Is your resume as good as it could be? In this post, let us discuss six aspects of resume design – and provide tips accordingly:
What is the purpose of a resume?
A resume should attract the attention of a prospective employer and interest the prospective employer to invite the applicant to an interview. A resume is NOT the vehicle for a person to present his/her life story. It IS the vehicle to provide the relevant and distinctive background of the applicant.
Should there be an opening summary at the top of the resume?
For two reasons, the answer to this question is yes. One, this immediately lets the prospective employer recognize the type of job for which the applicant is applying. Two, an opening summary enables the applicant to create his/her self brand and highlight what makes that individual unique.
To learn more about the value of self branding, read here.
How should you decide what content to include on the resume?
Although it is essential to include one’s education, work experience, and special skills on a resume, it is also vital not to overwhelm the prospective employer with too much information. The reader will most likely skim the resume and find a densely-worded resume not worth the effort. In addition, by having too much content, the reader is not guided to the most important information.
Here a few specific tips: (1) Ask yourself this question and address it through your resume — What the are the five to ten top reasons why a potential employer should hire me instead of another applicant (your competitive advantages)? (2) Highlight your accomplishments — not just your past job functions. (3) Do NOT place as much emphasis on a job you had five years ago as the one you had most recently. [I am continuously amazed by how many resumes I review for my students and alumni that have as many bullet points for an internship they had as their full-time jobs!!]
How long should your resume be?
Over the years, I have reviewed thousands of resumes. I still firmly believe that one page is sufficient for an applicant at any level of experience. But some others differ and think a slightly longer resume is acceptable IF one is looking for a senior-level position. The following is a very good rule to keep in mind, as provided by Careers Plus Resumes for Careerealism:
“A resume will first receive a very brief scan, often 10-20 seconds, to determine if the candidate appears to meet the major requirements. While the entire resume may be quickly scanned, utilizing a summary of qualifications with keywords and phrases based upon one’s career goal and job target is advantageous. A resume that passes the initial scan will then receive greater scrutiny to determine if a candidate qualifies for an interview. Here, relevant depth and detail in the history is best since the candidate’s experience, skills, and strengths – as they apply to the position – will be more thoroughly assessed.”
Is it OK to use one version of a resume for all possible jobs?
NO! NO! NO! In this era of easy-to-adapt Word files, it is inexcusable to use the same resume for all jobs. You want the potential employer to be interested in you. So, show you are interested in them. Tailor your resume to the specific job opening and potential employer. One size does NOT fit all.
Consider these observations from Dawn Rasmussen, writing for Careerealism:
“As we go through our careers, our background evolves into probably at least three or more different thematic areas. In my lifetime, I’ve been a meeting planner, television producer, tourism manager, educator, and resume writer, to name a few. Can I pull all of these areas under one roof/one resume? Not a chance. No one could possibly digest it all – there is too much stuff ‘muddying’ the waters. The trick to hitting a moving target is to get grounded first.”
Take a deep breath and think about what area you are actually going to have the highest “degree of job search success. Then focus your efforts on that area. I would suggest one, two, but no more than three major areas. Then create a separate document for EACH of those themes. Create a section header entitled “RELEVANT HISTORY,” then list the job records most relevant to the position to which you are applying first, then summarize (if necessary) any non-relevant ones to avoid distracting the reader. That way, you can account for any holes that open up in your work experience caused by moving non-relevant history into an ‘Additional Background’ header.
Does the “look” of the resume matter?
Yes, it does. These are some typical mistakes to avoid: (1) Do not use an overly small font. (2) Do not have small margins. (3) Do not have spelling or grammatical mistakes. (4) Do not use plain copy paper; use quality paper. (5) Do not use exotic paper colors; stick to white or off-white.
[As Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers general manager who signed Jackie Robinson to be the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, once said: “Luck is the residue of hard work and design.”]