06 Nov Does Your Resume Help or Hurt You?
Many people see their resume as an advertisement of their skills that will help them convince an employer to hire them. The truth is, it can do the opposite. Resumes are often used to weed people out, rather than to identify the best candidates.
Having been a overworked hiring manager myself with hundreds of resumes to review, I can tell you firsthand what happens. Your resume will be scanned at the highest level. Whatever potential negatives that pop out first may be used to move you to the “No” pile.
Following are real-life examples of snap decisions I’ve personally witnessed from managers looking to fill a mid-level professional role based on resumes alone: (Yes, I realize these are prejudicial and often misguided. That’s the point.)
- Single page, large print, minimal content = Lightweight. Not enough experience.
- Multl-page, densely packed text = Candidate can’t distill what’s most important on paper, therefore can’t net it out in their job, either.
- Many activities, no impact (“Attended meetings, created reports, processed paperwork”) = no value.
- Vastly different job roles = No clue what she wants to do.
- Food service or retail roles = No white collar experience.
- Previous high-level job title = Overqualified.
- Previous low-level job title = Underqualified.
- “Consultant” = Often indicates “unemployed,” Need to review further. Or not.
- Unemployed a long time = May have unrealistic expectations, too expensive or too picky. Be wary.
- Too many buzzwords = Gimmicky, rather than genuine qualifications.
- Typos or inconsistencies = Unpolished. Unable to do a good job on even the most important stuff.
- Lots of personal activities = One or two is fine. Listing religious and political causes may turn people off. No one wants an evangelist. “Baseball fan” may spark a conversation without mentioning a team affiliation.
Getting to “Yes”
So, what can you do to float to the top of the “Yes” pile?
- Apply to an appropriate job in the first place–don’t waste their time, or yours. It’s OK if you don’t meet 100% of the qualifications. That’s simply a wish list, but if you lack most of them, reconsider your application.
- Re-read the job description. Consider which points are emphasized.
- Net it out. Who are you? What unique value do you bring? What impact will you make?
- Ensure every word in your resume adds value.
- Remember: it’s about effort, not results.
- Include impact statements and specific measurements.
For example, Instead of “Answered phones and forwarded leads to sales.reps”: “Handled 150 incoming calls per day. Converted 78% to prospects, which resulted in $42,000 in additional annual sales.”
- Use strong, action-oriented words: “Developed, implemented, built, designed, delivered, executed, etc.”
- Include only relevant buzzwords used in context to demonstrate you know what you’re talking about.
- Read your resume aloud. If you get tired of talking, your readers will get tired of reading.
- Ask yourself “So what?” after each sentence.
- Don’t include everything you’ve ever done. Only mention what’s truly relevant. Include fewer details for short-term jobs and old roles.
- Only mention tasks that you want to continue doing. Don’t brag about your Excel skills if you hate spreadsheets.
- Take a fresh look at your resume each time you revise it. It’s not a laundry list that simply grows over time.
- Have someone else proofread your resume to find typos and inconsistencies. Yes, you’ve heard it before. Do it this time.
- Review. Reduce. Re-edit. Refine. Rinse. Repeat.
Resume Add-ons: Honorable Mentions
Other approaches I’ve witnessed that helped candidates stand out:
- Including a grid illustrating qualifications from original job listing that show check marks indicating candidate’s matching qualifications.
- Sending a personal cover letter that references specific examples from the job description, demonstrates that you can write complete sentences and shows off your knowledge of the company/industry.
- Including a few well-written recommendations on a single page from previous managers or customers.
- A friend inside the company who can put in a good word for you is always useful.
Even if you do everything right on your resume, you may still not be selected for an interview due to circumstances outside your control.
But, then again, maybe you will.