Although I’m not a language or communications major, I have read thousands of resumes over my career and thought I’d offer up a short list of thoughts and resources as a guide.
Most of us think our resume is well written which is why, when we are finished with v 1.0 of our “masterpiece”, we should ask the following types of people to review it.
When asking for someone else’s time and honest opinion, be gracious and thankful. Constructive feedback is a gift!
✔ A colleague who does the same / similar work as you
✔ A recruiter in your field
✔ A Hiring Manager in your field
✔ A Marketing, Sales, and/or Communications professional
✔ A professional resume writer. I put professional resume writer last since your experience may be enhanced if you’ve sought guidance with some of the first 4 types of people, in advance. Yes, the investment in a professional is worth it.
There are two main points I look for in resumes.
1.) Role clarity. What did you do? Is this clear?
2.) Accomplishments. Specific accomplishments that set you apart from your peers. The best article I’ve read on crafting accomplishments is HERE
My opinions on various questions I get about resumes?
- Does your resume have to be a set length (i.e. 1-2 pages)? NO. However, brevity and clarity rule. If encapsulating your work history, role and accomplishments is 3 pages so be it.
- Should I include an “Objective Statement”? NO. Objective statements tend to rule candidates out or don’t get read which, is counterproductive in either case.
- Should I include a “Professional Summary”? Yes. A key paragraph of your KSA’s (knowledge, skills, and abilities) helps me get a sense of you.
- Avoid self-characterizations / adjectives such as “team player” or “outgoing”. These characterizations are 100% superfluous on a resume. Let me come to these conclusions through examples you offer up in an interview and/or through professional references.
- Use Short Reference Quotes. I’ve seen a rise in the use of quotes on resumes in more recent years, which may be akin to a LinkedIn recommendation. If used strategically, I like them.
- Graphs and Pie Charts. I’ve also seen a rise in the use of the use of graphs and pie charts to demonstrate accomplishments. I like the idea of a visual representation. The downside may be that these may not be conducive to use in an applicant tracking system (ATS) format. More information about ATS formats can be found at JobScan in the list of resources, below. It is fine to have an ATS AND Hiring Manager version of your resume.
- Hyperlink the URL’s of the companies you have worked for in your resume and write 1-2 sentences about what they do. Example? GeneCoda – A boutique professional and executive search firm focused on the Life Science industry.
- Send/upload an MS Word file of your resume. Certain systems prefer one or the other in terms of formatting in a database and most I’ve seen prefer MS Word. Make it easy on your reader!
- Headers or footers? NO. Not on electronic versions. ATS’s and databases can distort these and I’ve even seen them stripped off to the point where I can’t locate someone’s name/contact information! Again, make it easy on you and your reader.
- White Font Key Words? Still investigating. The White Font idea is explained HERE. I’ve read quite a few derogatory articles and encourage you to explore but I disagree with a lot of what I’ve seen. How the practice is considered in any way unethical or deceptive, in and of itself, is beyond me. What is the difference between the use of “white font”, a “keyword” section with small font (consider the trailers of TV ads such as for litigation services) or a regular (but potentially longer) resume with a keyword section? It’s all the same effect as a robot is picking up a keyword in each case? If a candidate is being deceptive about their skills and trying to purposefully trick an ATS, this is unethical! My use case is for a surrogate word that means the same thing as what the robot picks up in its keyword search. “Thank you” and “Merci” mean the same thing in different languages. As a practical application, I’d first try to work keywords into the context of the resume itself and/or have a keywords section, but for expansion of a keywords section to include surrogate words, I might be inclined to keep the “white font” or another similar method. Obviously, it would be best to know what the ATS algorithm actually does to optimize any of these practices.
The following resources can assist you in the construction of your resume.
Grammarly (Checks your writing for proper English)
Thesaurus.com (When you need an alternative word)
Wordle (Paste your resume into a word cloud. See what happens!)
Jobscan (Paste your resume against an actual job description)