Successful resumes can take on many forms depending on the type of job you are looking for. For example, a resume focusing on middle management will look different from that of a salesperson. Even more contrary is the information technology resume. The IT resume must convey many messages that are accurate, complete, and easy to read.
Below are some helpful suggestions for building and maintaining your winning resume. As recruiters, we see many resumes every day; some good, some bad. We also get feedback from our clients about what they like to see, and what they don’t. Use these tips and techniques as the building blocks of your resume, then add some creativity to make it your own.
Your Resume’s Purpose
When starting your resume, keep its true purpose in mind. The purpose of your resume is to get an interview. Have you ever known anyone who has been hired directly off of their resume, without even meeting the people they will be working for? In the professional world, it doesn’t happen. The job of those who will be reading your resume is to decide who will be called in for the first series of interviews. That’s it. So keep your wording and format geared to those people who will be scheduling interviews. Human Resources and I.S. Directors are the people most likely to read your resume first. Make it easy to read and give them just enough compelling evidence to justify bringing you in for an interview.
The 5-7 Second Rule
As mentioned above, someone in Human Resources or the I.S. Director might initially evaluate your resume. If someone in HR gets the distinct pleasure of perusing your resume first, they will typically not have enough time in the day to read every resume thoroughly. Many will skim it for 5-7 seconds to determine whether or not to continue. Obviously, if they aren’t interested in reading further, they aren’t interested in interviewing you either. Although this is not a hard-and-fast rule, why take chances? Upon completion of your resume, a nontechnical person should be able to pick up your complete resume and in 5-7 seconds tell you the high points of your professional qualifications. You can still go into detail about your many accomplishments, training, and experience, but make it easy to read by using bullet lists, highlighted words, italicized words, different fonts (don’t go crazy!), and emphatic spacing.
The First Page
The first page of your resume should have five key elements:
- Your name – Big and easy to see (you might be surprised at the number of resumes we see without a name).
- Your contact information – Include the best way someone may contact you during the workday.
- Your skill set – Many HR people do not speak technology, so they look for keywords to match against their job description. This is a big help in painting your ‘technology picture.’
- Education and Certifications – Include degrees, pertinent coursework and certifications.
- Experience – Start with the most recent experience first, then work backwards – include your title, the company name, month/year of starting and stopping work, and list of responsibilities and duties.
Set Yourself Apart
Companies love to hire people that make a positive impact on their company. If you have examples of instances where you have made the company money, saved the company money, or improved a process that positively impacted the bottom line, make sure you call attention to it on your resume. Of course we all know that IT does all of those things for a company anyway, but when you make a personal impact, it stands out.
Just Say No.
Your resume does not have to be the be-all-end-all of your personal and professional life. It is a truthful marketing document to secure an interview. The overall rule with resumes and interviewing is to only discuss your professional life, not your personal life. These are the things to avoid on your resume.
- Your salary requirements – There is a time and place to discuss this and your resume is not it.
- Lies – Don’t lie or even ‘pad’ your resume with false or misleading statements. Yes, you can use flashy language to jazz it up, but make sure the facts are true.
- Social Security number – I know… you’re thinking, “Really?!” Yes. We still see them on resumes every once in a while. For your own protection, leave it off your resume.
- Reason for termination – You can talk about it in the interview, not on your resume. If you list them, it screams that there is an issue there.
- Personal information – Don’t list your hobbies, religious affiliation, family, marital status, height, weight, skin color, age, how much you like Downton Abbey, etc. Keep it to business.