How to Create the Resume a Recruiter WANTS to Read

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Resumes. No matter who you ask, it seems you always get different advice. 

“Add an objective!” …. “Objectives are a waste of space and generic! Add a bulleted summary!”
“It has to be 1 page!” …. “The length doesn’t matter- it’s the content!”

Exhausting right? But while that may frustrate or confuse jobseekers, it’s important to understand that there is no such thing as the perfect resume format. And here's the thing... I’m certainly not claiming that my opinion is the end-all, be-all of resume writing, but as a former staffing manager and corporate recruiter who has spent years reviewing resumes and listening to countless companies and hiring managers tell me what they actually wanted in their next employee, trust me when I say – I can at least help you avoid the major potholes. 

Here is a short list of what you want to aim for, and what you want to avoid.

Don’t make a recruiter wonder why you applied for this

I am a big fan of resumes with a "Related Experience" section that clearly separates the related jobs/internships, from the "additional experience," that can sit lower on the page. (As a former bartender, I know how transferable those skills are, but if you're applying for a social media role, and you acutely have some related experience, bump the bar to the bottom.) 

I also love it when candidates add a bulleted "Professional Summary" right up top. This is the perfect chance for a candidate’s resume to say, "Hey! Here are 4 or 5 reasons why I’d be great at this." Remember, these are not one or two-word “skills” listed out. That’s generic and falls flat. Instead, these bullets summarize and relate back to the items mentioned in the job description. These should be fleshed out a bit to give some depth to what you’re trying to convey. For example: A new college grad with some customer service experience, who was also a Residential Assistant (RA) on campus for two years, is now applying for a management-trainee job. They could say:

  • 3+ years hands-on supervisory and customer service experience in a variety of retail and residential environments
  • Demonstrated ability to resolve conflicts and peer-mediate in a tactful, empathetic and calm manner

If that same applicant had just listed “customer service, management, mediation...” it just wouldn't have the same polished feeling. Be detailed, but think big picture.

Add your LinkedIn URL

If you have a LinkedIn profile, be sure to customize your URL and add it to your resume, especially if you have projects, samples of work, or blogs on there. The more an employer engages with you on LinkedIn, the better chance you have of standing out from the other resumes in the pile, and possibly even discussing the role with them further. If you have professional recommendations on your profile form some connections, be sure to add a line at the top of your resume that states "For immediate recommendations, please see www.linkedin.com/in/krystalhicks." Drive as much traffic back to those recommendations as possible! They may actually help land you the interview.

Be consistent

When an employer says in a job description they are looking for someone “detail-oriented,” consistency is key. Are your bullets lined up? Do you have the same font throughout? If one heading is bold and underlined, are they all?  If you format something one way in one area, be sure to do that throughout or else it might look sloppy. Being detail-oriented also means digging in. Be sure to quantify your success. (How much, how many, etc. Add dollar amounts or volume to add weight to what you're saying.) Again, you can arrange things however you’d like, but be consistent. 

Death by grammar

As elementary as it sounds, watch your grammar and spelling. It’s literally the first thing that will get your resume axed in the review process. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve watched people lose out on interviews because they (presumably) flew through building their resume or cover letter and misspelled something, didn’t hyphenate properly, as in “detail-oriented” (ironic huh?), or tripped up their words explaining something. You don’t have to be the best speller, but you are responsible for proofreading (out loud is best) your materials before submitting them. (That includes the body of the email you attach your documents to!) People are human and mistakes happen, but remember, this is your first impression on paper. If your resume is a hot mess, they’re going to assume you are as well. 

Show, don’t tell!

When describing your position details, or writing up a professional summary, you always want to use bullet points. Recruiters just don’t have time to read through paragraphs of content. When they have 300 applicants, you have about 5 seconds to catch their eye and show your value. You have to stand out. Start your bullet points with power verbs that really show what it is you did there. Avoid beginning every bullet with “Responsible for…” - it waters it down. Also, use keywords from the job description; employers are literally shouting at you what they are looking for on a resume; give it to them. Again, avoid listing one or two-word bullets and articulate for the reader what it is you accomplished or contributed in that role. 

Think outside of your job title

If you worked at a cafe part-time, don’t waste a bullet point with “made coffee.” That’s obvious. Chances are you do a lot more than that, so think outside the box. Do you train new employees, manage the scheduling, or reconcile the register at the end of the day? Describe to me the things you did, so I can imagine you doing them at my company. How did you add value to your place of employment? Were you named employee of the month,or win a performance competition in the office? Remember to ask yourself, what does this employer need to know about my work ethic and skills? Think like the recruiter, not like a job hunter. And don't forget, this isn't bragging- it's marketing! You, quite literally, are the product... why should they buy you?

Remember the “other stuff”

I always cringe when I’m talking to someone and they mention studying or traveling abroad, and yet it’s nowhere on their resume, or it’s crammed into one tiny bullet point under their education section that vaguely states “studied abroad.” Where? What did you study? Where else did you travel? Employers LOVE hiring people with international perspective, and yet you’re neglecting them of even knowing you have it. These types of details also help differentiate you from the competition. Leadership skills, volunteer experience, and athletics also fall into this category. Be sure to give yourself credit for the roles you play in your community and peer groups. Employers want to be able to envision how you might bring those same skills and experiences to their company. Don’t forget that being relatable and having good conversation pieces are what get you in the door for an interview, so leverage these things! This is especially true for entry-level job seekers and students. If you’re an English major, I want to see your blog with your ideas and theories. If you're a family studies major, I want to see your years of babysitting and nannying jobs. It may seem trivial to you now, but trust me, it does matter.

One Final Look

Lastly, when you're done building up your resume or cover letter, and you think you're ready to submit it, don't! Find someone else (who hasn't been staring it at for a week like you have) and ask them for feedback. At the very minimum, you want another pair of eyes to his that thing before you send it off to a company. Be open to critiques, but remember that this is YOUR document, and YOUR first impression on paper, so you own it. Always remove yourself mentally at the end, and ask yourself: based on this resume, would you hire you? If you hesitate, ask yourself why that is, and lean in or ask for help until you feel really good about it. The more confident you are about your resume, the more you'll want to apply, and the more you apply, the better your chances are of landing multiple interviews and finding something great.