We get it—you’re a super complex person, full of nuance and subtlety, and there’s no way that all that can be distilled into a single page of text.
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of companies out there that insist on using a résumé as one of the first ways to evaluate applicants.
The trick is to learn how to tell your story on your résumé—in a clear and succinct manner.
But how, exactly, do you do that?
We’ve enlisted Brian Stewart, a professional writer and résumé remodeler from Resume Target, to look over a real résumé from an Engineering student we’ve nicknamed “Eric Engineer.” Brian offers his advice on how Eric can combine different sections to make sure his résumé makes maximum impact on a hiring manager—and how you can apply these lessons to your own application materials.
When writing your résumé, always keep in mind that a hiring manager will spend only 6–10 seconds on it. They’re just quickly checking that you have the experience and/or skills that they think is needed for the specific tasks for which you’d be responsible.
So there are two things your résumé absolutely MUST do: first, it should contain the information that’s relevant to the specific job you’d be applying for and nothing more; second, it should be neatly organized so the hiring manager can find the information they want in those 6–10 seconds.
Here’s an example of a résumé that has the right idea, but is poorly organized and surrounded by irrelevant information. Unfortunately, the latter means it’s likely to wind up in the discard pile.
Click on the image to enlarge.
Here’s a list of the problems highlighted in the example above, and how to fix them:
1. Add LinkedIn profile—if you have an account on LinkedIn, add the URL to the rest of your contact information.
2. Sections are too indistinguishable—you don’t want the hiring manager wasting time trying to see where on your résumé those sections are. Make the section titles larger and bolder than the rest of the text, and maybe highlight them with a bit of color. If you do use color, use one that is soft and subtle so the eye is drawn to the title and not the color. If it’s too bright, the text might be difficult to read.
3. Needs “Value Statement”—also called a personal or branding statement, a Value Statement is a quick summary of why the hiring manager should consider you for the job.
4. Merge into “Key Skills” section—below the value statement, take any relevant skill, aptitude, and certified training you have and put them in a bulleted list. Spreading them out in different sections throughout the résumé might cause the hiring manager to miss some of them.
5. Too many words & irrelevant info—the “Work Experience” section in the example above is too dense. The hiring manager will either spend too much time reading all of that text or they’ll just skip it entirely. Cut out any unnecessary words and all irrelevant information; just focus on the job in question.
6. Irrelevant information—a basic list of affiliations is not relevant to the job you might apply to. That’s bad. However, the “Leadership Experience” section in the example above also mentions one of the affiliations, but it also then listed achievements and skills that you gained and showed off as part of it. That’s good! Cut out the former unless you can elaborate on why such affiliations are relevant.
7. Triple-check your spelling!—Spelling mistakes are inexcusable, especially when the spell-checker clearly has them underlined in red to show you that there’s an error. Also keep in mind that there are a lot of mistakes that spell-checkers won’t catch, such as improper use of there, their, and they’re. For résumés, also make sure you never refer to yourself in the first person like “I” or “me.” Read your résumé out loud to yourself at least three times to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
8. Merge this info with the “Education” section—as a soon-to-be or freshly graduated student, having your “Education” section close to the top of your résumé is good… but separating it from your important projects is bad. You’re not likely to have a lot of relevant work experience, so your classes and projects are the best way to show that you still have valuable skills.
So in general, this résumé needs to be reorganized into the following sections: Personal Info, Value Statement, Key Skills, Education (with relevant classes and projects), Work Experience, Additional (and still relevant) Experience. After making sure that only relevant information is included in each section, and that information is stated as concisely as possible, the finished project might look something like this.
Click on the image to enlarge.
Today’s lesson: Every second matters! Remember that your résumé will often only get a few seconds of a hiring manager’s attention. Make changes to the formatting and wording so that the most important information comes across immediately. You can try some of the tricks that Brian suggests, like using subtle highlights, condensing different sections, and editing the wording so that everything is clear and concise.
Homework time! Try out a few of the suggestions above. Make your résumé as scannable as possible, eliminate information that’s irrelevant to the position you’re applying for, and be sure to keep the wording simple and straightforward.
Brian Stewart writes for ResumeTarget.com, a professional résumé writing service for clients of all career levels across North America. They are the only résumé writing company that offers a professionally written résumé coupled with the guidance of recruiters, to guarantee that your résumé will get results. Tweet Resume Target with any resume or job search strategy questions you have at www.twitter.com/ResumeTarget. They’re here to help!