After 17 years in the recruiting field and more than 5,000 resumes later, I’ve seen the good, the bad, the boring, and the funny. This is a short primer on what will give your resume a second look. These guidelines focus more on visual presentation design rather than specific verbiage choices. There’s an unlimited number of ways to craft an effective resume.
Your resume should never exceed three pages. Have a short version and send that first. On request, have a longer version ready to go. Don’t go to three pages just because you can.
CHOOSE A GOOD FONT
Use an easy to read font. These resume readers are tired! Eye strain is an occupational hazard. Be their friend. Sans serif fonts are cleaner and highly recommended. My favorites are the standby Arial and Calibri.
CREATE LISTS vs NARRATIVE
When possible, use bullet points vs run-on narratives. In all cases, strive to be concise.
SEPARATE “SKILLS” SECTION
Employers look to this first. They don’t like it if your skills are buried in long narratives.
EMPLOY ACTION VERBS
Employ action verbs to describe your accomplishments and duties
You should be suitably horrified to know that spelling or gross grammatical errors will eject your resume faster than a red card in a soccer game. Don’t rely entirely on spell check. Have a trusted acquaintance proof read your resume – twice. The spelling mistake I see most often: “Manager” is commonly misspelled as “manger”.
DESIGN A PLEASING LAYOUT
This is hard to describe in so many words, but it’s easy to identify a solid layout when you see it. Boxes and zones can separate different information to avoid clutter. The layout assists the flow of the dialog. Attention is paid to a uniformity of approach from one section to the next. Details leap out of the page.
CREATE WORD and PDF versions
Have both versions ready to go. Some companies or recruiters require an editable (Word) version. A PDF version is best for on-line posting to protect against unauthorized editing. Unauthorized editing often leads to unauthorized submittals without your knowledge.
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The ultimate goal for your resume is to be read and approved by a hiring manager. It may pass through several layers before this final stop. It’s in your interest, of course, to make that path as short as possible. If you can, send your resume directly to the hiring manager.
There are times when your next best bet is to get your resume into the hands of a recruiter who has the ear of the hiring manager. A good recruiter will know details of the job description, know the personalities involved, and assist you in putting your best foot forward.
The sample resume that follows demonstrates many of the qualities that I’ve looked for over the years.
- clean and uncluttered layout
- Calibri font
- use of bullet points
- deployment of action verbs in bullet points, with consistent tense
- use of multiple zones to give a pleasing appearance
- clear job history, with dates and locations
- separate “job skills” section