How to write an eye catching resume

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What is a killer resume? A killer resume is a resume that gets you an interview. Period. It may not be the flashiest, fanciest, most unusual or best designed resume. But it has the best content because it concisely, articulately and succinctly demonstrates that you can solve the hiring manager’s problem or add value to the company.

But how do you know what that problem is or what value they need? Here is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. It’s up to you to find this out and then to tailor your resume (at least somewhat) to demonstrate this for each job you apply to. But what if you can’t find this information out? What if you are simply answering a blind ad on a job site? Then you make your best guess.

Securing an interview is the ONLY reason to create a resume. And the only way to secure the interview is to demonstrate the above.

And you have 15 seconds tops to do that in. Huh? That’s right. The BEST of resumes are only read for an average of 15 seconds? That’s what the statistics say. Now, look at your watch – measure 15 seconds. Not a lot of time is it? How can you possibly portray your experience, qualifications, achievements, personality, etc. in 15 seconds? You can. And if you want an interview, you must.

To help you, I’ve put together a list of Top 10 Tips. If you follow these you’re sure to make your 15 seconds of fame count (and you may even get an interview out of it.) In fact, many of my clients report going from not receiving a call for an interview in months to receiving multiple calls per day once they reformat their resume using these tips.

Go ahead. I dare you. You have nothing to lose, and if my client’s past experience is any indication, everything to gain.

So, in ascending order of importance:

  1. How far is too far?
    The only reason to go back more than 10 years is to demonstrate that you have experience that is beneficial to the job you are applying for, that you have not done in recent times. Otherwise, there is no need. Would you really want to do a job you did 10 years ago?
  2. The company does what?
    It’s very important to let the reader know what your previous employers do, especially if you’re in a position of responsibility,. A sentence or two on the size of the company, the company’s products and any other relevant information helps the hiring manager understand your background in more depth.
  3. Don’t look like a job hopper when you’re not!
    Many candidates list different positions within 1 company as completely separate jobs, repeating the company name, etc. Interviewers are basically lazy (and you would be too if you had the number of resumes to read that they do at the moment). At first glance they may not realize that you’ve been promoted every 18 months to 2 years (which is a good thing). They may interpret your format to mean that you’ve changed jobs every 18 months to 2 years (not such a good thing). The proper format is to list the company name and details once and make it stand out (larger font, Bold and Underlined, etc). Then list each position underneath and make it obvious that they are positions within the same company.
  4. How long is too long?
    Remember the 15 second rule? Resumes should be from 1 – 2 pages in the United States and up to 4 (at the most!) pages elsewhere in the world, depending on your level of experience. Less is more, as long as it’s impactful. The only exception to this is a traditional Curriculum Vitae, which would be used in academia or scientific fields.
  5. A picture tells 1,000 words.
    Except on resumes. The rule of thumb here is never include your picture on your resume. Ever. Full stop. Period. The end.
  6. Ditto
    In regards to including your age, marital status, children or pets names (don’t laugh, I’ve seen more than 1!) see #6.
  7. Form over substance.
    Again, remember the 15 second rule? Make it easy for the interviewer to read your resume and keep it from the bin. Use lots of white space, put paragraphs into bullet points, don’t use a lot of different fonts, standardize your presentation and be concise and articulate in your descriptions.
  8. Once is never enough.
    One standard resume is generally not sufficient to apply for every role you look at. I encourage my candidates to have 2 – 3 resumes highlighting different areas of expertise. But always, always always customize your resume to the job you are applying for.
  9. I’ll call you.
    Make sure that you have your contact details (name, phone number and email are sufficient these days) in your header or at least on the top of your first page. Don’t make the interviewer struggle to figure out how to contact you or they may just say, “next!” Also, make sure that you have voice mail turned on if you’re actively looking (with an appropriate message). And nowadays it’s perfectly appropriate to include your Linkedin Profile in your contact details as well.
  10. Substance over form
    The most important thing on your resume is not your duties and responsibilities, not your education, awards or qualifications. The most important thing on your resume is your achievements. Your achievements should be specific accomplishments that are a result of your doing your job or (preferably) going above and beyond your job description. They are what separates you from others with the same experience. Having specific, quantifiable, robust achievements will do more to differentiate your resume from the hundreds of other applying for the same roles than anything else. Get this right and you will have hiring managers calling you within hours to set up interviews.

Achievements are:

  • The end result of a project
  • A demonstration of your going above and beyond
  • An accolade or award
  • Typically quantifiable

Achievements are NOT:

  • A process procedure
  • Part of your job description
  • Expected as a routine part of your daily work

Bonus: I know I shouldn’t have to say this but I must, given the number of spelling and grammatical errors I see on resumes. Spell check!!! It’s easy enough to do with today’s software.
It’s also a good idea to have at least 3 people look it over, including at least one person that has no idea what you actually do. Many human resources people do the first screen on roles that they are not that familiar with. Having someone unfamiliar with what you do ensures that anyone can follow your resume.
Your resume doesn’t need to win awards. What it does need to do is keep the reader engaged long enough to have him or her say, “I need to call this person for an interview.”

By following these simple steps you will come one step closer to hearing those words you long for, “You’re hired!”


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