I’ve been a recruiter for 18 years and I still can’t give you the conventional scoop on how to write a resume. It seems that there are as many opinions about this subject as there are opinions about raising children. So right from the start, I’ll say this: I find some kids easier and more interesting than others, and I find I have the same observation about resumes.
People are not one size fits all; we are unique and have distinct personalities, experiences, skills, and attributes. Therefore, you don’t have to write every detail about every position starting from 20 years ago. Stop cramming your resume with lists of generic job functions and boring tasks.
Given my profession, I often hear from candidates that a resume expert recommended that they “tailor their resume to fit the position.” I believe you’re better off being authentic and passionate. Ask yourself this: “If I constantly change my resume to fit the position, is that really me?” More importantly, are you highlighting a skill that you have peripherally touched on in prior years, but is not really your strong suit?
What do recruiters and hiring managers look for in a resume?
Many of my colleagues and clients will agree that when they are reviewing your resume they are looking for the following attributes:
• Where you live
• Your title and duties/skills
• The number of positions you’ve held
• Your total years of experience
• Your tenure at each position
• Any promotions and/or awards you’ve received
• Other related industry experience
• Where you went to school, your degree, and your graduation date
• A (brief) run-down of your accomplishments and homeruns; and finally
• Is it readable and to the point?
Another popular question is “How long should my resume be?” My belief is it should be as long or as short as you want, but don’t bore the reader. I’ve read resumes from CEOs that are one-pagers and have received — though I can’t say I’ve read them — three-pagers from people with 10 positions in four years. Following, I’ve compiled some tips that hiring managers and clients have shared with me throughout my career:
Quantify your accomplishments with truthful data such as “increased sales by 150 percent,” or “Created award-winning social media campaigns that lead to a 20 percent increase.” Don’t write anything on your resume that can’t be directly attributed to you. Also, never include confidential information about the company.
Are you a job-hopper? Have you been at a company long enough to see the positive or negative results of your efforts? Hiring managers understand layoffs in a poor economy, but if your resume reads like a fast-food menu, perhaps you need to take a step back and think about your next move.
Relevant experiences and skills
Your resume should highlight your greatest skills and accomplishments. However, you don’t need to state the obvious. For example, if your title was head of marketing, you don’t need to say you were running the marketing department — that’s obvious. You also don’t need to write every detail about your position. Write specifically about your skills, such as shopper and digital marketing, and list three specific achievements.
Well-known companies vs. smaller businesses
Experience at well-known companies is always a plus. However, experience working for competitors or industry-specific firms combined with a positive track record and tenure are what my clients look for when reviewing a resume. I’ve had a client say that working for a newsworthy company is great, but working at their competitor and “killing it” is more impressive — it says that you had to work hard to get business as opposed to just answering the phone and taking an order.
Promotions and awards
It says a lot about you if you were promoted within an organization and were able to transition into a new role. I recommend that you highlight your total tenure at the company, but also highlight each of your roles and state the accomplishments and homeruns for each position.
Hiring managers want to know how many years of experience you have. Yes, there is ageism — it’s not politically correct or, for that matter legal, but it exists. Think of it as a little like online dating: You can post a picture of yourself from 12 years ago, but it won’t do much good when you show up in the present. Hiring managers will ask for graduation dates and your undergraduate and graduate degrees. Many of my clients even request college transcripts.
Include volunteer or other non-work experience
We live in a feel-good, give-back society where corporate responsibility is part of the culture of many companies. If you volunteer your own time for a cause, it can say a lot about you personally. Also, many volunteer positions teach you skills that are applicable for the job to which you’re applying.
Include personal accomplishments
A friend of mine climbed to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro last year. It was a powerful and important accomplishment for him. Stating this personal triumph on his resume is a testament to his character and his ability to get things done despite extreme circumstances. Maybe you’ve run a couple of marathons, demonstrating strong work ethic; or you’ve coached your softball team, showing that you’re a great manager. I just caution that you don’t tell your life’s story — you don’t need to mention that you’re married with two children.
Include a summary statement
A summary statement — which consists of a couple of pithy, well-written lines at the beginning of your resume — is ideal if you have years of experience and you need to tie everything together under a common theme. They’re also good if you have a bunch of disparate skills and want to make it clear how they fit together.
Tell the truth
For obvious reasons, anything that’s not 100 percent true doesn’t belong on your resume. And social media means that everybody is a fact-checker — backdoor references are standard hiring practices.
Most people are familiar with catch-all phrases such as “hard worker,” “team player,” “proven salesperson,” and “unique marketer.” You need to capture your reader’s attention and tell them the how, what, and why — list the homeruns, accomplishments, achievements, and awards. One of the best resumes that I recently read stated: “I’m the best salesperson at my company.” He then listed four simple bullet points:
• sold 1 million dollars in 2014
• wrote and pitched 40 new clients
• helped team members achieve goals
• listened to clients to deliver innovated products that they needed
Don’t assume that everyone speaks your company’s language, because I can guarantee that they won’t. Speak in a universal language that human resource managers understand, because often they are the first to receive your resume. Most importantly, write with integrity that highlights your best self. Erika Weinstein is the founder and CEO at eTeam Executive Search.