Does Your Résumé Have Style AND Substance?

style vs substance
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First date: your heart races, you find yourself sweating even though you’re in a heavily air-conditioned restaurant, and sometimes you struggle to remember your own name. At least you look good, though, right? Your new dress is totally cute and you actually brushed your hair for once.

Do you think your dining partner would forgive you for being a frantic, sweaty mess of a person just because you looked cute? Maybe. It probably depends on your date. But you’d be much more likely to score a second date if you looked AND acted the part of a polished, reasonably well-adjusted individual.

Looking good can definitely help with your first impression on a date. But there’s more to it than that. You have to demonstrate that you’re a person of substance and that there’s a genuine connection with the other person.

In that way, résumés are a lot like first dates: You’ll be judged on appearance right away, but if there’s no substance there, you won’t make it much further.

Brian Stewart of ResumeTarget took a look at this real-life résumé from a job-seeker we’ve dubbed “Phillip Finance.” Mr. Finance’s résumé looks good, but Brian has some pointers on how he can give it more substance—and increase his chances of getting to the next stage.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Finance Resume (whole)

This résumé is very well organized and formatted, there are clear divides between each section, and everything is concise and to the point. The tips I can give to help improve it would be to tweak the section headers so they draw the eye a bit more, and then to improve the content to draw the eye and the mind of the hiring manager.

1.    Make your name more prominent

Make the font noticeably larger than anything else, and play around with its position and whether to have it in ALL CAPS or not. Pick a style that works for you, but one that draws attention to it so it sticks in the hiring manager’s eye and mind. Make it noticeable but subtle, so the name does stand out but the person viewing it doesn’t immediately notice why. Be careful not to overdo it.

2.    Adjust the contact information

Include the URL to your LinkedIn profile, and get a custom URL if you don’t have one so it looks like this: www.linkedin.com/yourname; rather than like this: www.linkedin.com/123456789. Doing so just further helps the hiring manager remember your name. At the same time, the other contact info should be reformatted so it takes up less space. You’ll want to save space for the rest of the résumé.

3.    Adjust the formatting of the section titles

Further along the theme of drawing the eye, we recommend that you play around with coloring for the section titles. This will further draw the eye of the hiring manager to each section, so they can find what they want to know more quickly. This makes it easier for the hiring manager to read and scan, and doing that goes a long way when it comes to standing out in their mind. Be careful to make the color soft, so it serves to accent the headers—not dominate them.

4.    Remove irrelevant information

Unless the job you’re applying to explicitly says that it will involve a lot of overseas travel, you shouldn’t mention that you’re enthusiastic and experienced with it. In your “Work Experience” section, meanwhile, only include jobs that have relevance to financial or business analyst jobs. Your work as a course facilitator and shelter manager could have relevance depending on the details you can include—if you taught math or if you dealt with the finances/budget of either program, or if you’re looking for a finance job in the non-profit sector.

5.    Include a “Key Skills” section

This section could also be called “Core Competencies,” or “Aptitudes & Training.” Place it underneath, or even with, your value statement at the top of the résumé. It should list a number of very specific skills, aptitudes, and formal training/certificates that you have which are also relevant to the job.

6.    Focus more on your “Education” section

Your education obviously has the most relevance to the job you’re seeking, so play that relevance up. Give the hiring manager more about the courses you took and the projects you had where you displayed practical application and skill for your field. Look carefully at the job posting and see what responsibilities it says you’d have, and what skills they want you to have—if you had any projects that had similar responsibilities and skills, be sure to mention them. Lastly, each school program you completed should have a list of at least two to three achievements as examples of you excelling with practical school work.

7.    Tweak your “Work Experience” section

Include any work experience that’s relevant to the job you want and make sure to play up the relevancy when you describe what types of tasks and responsibilities the work entailed. Just as you did in your “Education” section, include some relevant examples of how you excelled at your job.

8.    Elaborate on your other relevant experiences

In your “Memberships & Affiliations” section, you list a number of things that have strong relevance to financial/business analyst jobs. Give more details! What kinds of activities were involved with those memberships? What was your place in the group? Did you contribute to a tangible growth in the group’s membership or finances?

If there’s one point to take away from this, it’s that you can really make your résumé stand out by appealing to the eye and the mind of the hiring manager.

You can appeal to the eye by creating an easy to scan structure, which can be achieved by using subtle coloring and organizing the sections by what the hiring manager considers the most to least important.

Finally, you can appeal to the mind by filling your résumé with a list of your relevant skills that the hiring manager wants, and then by listing scenarios where you used those skills to excel in related tasks.

Homework time! Does your résumé have both style and substance? It’s relatively easy to make changes to the style so that your information is clear and easy to scan. Then tackle the substance. Make sure that you only include relevant work experience, or find a way to make your experiences relevant to the position you’re applying for.

Brian Stewart is a Career Content Writer at ResumeTarget.com, a professional résumé writing company for all career levels across North America. They are the only résumé writing company that offers a professional written résumé coupled with the guidance of recruiters to guarantee that your résumé will get results. Tweet them with any résumé questions you have at @ResumeTarget.

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