Resume Tips & Tricks To Help You Get Hired

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two years looking at hundreds of resumes, and discarding most of them before doing more than just giving them a glance. For you as a job seeker this is a depressing fact, I know.  But take heart! I know that all of you can be successful in your future employment goals. I also know that there is a ton of terrible advice being given by so-called professionals about how to make your resume ‘stand out’.

To combat the bad advice and help you really stand out in positive ways, I’ve put this little piece together.

1. Write your resume to focus on your accomplishments, not your job duties. Most hiring managers know what duties are done just by looking at a job title. You’ll make yourself stand out by writing about what you got done in your job that another person in the same role didn’t.

2. Tailor your resume to aim at the job you are applying for, not just any job. This one requires quite a bit of effort, I know, but taking the time to really go over your resume and using it to reflect your special qualities for this particular job will help you stand out.

3. Don’t include an objective statement. You don’t need to waste the space on it, and we know that what your true objective is to find a job. Anything else is just blah blah blah. Even worse, if your objective is anything other than the exact field that you are applying for, all you’ve done is send the message “I’m not really interested in this job, but what the heck, email is free.”

4. Consider adding a profile section to the top. A well-written profile or summary can provide an overall framing for your candidacy.

5. Get rid of chunks of text. (See what I did there?) Use bullets to keep us from going to sleep; we look at so many resumes our eyes want to glaze over. Make it easy on us and spoon feed us that juicy information.

6. Speaking of bullet points: keep it short and focused. You know about the rule that your resume shouldn’t be longer than two pages, right? I’ll tell you now, if you are a recent graduate or have only a few jobs in your career, don’t let it spill beyond one page. Longer resumes feel padded, and make us doubt your ability to know what is and isn’t important.

7. If you have lots of jobs: edit them. A resume is, first and foremost, a marketing document. If your time as a swim coach in high school isn’t relevant to the job you are applying for, leave it off your resume.

8. Don’t leave off volunteer work just because you weren’t paid for it. Volunteer work can be a great way to fill in employment gaps, demonstrate initiative, or even relevant experience. Put it on – if it makes sense. Note that, in relation to #7, you should be editing from the oldest part of your work history. Don’t edit in gaps in your employment!

9. I, and my colleagues, do not care one little bit about your hobbies, sexual orientation, politics, marital status, family history, or salary history. Leave that information off your resume. (Picture, too.)

10. Watch out for inconsistencies! We do, and they lead us to all sorts of (negative) thoughts. Proper capitalization, consistent fonts, verb tense . . . nitpicky, yes. But when you’ve got 100 resumes for one job, anything becomes a sorting factor. Protip: catching out a typo in an ad placement on craigslist doesn’t win any points. You don’t know who was responsible for writing it, and you probably aren’t even the tenth person to mention it.

11. To go along with #2: always write a specific-to-the-job cover letter. You can have a generic format, but do your best to customize it. (Watch the font!) The cover letter is your best, most effective way to make your case to me. A good cover letter will get me to invite a candidate with a so-so resume in for a screening. A bad cover letter will get the candidate tossed on the “no” pile, resume unlooked at. A bland and uninspiring cover letter won’t accomplish anything for you, but “no cover letter” isn’t a solution. Take the time and write yourself a good one.

12. Do not make your resume into an infographic. Unless, maybe, you are applying for a social media graphic artist position. Maybe.

13. Don’t attach letters of recommendation, transcripts, or references. If we want that information, we’ll ask for it. Sending it now feels a bit desperate on your part. Besides, your excellently-written cover letter will get you an interview! (Speaking of, no one really uses letters of recommendation anymore; we prefer references that we can contact.)

14. Don’t use anything other than a reverse-chronology format. Just don’t.

15. Avoid coming across as arrogant and don’t use hyperbole. On the other hand, emphasize areas where you are better than average, and certainly not just adequate.

Speaking of cover letters, here are a few things and phrases to avoid:
• “I strongly believe your search for <jobname> can end today.” This just sounds awkward.
• “The position is tailor-made for a person with my qualifications.” The only time I’ve ever seen this phrase used was in a letter that was clearly a template. In other words, hiring managers see it and think ‘No you aren’t.’
• “I’m hard working; a great communicator; a team player . . .” Buzz words!
• “I’m a visionary leader.” Not when you’re applying for almost any job.
• “Dear Sir or Madam” – This is stuffy and outdated. If the advertisement lists the information, use it (we’re pleased as punch when someone actually recognizes us as people!). Otherwise, just use Dear Hiring Manager.
• “Please contact me if you would like my resume.” – Uh, no.
• “I am equally adept at working in groups or on my own.” If you are the one-in-a-million unicorn that this is actually true for, go into great detail in your cover letter about how you have such a unique skill set. Otherwise, this statement on its own smells like complete b.s.

Small things:
• Check your email address: avoid ‘funny’ or obscene. I had one candidate get all the way through the interview process, but not the job, because our client pointed out that his email seemed to make a drug reference (I missed it, they didn’t).
• Check the name of your resume file. If it’s dated, keep it pretty recent; I will wonder if the file says January 2012. Worse, don’t send me a file for ditch_digger when you’re applying for an admin job.
• Keep your references current.

This advice has been culled from a variety of sources and reflects my own best thoughts on the subject of getting candidates in through the door. May it help you get the job you want, doing what you love.

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