Resumes are a tool we’ve all used - as job applicants, hiring managers, or as a recruiter. In my case, it’s been all three! From the time we were in high school, we’ve heard or read advice on what a resume should look like and what information should be included. Sometimes it can be conflicting and confusing because everyone has their own opinion of what makes a good resume. However, in my experience, I’ve found these tips to be universally helpful when updating my own resume or reviewing others'.
1. Only include relevant information
Including only relevant information is harder than it sounds, and can encompass a few different things. One of them is the previous experience you list. Recruiters and managers that look at your resume are looking at hundreds, if not more, every week - they’re usually not spending a lot of time going over the resume in extreme detail, unless there’s something that catches their eye. In fact, research has shown that the average recruiter spends just 7.4 seconds skimming a resume initially.
Instead of including a long, detailed description of each position you’ve held, include a few-line summary of the main responsibilities of the position, and the skills that you used or learned (especially if the position you’re applying for is technical in nature). Relevant information can also mean not including every position you’ve ever had - if it’s not relevant to the job you’re applying for, it may be best not to include it! Instead, include a note at the beginning of your experience stating that you’ve only included selected work experience and that full details are available upon request.
2. Keep a record of your accomplishments
If you’ve ever started a job search after being with a company for an extended period, you’ll know the struggle of having to update your resume after a few years. It can be hard to get started! These days, people switch jobs more often (in 2018, the average American stayed at a job for only 4.2 years), resumes are having to be updated more frequently.
To make that easier for you when the time comes to job search, keep a record of what you’ve achieved at your current role, and remember to include numbers. Being able to quantify what you’ve done shows the person reviewing your application that you have the ability to achieve results and do your job well. When I started my job search after several years at the same company, updating my resume took a lot longer than I wanted it to - simply because I didn’t know how to efficiently sum up my accomplishments without data and without some method of organization.
3. Include your correct contact information
Another piece of information that is important on a resume is contact information - how else are you going to get that interview? It may seem obvious, but if you haven’t updated your resume in a while, that header may need some work. Because I had transferred within the same company, I had moved provinces and changed my phone number before I had to update my resume again, and without double-checking that piece of information, I may not have been contacted.
It is beneficial to also include a link to your LinkedIn profile. Many hiring managers and recruiters are also viewing the online service as part of the recruitment process - in fact, many Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) require you to enter the link to your profile as part of the submission process. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up to date, and that it matches your resume.
4. Proofread until it's perfect
I cannot stress enough how important this step is in the process. As a hiring manager, I came across way too many resumes that had the phrase “detail-oriented” spelled incorrectly. It may seem like a small thing but remember - your resume is the first impression that you make on a company, and you want it to be a good one. After spell-checking, have someone else read your resume to make sure that it's easy to read and tells your story well. Things to consider include verb tenses (do they match - past experience should be in the past tense) and word usage (does it create the impact you’re looking for - consider the difference between the words ‘lead’ and ‘spearheaded’).
5. Be vigilant in checking the submission guidelines
There’s nothing worse than coming across a job opportunity that you would be perfect for, spending time to update your resume and then not being considered for it. When resumes are submitted online, often they go through an ATS before they are viewed by the company recruiter or hiring manager. That means that if your submission is uploaded in the wrong file format or submitted too late, it won’t be considered because the online system will automatically disqualify it. Double-check that your files are in the right format, that you’ve uploaded the correct number of documents, that all your information is correct, and that you’re submitting it for the correct job posting.
Creating or updating a resume can seem like a difficult task but I hope that these tips are helpful and get you noticed. Good luck with your job search!