Did you know that employers spend an average of 5-7 seconds the first time they look at your resume? Once they have divided resumes into “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” piles, they will often take a second look, this time for perhaps 20 seconds. If they are really interested in you and considering inviting you for an interview, employers may spend about 1 minute reviewing your resume for the third time. With such a short time to convince the employer to read further, your resume must be clearly targeted to the position you are interested in. An employer should never wonder why you submitted your resume or be forced to spend time trying to figure out how you fit.
The purpose of any resume is to get you – the candidate – noticed, ensuring you move forward in the hiring process. In other words, the purpose of the resume is to secure interviews. Although there are resume best practices you should adhere to, sometimes employers have strange and secret ways to screen people in or out and, too often, this is only based on Profile, Highlights of Qualifications or Summary of Qualifications section. Anything from font type and colour and overall length (both too long and too short) to a resume format/style that the reviewer dislikes could get you screened out, without a careful review of the details. Ultimately, all you can do is take the time to write the best resume possible, targeted to each position and employer… and this will take time!!
Think of your resume in terms of available space, or real estate. You have limited space on a page to demonstrate to the employer why you are the best candidate for the position and, therefore, worth interviewing. An employer should never wonder why something was included in your resume. It is your job to make the link between your skills/experience and the position explicit, and immediately clear. Avoid including something in your resume because you think it needs to be there; everything in your resume either adds value or detracts from your candidacy. It is all about relevance to the position.
To begin, select the type of resume that best fits your situation, and the type of work you are seeking:
Chronological Resumes highlight work history in reverse chronological order (i.e., most recent position is listed first). Duties, achievements, and skills acquired are included under each position providing a detailed listing of accomplishments aligned to each position. You should use a chronological resume if:
Functional Resumes highlight your relevant skills instead of work history. Skills are often grouped or categorized under meaningful headings (e.g., Sales and Marketing, Administration). Work (or employment) history is minimized to a simple list of positions held, employer name, and dates employed. You should use a functional resume if:
Combination Resumes bring together the important elements of the functional and chronological types, allowing you to highlight your skills and work experience separately and consistently by providing proofs of your skills in action. A combination resume usually prioritizes skills before the work history section. Your work experience section should support your skills section by weaving in how you used the skills in each of your jobs, using powerful accomplishment statements. A combination resume would work best if:
In order to succeed in today's job market, you have to think of your resume as an advertisement targeted towards your future boss.
There is significant debate over which resume format might be best and the answer can vary depending on your individual circumstances, the industry you are interested in, even the specific position. Visit this link for further information on types of resumes, and how to decide which will work best for your scenario.
Ultimately, the format you choose should be the one that best sells you for the position you want, in a targeted way. Your job is to make it easy for the employer to see the connection between what they need and what you offer.
The standard information included on resumes (regardless of format) includes:
This is a short statement that outlines your broader career goals while linking you to the position you are applying for. In 2-3 lines forming a brief paragraph, not a bulleted list, summarize your career goal in the context of the position you are applying for. The biggest problem with most career objectives is they are too generic, rendering them a tad useless and therefore wasting valuable space. 50% of employers want to see an objective statement, whereas 50% do not. Carefully research the job and write a very targeted objective that sells you, or else leave this piece off your resume.
Here are some examples of strong, targeted objective statements:
“To use my initiative, research, problem solving and team-building skills to develop solutions to climate change issues and educate North Americans in how to be environmentally responsible.”
“A management role with a pharmaceutical industry leader in a dynamic, team setting using my interpersonal and analytical skills to maximize cancer patient care and build the business.”
“To use my counselling skills, presence, and passion to support adults in their process of recognizing and accessing their strengths and resources to create their preferred future, within an organization whose mission is to improve people’s quality of life.”
This is a summary of your relevant background and skills, targeted to the job, and can include:
This section can be written using bullet points, or a short paragraph (3-5 lines). Employers typically read this section first and may do their first screening by only reading this section, so it’s critical. Here are some examples:Bulleted format:
A Learning and Development professional, with a Masters in Adult Ed., 10+ years designing and delivering 50+ adult education topics and coaching clients towards success, 12 years as an entrepreneur. Well-rounded, with experience in private, public, non-profit, and educational sectors. A doer who makes concrete results happen quickly and values doing what’s right over what is easy. Personally driven to help others create a rewarding life by facilitating self-discovery to achieve precious goals.
A Holistic Nutrition and Energy Medicine Professional with an Honours certificate in Applied Holistic Nutrition, plus over 15 years involvement in Nutritional Medicine: I love people, am an exceptional communicator and team player with an intuitive gift for holistic client-centered assessment. I approach my work with passion, compassion, and a strong desire to facilitate healing.
Include your post-secondary education, credentials and certifications, and specific courses, making sure to only include what is relevant to the position.
Feature only your last 3 jobs OR the past 10 years – unless your experience prior to that is relevant. Only include descriptions of positions that are relevant to the job. If you have chosen a functional format, this section will simply be a listing of your previous jobs. If you are trying to avoid showing gaps in employment, you can include jobs that are not relevant, but limit these to a listing of 1-2 lines to show chronology of your work history without the detail.
Can be important to include, again if space is available and if there is a link between this information and the position you are applying for.
Can be included if you have space but remember that your resume is all about real estate and selling yourself as the ideal candidate. If you do not have sufficient space or cannot link your hobbies or volunteer work to the position, best to leave this out.
Can be included if space permits, i.e., links to your professional (not personal) profiles, only if they relate to the position and showcase your relevant talents. LinkedIn is a good one to include. If you have a website related to the career you are pursuing, include a link to it. Here is a great video that explains how to include social media icons in your resume. Do not include social media icons if applying online, as screening software will not recognize them.
In your resume, action verbs are powerful tools that can highlight your achievements and accomplishments. They are a way to clearly communicate skills and experience and can be important tools for capturing the employer’s attention. Remember, all you have is 5-7 seconds making each word you choose incredibly important. Don’t, however, just start replacing simpler words with more complicated ones; this is not an exercise in using a Thesaurus. The action verbs must make sense in your context and be something you can speak to in an interview.
Here is a great list to get you started: https://resumegenius.com/blog/resume-help/action-verbs
Ensuring employers understand what skills and attributes you can bring to the role is a critically important part of resume development. Whenever possible, match the terms you use with those the employer, or industry uses. You can identify these words by analyzing job postings, conducting informational interviews and paying attention to the skills employers, in general, are looking for. Skills can be sorted into various categories, such as Employability Skills and Innovation Skills along with hard and soft skills.