You all have been listening to me spew advice, thoughts, peeves, rants and other information for a long time now. For that, I must say thank you. I have a lot of experience and lot of knowledge, but it’s all self-taught and learned through many years of keen observation and asking enough questions to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The point is: I know what I’m talking about and I don’t make stuff up because it sounds good.
One thing I know – for absolutely certain – is what employers (recruiters, specifically) are looking for when they review resumes and assess applications. Bottom line? They’re looking for formatting faux-pas, spelling snafus, and informational inconsistencies as much as they’re looking for employment experience and skill set. Yes, the alliteration is fun, but what those alliterative allusions allude to (sorry, couldn’t help myself) could be detrimental to your job search. You can be certain they’re testing you.
Have you ever asked yourself this question: “I’ve put out tons of resumes, I know my stuff and I’m an great candidate, so why am I not getting any call backs?”
First of all, the very best piece of advice I can give you is, “SLOW DOWN!” You may be in a hurry to get a job, and therefore in a hurry to update your resume and start submitting applications, but don’t. Hurry, that is. Take your time. Be thoughtful. Be deliberate. And BE HONEST.
Secondly, when you put together your resume, have a trusted friend look it over. Heck, have two friends look it over. Ask your friend to not only look for glaring errors, but ask them to think like a recruiter: what would they want to see? If possible, show your friend a copy of one of the job ads you’ve responded to and ask them to impartially consider the match. Also, have them take resume format into account. Not just the way your resume is laid out on paper, but to look for spacing problems or things that just seem…off. Then, no matter what they say, listen.
Third, SPELL CHECK! This cannot be stressed enough. You could be the best match for the job, but spelling errors could get you fired before you’ve even gotten the job. Most employers aren’t going to think, “Well, she looks great on paper, and those spelling errors are probably just accidents, so let’s get her in here for an interview.” They’re not going to give you the benefit of the doubt. They are looking for the best, so be the best. Further, most spelling errors aren’t accidents. Yes, typos happen, but the worst thing you can do is show a potential employer you don’t know how to spell. The second worst is showing them you didn’t bother to spell check your work. Spell Check is there for a reason, so use it.
And lastly, be very careful about inconsistencies with your time-line. In any type of resume, if you list start and end dates of a previous job and then have months or years in between listing your next job, consider saying something of what you were doing during that time. For example: From July 2012 through January 2013 assisted a family member recovering from major surgery. Whatever the case may be, say something so a potential employer knows you were not simply sitting around on the couch, eating yellow cheesy sludge out of a bucket with your fingers, and hollering at the television while collecting an unemployment check. For that matter, if you were collecting unemployment, you may want to say something like: From July 2012 through January 2013 was actively seeking permanent employment.
One other thing. It is in your best interest to keep your resume to one page, or two pages printed on one sheet if you’re using hard copy. It is definitely a challenge to get all of your important information on one back-to-back page, but if a recruiter has to read War and Peace, they’re going to get bored awfully quickly. Would you want to risk it?
The above tidbits don’t just apply to resumes, but also to online applications and any forms a potential employer may send you to fill out. Also, understand this: Your resume is not the right place for elaborating. The interview itself is the right place and time for further explanations and storytelling. A recruiter worth his or her salt will only pre-screen potential employees who pass the resume test. If you’re job hunting, go back and really look at your resume. Do you think YOU would pass the resume test?
PS: Tananda says. “For the love of all that is holy… do not use some sort of decorative font or put artwork/graphics/selfies all over it.” For what it’s worth, I wholeheartedly agree. Once you’ve got the words on the paper, let them speak for themselves.