Funny thing about a résumé . . . no one has ever hired a résumé, but very few people can get hired without one. And in today’s challenging job market, where the typical “headhunter,” hiring manager and Human Resources professional is inundated daily with dozens, if not hundreds of résumés (I receive between 300 and 500 résumés a week!), it had better be a good one.
What defines a “good” résumé? It is one that gives the recipient what I refer to as “cause for pause,” one that catches the recipient’s attention within about 30 seconds and makes him or her continue reading it. If your résumé doesn’t meet this minimum standard, it’s likely it will either be quickly and completely eliminated or, at best, be added to the burgeoning stack of résumés already received, perhaps never to see the light of day again.
The résumé truths
With this in mind, then, through years of professional experience and extensive research, I have come up with what I call the 11 “truths” that go into creating a good résumé, a job-winning résumé. If you will follow these “truths,” and incorporate them into your résumé, it will immediately brand you as a potential winner and move your candidacy forward!
RÉSUMÉ TRUTH #1 – It must be visually appealing.
- Plenty of “white space.”
- Use of bullet points to highlight quantifiable accomplishments and achievements.
- No long rambling paragraphs. I don’t care how good you are, long blocks of text simply will not be read and you will be eliminated from further consideration.
- Use Times New Roman or Arial type faces. Nothing smaller than 11 point. Careful use of bold face type and italics. (Just last week I received a resume from a chemist. The entire resume was in bold face italics. When everything is emphasized, nothing is emphasized except your lack of understanding of accepted business writing practices! Wouldn’t you agree that this very bullet point is becoming hard to read?)
RÉSUMÉ TRUTH #2 – A résumé is a “movie trailer,” not the entire movie!
Today people are busy and harried. No one has time to read a lengthy document. We are in a “Twitter” and text messaging world limited to 140 characters.
Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter so I wrote a lengthy one instead.” Mull that over for a moment.
Length? Two pages. No more!
RÉSUMÉ TRUTH #3 – No “Career Objective.”
But how will a potential employer know what kind of a job I want? The brutal truth is this: When companies are initially sifting through an inbox full of résumés, they don’t really care what you want. They only care what they want. What you want only becomes relevant when—and if!—you make it to the offer stage and they are then trying to woo you.
RÉSUMÉ TRUTH #4 – Work experience in Reverse Chronological order only.
You get hired when your experience is current and relevant. If you don’t do what a company needs you to do, you get hit with the “DELETE” key.
The “Functional Résumé is generally deleted. (And yes, hiring managers tell me the same thing.)
The “hybrid”? Maybe. If all of the other résumé “truths” are adhered to, the hybrid may pass the initial screen and you might move to the “maybe” folder.
RÉSUMÉ TRUTH #5 – Include one or two sentences on what each employer does.
The readers of your résumé don’t have the time (or the patience) to “guess” what the companies you have worked for actually do. If, for example, they are looking for a sales manager with experience in industrial filtration, they want to know you have that experience.
National Filtration Systems, Inc.
Vice President of Sales and Marketing
What does this company do? Provide water filters for the home? Make filters for cigarettes? Neither! It is “A $60 million design build engineering firm of industrial filtration units for natural gas and oil.” By including that one sentence, you have just branded yourself as a potential candidate and made it easy for the person reviewing your résumé to say “yes” to your candidacy.
RÉSUMÉ TRUTH # 6 – Include numbers, numbers and more numbers—and throw in a few percentages for good measure!
Brand yourself a winner by using quantitative measurements to demonstrate results.
- Responsible for improving processes and reducing defects.
- Improved revenue by increasing production.
(Hit with the DELETE key!)
- Reduced equipment failure rate by 89% in first year.
- Increased production by 15%, resulting in an annual revenue increase of $12.5 million.
(She got the job!)
RÉSUMÉ TRUTH #7 – Eliminate personal and family information
Example: “Excellent health, happily married with two children.”
Result: Résumé DELETED! What?! Why?!
As crazy as it may seem, this simple statement actually puts the company in an EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) quandary. There have been situations where, for example, a single person was hired. Later the “married person with children” found out and the result—a lawsuit. “I was unfairly discriminated against because I am married and have a family“. The company just didn’t want to add my family and me to its group health insurance plan.”
Or, what if the hiring manager just got divorced? Happily married? Who needs that? DELETE! (Yes, it happens.)
RÉSUMÉ TRUTH #8 – When all else fails, tell the truth.
Never resort to a “liar, liar pants on fire” résumé.
In this brutal economy, many résumés are inflated (some estimates go as high as 40%). Companies are on the look-out. Today, background checks are extremely thorough. When (not if) you are found out, you will be eliminated from further consideration. If you have already been hired, chances are you will be fired.
RÉSUMÉ TRUTH #9 – Eliminate the “pyrotechnics” and other “razzle-dazzle.”
Unless you want to be branded as an amateur:
- Don’t’ use yellow highlighting, colored words, background colors, etc.
- Don’t use colored paper.
- Don’t change fonts. Sparingly change type sizes. The main sections of your résumé can be in larger size, but not words within a sentence.
RÉSUMÉ TRUTH #10 – Eliminate “References Available Upon Request.”
It is a given that a pro will have them. Keep the résumé short and succinct.
RÉSUMÉ TRUTH #11 – To include or not include dates of graduation?
There are professionals who will adamantly tell you to leave dates of graduation out. Since we are dealing with “truths” here, the truth is there isn’t a right answer. You see, it has been found that 30% of people who don’t have a date of graduation on their résumé have left this information off because they never graduated! They only attended. Others leave it out because they are trying to disguise their age.
What I do know is this: the more quantifiable and relevant your accomplishments and achievements, the far less important this whole issue becomes.
Adhere to these “truths” when you craft your résumé and you definitely will brand yourself as a winner, someone who deserves an interview.
Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.