By: Julia Bellotti
While resumes are very straightforward in theory, they are challenging to compose correctly. Resumes are intended to highlight your past experiences, skills, and education to introduce yourself to a potential employer.
Similar to the cover letter, there are a myriad of resources that can provide different information regarding the format, length, and content of a resume. I sat down with expert recruiter, Gayle Levin, current Director of Human & Resource Management at Schreiber Translations, Inc., with 20+ years experience in HR, to learn what recruiters really look for in a resume.
Each category below is broken into general advice and the expert’s advice. Expert advice has been paraphrased. Sample resume formats are located at the end.
Your resume should look clean. Your name and contact information should be at the top of the page. Your name should be in slightly larger text to stand out. There should be headings for each section: Summary/Objective, Education, Experience, Skills, and Awards/Certifications. All jobs listed should have the company name, location, your title, and dates worked in a Month/Year format. You should have a white background. Your font should be easy to read. You should have ½ inch – 1-inch margins so that if/when your resume is printed, no text is cut off. Every bullet point should have a period at the end. Some recruiters can only spend 30 seconds looking at your resume so you want to make it as easy as possible for them to read what you want them to know about you.
Expert Advice: Keep it clean. Creative fonts and images can distract the reader. Do not include a photo of yourself, your family, etc. Do include your address! Or at the very least, include your city and state. Many companies cannot afford to pay for relocation, so it helps them know that you are already local.
Format and Style:
There are two main formats of resumes: chronological and functional. A chronological resume highlights your past positions in order from the most to the least recent. Experience would be the primary section of a chronological resume. This is great for someone who’s had steady employment or many years of experience. A functional resume highlights your skills and abilities rather than when you did them. The Interview Guys recommend using a functional resume if you’re trying to switch industries or may have gaps in your work history. You can also use a combination of the two, but this is less common.
Expert Advice: The traditional thinking in HR on functional resumes is that they’re hiding something. I prefer the chronological resume because you can’t go wrong with it. That being said, you want to tailor the style to the company you’re applying for.
You may have heard that resumes should only be one page. You may have also heard they can be two or more pages. This is where it’s up to you. Your resume should be as long as you want it to be in order to convey to a recruiter your experience and skills. I do not recommend going more than 2 pages. Remember, they may still only have 30 seconds to read it. However, the good news with today’s technology is that your resume can link to your LinkedIn profile or other personal website that includes more details of your experience.
Expert Advice: Many companies use online submission systems where length is not a factor since recruiters can’t tell from a webpage what one “page” is. Yes, it’s ultimately up to the applicant on whether they do a 1-page or 2-page resume.
Even if your resume is expertly formatted, you need to sound interesting and qualified enough to get that interview! Under each job position, in perfect grammar, you want to include what you did and your accomplishments. Each bullet point needs to be a “wow” bullet point.
Take the following examples:
These 3 examples definitely tell the recruiter something about what this person did. They used active verbs, which are highly recommended, but these are not “wow” bullets. How many counterfeit bills did they identify? What does “good working environment” mean? Can anything be elaborated?
Here are their “wow” versions:
You can immediately see the changes. In general, all the author did was elaborate and provide specific details. She clarified questions the reader may have about her job position, and she completely rewrote the 3rd bullet point to detail an accomplishment instead of a job duty. That says a lot more to a recruiter than what her job description was. Every bullet point you put needs to be a “wow” bullet point.
Your resume needs to be tailored to the company and position you’re applying for. Similar to the cover letter, you will need to have separate resumes for each position you apply for. If you’re applying for the same type of position at several companies, there won’t be too much variation in your resume versions. Still, everything on your resume needs to be relevant to the position. Are you applying for a graphic design position? Your paid college internship as a sports writer might be better replaced by volunteer design work you did for a local non-profit.
Your resume also needs to be completely devoid of any typos. I cannot emphasize this enough. There’s nothing like a great resume with spelling mistakes all over the place. It tells the recruiter you didn’t care enough about the position to take five seconds to click “check spelling.”
Expert Advice: Don’t simply copy and paste the job description. If your resume is going into an automated applicant tracking system where key words are highly valued, there are definitely ways to incorporate key words into your resume without copying and pasting the job description.
Action verbs are good, but make sure to vary them. You don’t want to constantly be saying you managed something. Accomplishments are always good to mention, especially in any sales-type positions. If you use “we”, recruiters know that you personally didn’t really do whatever you’re saying you did. You can elaborate without embellishing. We know that if you were only at a school for a year, it’s highly unlikely you were president of an organization.
We want to see that you’ve taken the time to look over your resume and that it aligns with what you’re looking for. I will actually forgive one or two typos in a resume. I know that everyone makes some mistakes. However, any more than that is a red flag.
Should I include…?
…A clean, but fancy font?
With the varying computer operating systems, be mindful of the font that you’re using. Try sending a copy of your resume from a Mac to a PC and vice versa. Does it stay the same? You may notice it’s one page on one device, but shows up as two pages on another.
…My college GPA?
Expert Advice: In certain industries such as research or science and technology, GPA and school matters. IF you want to put your GPA on, make sure it’s a good one.
…My job as a camp counselor/retail worker/grocery cashier?
Expert Advice: Yes! I like when applicants include the not-so-glamorous jobs because it shows they worked hard.
…My interests and hobbies?
This really depends on the company. You can usually get a feel from your research about a company if they would be the type of people that would appreciate your interests. If they’re relevant to the position, then by all means include them but do not go overboard.
Expert Advice: You should put something that will connect you to the reader. Maybe you were in a leadership position in your sorority or fraternity. Maybe you did a sport for over 10 years. These things tell the recruiter a little bit more about you as a person.
If you have any further questions for our expert, Gayle Levin, comment below! She is also open to receiving questions through her LinkedIn found here. Her final piece of advice is “Make sure your resume matches your LinkedIn profile!” Good luck and happy job hunting!