Yes, an interview – not a job. Remember: a resume, no matter how well written, will not get you a job. Interviews get you jobs. The purpose of your resume is to get you interviews.
What the Hiring Manager Wants to See
As a hiring manager, the number one thing I’m looking for in a resume is not how pretty it looks, not how well you’re able to use font types and sizes, and certainly not how expensive the paper is that it’s written on.
Sure, when you make a resume it should be neat, clean and easy to read, but don’t spend a lot of time on the physical appearance.
What the hiring manager wants most is one thing: how well do your specific skills and experience match the requirements of the job. Everything else is of secondary importance.
It’s all About the Job
As a hiring manager, I don’t want to have to plow through your resume and guess what type of job you’re looking for. When you make a resume, you should have already done your research and sent me a resume specifically targeted to the job I have open.
The job posting almost always gives you much of what you need to know when you make a resume. It usually lists the experience and qualifications required. Your resume needs to clearly and specifically demonstrate that you have those exact qualifications and experience.
Yes, this means when you make a resume, you must customize it for each opening you apply for if you want to maximize your chances for an interview.
Remember: A hiring manager (for example, me!) usually only looks at your resume for about 30 seconds or less. If you don’t grab me right away by clearly showing how your qualifications match my specific job, you won’t be further considered. The resumes I put aside for further consideration are the ones that clearly demonstrate they contain the skills and experience that align closest with my opening.
Types of Resumes
There are two basic resume formats:
The chronological resume lists your prior employers in order, beginning with the most recent one first and working backward (this is because hiring managers are most interested in your recent experience). When you make a resume, remember that this is by far the most common format used and is the one most hiring managers are used to seeing and prefer. When in doubt, use the chronological format. It’s the easiest to write and is the correct choice most of the time.
The functional resume focuses on listing your skills and education first and your employment history at the end. When you make a functional resume, no details of your various jobs are given except the dates you were employed at each company, in date order – most recent job first. This is a good format if you’ve had a lot of previous jobs and want to highlight your skills and experience, and downplay the number of employers. The functional format is best for lower level and entry positions.
There is also a third resume format, called a Combination resume. It combines the skills-based Functional resume with the employer based Chronological resume. It does this by listing your most important skills on top, followed by the traditional Chronological resume format. As a Hiring Manager, I find this format to be redundant. I think you can accomplish the same thing with a strong summary statment at the beginning of a chronological format resume.
Resume Format Tips
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received resumes that are three, four, even five pages long. This is not only unnecessary, but frequently backfires. When you make a resume, if you haven’t convinced me that you’re a viable candidate on the first page, I probably won’t read any further.
As a hiring manager, here’s my best advice on resume length:
- If you’ve had three prior employers or less, keep your resume to one page.
- If you’ve had more than three employers, or your field requires detailed technical or engineering skills and you need a longer resume to demonstrate you have all the qualifications, it’s okay to have two pages – but no more. But your most important information needs to be on the first page. If you don’t sell me here, I won’t make it to the second page.
The bottom line is that if I make it to the second page and you haven’t sold me by the end of that one, you aren’t going to sell me at all. Most of my interest is in your last two or three employers anyway, so concentrate on this experience. Abbreviate the information for more than three employers in the past.
Sections to Include
1. Name and contact information
In addition to your name and address, be sure to include a phone number where you can be reached during the daytime, and a phone number where you can be reached at night. In today’s world, an email address is mandatory, so before you make resume, if you don’t have an email address you’ll need to obtain one.
2. Summary Statement
A summary statement should appear at the top of your resume, after your name and contact information and before any other information.
A summary statement is your chance to summarize accomplishments or experience that is directly related to the job for which you’re applying. Two or three bullets containing keywords relevant to the job opening can grab a hiring manager’s attention and better ensure you’re entire resume will be read. See the chronological resume sample for what a good summary statement looks like.
3. Experience and Employment Information
With a chronological resume, your experience will be included with each employer you list.
