Everyone that’s looking for a job has come across tons of articles about how to improve your résumé, what to include, what to avoid, etc. Some of this advice contradict one another but there are some tips that are universally accepted as résumé-writing gospel and I’ll share a few of my personal favorites:
Poor Spelling and/or Grammar
I think this one is self-explanatory but I’m going to delve a little deeper anyway because it happens to be the number one thing for me specifically, whether I’m reviewing a résumé or reading an email. I tend to gauge intelligence or lack thereof based on how well you express yourself in writing. My first tip is: the red squiggly line is your friend and means you well; don’t ignore it! Misspelled words are just careless and serve as flashing neon signs with fireworks and sound effects that say “I IGNORED THE SQUIGGLY RED LINE AND I’M SLOPPY!”. They also serve to tell me just how many damns you give about language (none).
The flip side of that coin is over-reliance on spellcheck which has its limits. If you spell “their” as “thier” then the red squiggly has your back. But if you use “their” when you need “they’re”, “form” when you mean “from” or —the one that really scuffs my pumps— use “your” when you need “you’re” then you’re on your own and spellcheck will fail thee. I don’t hate as much on dangling participles, preposition placement or the occasional sentence fragment. I do, however, deem you illiterate if you exhibit extreme prejudice against commas and periods and I will judge you. I’m not pedantic; I’m petty. Since you have no control over who’s on the receiving end of your résumé , err on the side of them being petty like me and get somebody to proofread your résumé (shameless plug warning: a service I happen to offer).
Your Résumé Needs a Summary
I’ve come across differing opinions on this but I think it’s important that your résumé have an objective/personal statement/summary/whatever you wanna call it. I personally prefer to classify it as an introduction because that’s what it does: introduces you to the reader and either encourages them to keep reading or throw their computer out of the window in disgust. The intro is your chance to wow the reader with the fabulousity that is your awesomeness! It should not be boilerplate or sound as if it was written by Siri, Cortana or Google Now; i.e., it should sound like it was written by a person and not a robot. It should also not be written in the 2nd or 3rd person, I don’t care what you’ve been taught all of your life about writing résumés. Real people do NOT talk that way! I can’t count the number of times my eyes have crossed upon reading yet another Droid-speak résumé avoiding the use of “I” and starting every sentence with a verb. I think your introduction should be an expanded version of your “elevator speech” (ask Siri, Cortana or Google Now what that is) and written as if a real person were saying it. So make your introduction good and make it grammatically correct (refer back to tip #1). Please keep it focused on your career (no one cares about your MMA fascination or your quilting club) and try to sprinkle in some keywords from the job description you’re applying for. Yes, it’s tedious but you should tailor your summary to each job you apply to unless you are applying to jobs so similar that the keywords are most redundant (like with an accountant). Google will come through for you if you ask for examples.
Your Résumé Is Written In Robot-Speak
I’m going to keep this short and sweet because I know I’m going to get plenty of traditionalists that disagree with me. The same thing I said about writing your summary like it was written by one of the Coneheads goes double for the rest of your résumé. Like I said, real people don’t talk that way and would you read a book or magazine article that was written in “résumé-speak”? Nope. It’s boring and dry and immediately makes you want to take a power nap. I imagine that recruiters, most of whom can be presumed to be human like the rest of us, don’t get giddy with anticipation when they have yet another of those stuck-in-the-20th-century CVs to read. Why not stand out from the crowd (in a good way) by writing a résumé that’s actually a pleasure to read? I read somewhere that you only have 10 seconds to capture a recruiter’s attention so there is apparently an epidemic of ADD recruiters with the attention span of a gnat. You’d better use those 10 seconds to make them want to keep reading or at least remember that they even saw your résumé! How do you write like a real person but still have a professional résumé? Easy: you keep the content but add some pronouns! The word “I’ has never done anything to anybody and, besides not being in the word “team”, it hasn’t ever done anything wrong either! You are an I so use it liberally when talking about yourself. That is all.
Your Résumé Should Tell A Story; Your Story
A well-written résumé tells a story, a story about your career. Your story should be consistent and your story should make sense for the job that you are applying for. Your story shouldn’t be history either so there’s no need to date yourself by going back 20 years or more. In fact, if you can keep your résumé down to one page is fan-freaking-tastic but no more than 3. Now, if you’re like some people I know and you’ve had a bit of career schizophrenia resulting in several different types of occupations then you will have to do the tedious and tailor your résumé to the type of job you are applying for at the moment. I have prepared 3 different résumés for one person because said person had experience in sales, warehouse work and customer service and didn’t have a preference or focus for the next job. You may have to do the same and use the résumé that best tells the story of your career as it pertains to that particular job description. It also helps, since you’re tailoring it for each job anyway, to sprinkle as many keywords into it from the job description as possible. Some people recommend sprinkling these keywords throughout the résumé in an organic fashion; I say that’s even more tedious than having to tailor a résumé for each job application! Do you have time for that? I don’t. So, a shortcut is to add a section to the end of your résumé that is no more than 3 or 4 lines that is devoted only to keywords. You then select said section and change the font color so that it is invisible to the naked eye, both on-screen and printed out. The human eye won’t be able to see them but the human eye isn’t the one looking for them; the ATS that you’ve fed your résumé to will still hit on those keywords without them being visible. Good huh? Huh? Yeah.
Do you have any tips for writing and presenting an effective résumé?
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