Here are some tips I learned from a hiring manager about what you can do to vastly improve the quality of your résumé and improve your chances of getting a job:
1. Ditch the Objective
Obviously your objective is to get a job at my company (and if it’s not, it should be!), so why waste valuable white space telling me something I already know? Your résumé is there to tell me what I don’t know: your unique skills, past experience, education, etc. So focus on selling yourself and forget about outlining your objectives.
2. Forget Fancy Formatting
Unless you’re applying for a graphic design or other artistic position, don’t worry about using sophisticated templates for your résumé. Most HR reps about 2 minutes scanning each résumé and don’t really pay much attention to how pretty it looks. Not to mention the fact that people have different versions of word processing software and sometimes fancy formatting doesn’t always appear the way it was intended. Hiring managers are a lot more interested in whether you have the right skill set and experience for the position than if you can use all the template features in Microsoft word.
3. Bullet Points Are Your Friend
I’ve seen many different résumé formats and have decided that my favorite is the bulleted list. Follow each job title by a list of 3 – 5 bullet points about specific duties or accomplishments you had at that position. I keep a “master résumé” with 10 – 12 bullet points under each job title, 5 of which I then cut and paste into a new document customized to match the criteria of each specific position I’m applying for.
4. Always Include Dates
Recruiters pay attention to gaps in work history. Not including dates of employment makes it seem like you have something to hide and most likely it will come up in an interview anyway. It’s better to just be up front about gaps in employment. Put accurate dates on your résumé and address any issues in your cover letter.
5. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
I recently had to listen to a friend complain for a full 30 minutes about typos in a potential candidate’s résumé so I thought I’d reiterate the importance of proofing your résumé as well as cover letter. Typos and misspellings can show a lack of attention to detail, casts doubt on your intelligence level and can cause some hiring managers to infer a lack of respect and interest in their company (the thought being that if you really wanted the job, you’d take the time to proof your work instead of rushing through a stack of 50 résumés that need to be sent to 50 different companies).
The purpose of a résumé is to sell yourself to a potential company. If you just stick to the facts and forego the fancy stuff you’ll save yourself as well as the people who are reading it both time and effort. Something I think both parties can appreciate.
This was originally posted on March 19, 2008.