While advancements in technology have had a massive impact on staffing tools and processes, the one piece that has remained relatively unchanged is the resume.
While there have been efforts to move to a more functional format for resumes, hiring managers and recruiters determined that a chronological structure was easier to read as well as manage within their tracking systems. Another effort that has yet to gain meaningful traction are the use of sell sheets or other marketing profiles as an introduction. While these are a great tool to highlight key accomplishments and impact, the lack of context regarding the position held or the dates involved can result in more questions than answers.
Instead of trying to differentiate yourself with charts, fonts, colors or pictures, we recommend sticking with the traditional chronological resume. It is a proven format that is widely accepted and can easily be entered and searched with today’s applicant tracking systems. We also recommend that you avoid the following pitfalls and resume mistakes to increase the impact of your resume on the reader:
Tell the results, not the ingredients.
Too many people make the critical mistake of listing the content of their position rather than the impact they delivered. Each bullet must sell you or it should not be included. To make them more effective, try the C.A.R. method — what was the Challenge; what was the Action you took; and what was the Result of the action. The outcome will provide the reader with an understanding of your capabilities and impact. We recommend that your current role have four to six bullets while each successive role should not have more than three.
Write a short story, not a novel.
Your resume should not be longer than two pages and the focus should be on the last three positions held. While there can be exceptions to this rule for highly technical positions, the focus should be on sharing what is more important and relevant and dropping anything that is a distraction or considered filler. Consider having a section called “Early Career” where you just list the company and title but no bullets. For extensive training or publications, consider stating that those are “available on request”.
Focus on the bullseye.
You need to be focused in presenting who you are, what you have accomplished and what you can bring to your next employer. Whether you are sending your resume for a specific role or as an introduction, it should be targeted to the goal you are trying to achieve. If you are going to have various versions so that you can go for marketing, sales or business development positions, then you need make sure that your bullets and supporting commentary support that desired role.
Eye tests are for optometrists.
When your resume is focused and concise, there is no need to drop to an eight point font to get to one or two pages. The eye should be able to track the flow easily and there should be clear delineation between overview, experience, education and your other resume headers. Color, fancy fonts, and pictures are just distractions that do nothing to enhance the reader’s enjoyment or comprehension of your resume.
A rolling stone gathers no moss.
You need to keep your resume current, updating it at least annually. When you add a bullet or other piece of critical information, look to eliminate other bullets or simplify in other areas. Include your resume in your meeting with mentors and other advisors as well as with your developmental planning efforts to make sure you are gaining the experiences and exposure necessary to reach your career goals. Finally, whenever you make a change to your resume, also take the time to update your information across all professional and social networking sites.
Your resume is one of the best ways to present yourself to a hiring manager or search consultant when you cannot be there in person. Following the recommendations listed above and investing the effort and time into making sure your message and format hit the mark will definitely differentiate you from the pack.
About the Author:
With over twenty years of progressive human resources experience, Jon Sarn is a partner and president and also leads the executive recruitment practice at the Kinsley Group. With precision and insight, he serves as a strategic business partner and an honest, knowledgeable search and career consultant.
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