As a continuation of last month’s column entitled “Where Have All of the Good Résumés Gone?” let’s focus on the specifics of what a good résumé should include. How many pages? What needs to be included and what can be excluded? What do we like to see and what makes us cringe?
One page, two pages, eight? No number is ‘right’. It depends upon the experience and job responsibilities. An early-career person need only have one page whereas a tenured 25 year individual with multiple employers could easily fill two or three. But those pages better be filled with the right information.
Most boring résumés contain only job descriptions; and many times they read exactly how the company’s job duties are described. We want to see what you’ve done; a list of your accomplishments. But we also want to see how you performed the duties AND what were the results. I advise people all of the time to include hard numbers and facts, e.g. indisputable and confirmed increases in revenue year over year, percentages of growth and dollar figures. We don’t care that you sold x number of widgets. We do care about how much you sold and how you exceeded goals and objectives.
Of course, if you didn’t have that kind of success or those types of numbers aren’t relevant, then there are other ways to provide the ‘sizzle’. In either type of résumé, we want to see those action words like established, increased, managed, developed, etc. Almost any (positive) word that ends in –ed.
Once you put them all together, you can come up with a bullet point such as:
- Achieved 17% growth in 2011 with an increase in GP of 7%. Total sales increased from $2.3M to $2.7M over a one year period.
Statements like the above won’t always look that good but you get the idea. Ask yourself ‘How did I make a difference?’ The answer will give you some more bullet points to add.
Some of the things that we dislike, but see often are:
- Misspellings. For instance, in our industry we have a manufacturer and a company that will manufacture something. These are NOT the same thing. The same problem occurs often with a ‘Manufacturer’s Rep’ being called a ‘Manufacture Rep’.
- Too much information. Unless you’re under the age of 25 or do not have any college at all, we don’t care about your high school. In addition, never include anything resembling anything religious or political. It’s not relevant and could be harmful.
- ALL CAPS. With few exceptions, having everything in upper case letters just begs for a misspelling. Spell-Check will not make corrections when you do that. Avoid.
- Never place references on a résumé. There is a time and place for that. Later.
- Functional Résumé? Don’t even think about it. If this term is new to you, purge it from your memory after reading. The format is non-chronological and ‘highlights’ experience or job stability. This is a red flag to us as it gives the perception that there is something to hide. There usually is.
Keywords: What kind of future position are you looking for? Are you posting your résumé on a job board or a company’s online form? If so, make sure that you include the right keywords so you can be found. This is one way of finding you. For instance, if you are searching for an ‘industrial automation’ position, make sure that those words appear somewhere on the résumé. Don’t assume that you can be found without those critical words.
We want to see excitement in a résumé. You only have a couple of hundred words to sell yourself. Make them count.