrative. Finally, read your resume through the eyes of your next boss. Make sure YOU would call YOU.