Five Resume Tips

I don’t claim to be an expert on resumes or recruitment, but I do read a fair few resumes, and I have to say I see a lot of, erm, interesting resumes. Some are interesting in a good way, catch my attention and make me want to read more, but some are painful to read. I used to feel I had some sort of duty to give each one I read equal attention, and to read it whether or not it grabbed me, but nowadays I’m quite happy for my advice to be “don’t hire this person” based on the briefest scan of a poorly constructed resume.

Here are my five tips to get your resume onto my maybe pile.

Ignore resume advice

The internet is full of advice on how to produce the perfect resume (this post is no exception), and most of it is absolute bollocks. Your TAFE course likely includes being taught how to write the perfect resume. Your careers centre at high school or uni will give you endless tips on resume-writing. None of these people have a clue. Why? Because they don’t hire people. People who hire people, people who read resumes – they know what they want to see in a resume. And they are literally the only people you want to listen to.

The golden rule on resume advice: do not listen to any advice from anyone who is not involved in hiring people. Anyone else will give you bullshit advice about fonts, making your resume stand out, being quirky, including buzz words, summarizing your character. Ignore all of it. People who actually read resumes (and read them for the purpose of finding candidates to interview) will tell you what they want to see in a resume, and since that is the sort of person who you’ll be sending your resume to, they’re the people you should be taking advice from.

Include signposts

I am very lucky: I don’t read resumes on a daily basis, and I whenever I do read resumes it’s rare that I have more than four or five to get through at once. But chances are wherever you send your resume, it will be in a pile of about ninety. The first time I read your resume, I probably have around fifteen seconds to spend on it, so it’s very important I don’t spend those fifteen seconds aimlessly searching for the information I am looking for.

The way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to make your resume look as standard as possible. It should be plain, and (for want of a better word) visually boring. And the most important part of the “standard look” resume is signposts. Guide me through it. I want to know what your experience it – show me, and in a way I can find it at a glance. I want to know where you work now – make sure I can see it instantly. Any super-important skills? Signpost them.

Your resume should stand out, but not because of a quirky design, but because of outstanding achievement that stands out because I can see it at a glance.

Don’t lie

Don’t lie. At all. Don’t be misleading. If it’s “technically true”, it probably counts as a lie. If you’ve worked somewhere for ten months, you haven’t worked there for a year.

The reasons are fairly straightforward: you’ll get caught (or if you don’t, you’ll spend months or years worrying about getting caught), or you’ll end up in a job that’s just not suitable for you so you’ll hate it.

In short: don’t lie. Sell yourself, but make sure that your resume is a true, fair, and accurate representation of your experience and achievements.

Talk shop

Your resume is a business document, and it’s a marketing tool. When I’m reading your resume, I’m looking for how well you will fit into the business. So I care about how well you have fitted into other businesses. I don’t care about your personal life (and that includes your hobbies). I don’t care about your family, what books you have read, what you watch on TV.

I promise, I assume you have a personal life. I promise I understand that it’s important to have a work/life balance, and I promise that I understand you agree. I promise that I understand that when you finish work you don’t stop existing. And I also promise that if your after-work activities involve nothing but sitting on the lounge with your cat, eating Doritos and watching reality TV, I’m okay with that – I’m only – only – only interested in what you will achieve at work.

(That’s not to say if you, for example, look after the finances and budget for your church as a hobby you shouldn’t include it, because that is something I want to know.)

Your opinion is irrelevant

The number one thing I will definitely ignore on your resume is any opinion you offer of yourself. Examples include good attention to detail, excellent communication skills, or great team player. You are using this document to sell yourself so of course you are think you are all of these things. So seriously, tell me about your achievements and let me decide whether that is indicative your communication skills or your attention to detail.

Read your resume again, and for every single statement ask yourself “is this a factual example of something I have achieved or is it a quality I am claiming to have”. If it’s the latter, replace it with the former or delete it altogether,

Your resume is a marketing tool, but it’s also a business document. Keep it relevant, keep it business-like, and keep it true. Your resume should stand out, but not because of gimmicks, but because of factual achievements that easy for the reader to find.

Good luck!


Any thoughts? Let me know in the comments! Any resume faux pas, or things you’ve seen that you loved? Let me know!

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