With a functional resume, your experience and skills will appear first in one section, followed by your employment history in a separate section. Your skills should be categorized and listed as short bulleted statements under each category. Your employment history should only list the company, job title and dates.
If education is a primary qualification for the job, you should list it up front in your Summary Statement. Otherwise, education should be the last section of your resume.
List your degrees or other relevant education is reverse date order. Begin with the educational institution name, followed by location, degree/certification and emphasis, and date obtained. If you’re degree is within the last three years and you had a high grade point average (3.5 or above), include it.
Word Processing Vs. Scanable Vs. Electronic Resume Formats
There are three formats you’ll need create for your resume.
Word Processing Format
This is simply the version you create on a PC, using word processing software.
Almost all companies that allow you to submit your resume as an electronic attachment will accept documents created using Microsoft Word. In fact, many companies specifically tell you to attach your resume as a Word file, so you should be sure to have a Word version stored somewhere that you can send electronically.
A scannable resume is a paper resume that is formatted to be easily read by a scanner.
Many companies today will optically scan your paper resume into a computer program that can read the scanned image and create a database of your skills, degrees and accomplishments in the form of “key words” that can later be searched.
Your scannable resume can be the same as your word processing format (by the way, you did create one in Word, didn’t you?), as long as you make the following modifications to make it easier to scan:
- Use a standard font such as Times New Roman and either 11 or 12 point font size
- Make sure to use key words that relate to the job for which you’re applying
- Avoid underlining and italics, as they are hard to read by a scanner
- Don’t staple or fold your resume
- Avoid graphics or shading of any kind
- Your resume should be on 81/2 x 11 white or light colored paper and printed with a high quality printer.
Sometimes you’ll be asked to submit your resume in a plain text electronic format, so be sure to include this format when you make a resume. This format is also good for when you want to include your resume in the body of an email instead as an attachment (some companies request this, so it’s best to be prepared).
Here too, you can use your word processing format and convert it into a plain text format. Here’s some general instructions on how to convert a Word document to plain text:
- Open your Word document, select the File command and choose Save As.
- In the “Save As” box at the bottom, select “Plain Text” and click “Save”.
- Close the document you’re working on and reopen the plain text version.
- Delete any grapics that may remain, such as lines, images and bullet points. Replace bullet points with asterisks.
- Change the font type to Arial.
- For emphasis and to introduce major sections, use all uppercase letters instead of bold or underlining.
- hen you’re done, save the file and reopen it again to see how it looks. Make any additional format changes that may be necessary.
- Try sending an email to yourself (or a friend) with your electronic resume in the body of the message rather than as an attachment, to see how it looks.
General Resume Writing Tips
Here are some resume writing tips that apply regardless of which format you choose when you make a resume:
- Make sure your resume contains the keywords that apply to the job opening for which you’re applying. By keywords, I mean the words or short phrases that might be used to find your qualifications in a resume database. What’s the best source for keywords? Why, the nouns and adjectives in the job description itself, of course. These are the words and phrases a keyword search will most likely look for. Be sure to use synonyms for these words, also. When you make a resume, your goal is to give your resume the greatest likelihood of being found by an automated keyword search.
- Never, ever tell even a small white lie on your resume.
- Do not list references in your resume or use the phrase “references available upon request.” Employers presume you have references and will ask when they want them.
- Rather than using general statements about your qualifications and experience, state them in terms that most closely match the job for which you’re applying.
- State your responsibilities in terms of accomplishments, not just a description of your duties. For example, instead of saying “designed a new accounts receivable procedure”, say “designed a new accounts receivable procedure that reduced overdue accounts by 30 percent”.
- Use bullets liberally when you make a resume. They are much easier for the Hiring Manager to read. At least half – if not more – of your resume should be in the form of bullets.
- Most people list computer skills at the end of the resume, which is fine if they are incidental to the job. But if computer skills are important in the job you’re applying for, list you computer skills at the top of your resume.
- Have someone else read your resume for 20 seconds and ask them if they could see your main qualifications in that time period.