Whether you are a college graduate with no experience or an experienced professional, your resume is the first and most important step in your job search process. Getting the resume right can save you months of job search and open doors to many interesting job opportunities.
Your resume is an important first glimpse of your professional abilities to both employers and recruiters. An excellent resume can move you further ahead of hundreds of other qualified candidates. When you get your resume done right, it showcases your best abilities to the employers out there.
My Resume Experience
Initially before I completely transformed my resume, it used to take me many months to get one good job offer. But once I learnt what employers are looking for in a resume, I started getting multiple job offers very quickly. Instead of two or three months, it became about 2 weeks to my next job offer.
My improved resume got me many recruiter and employer phone calls which further led to phone interviews, the in-person interviews and the subsequent job offers. None of this would have happened if I had not completely changed my resume in the first place.
Apart from being an interview candidate myself, I’ve also interviewed many candidates for jobs in my previous positions. This along with my experience of speaking with hundreds of recruiters has given me an insight into what recruiters and employers are looking for in a resume.
So now I am going to share with the exact details of my winning resume format and what employers typically look for in a top resume and so much more.
How Employers Screen Resumes
Recruiters and employers receive hundreds to even thousands of resumes for many open job positions. So most of them glance through a resume for about 2 seconds, and if something catches their eye, they spend another 5 to 10 seconds before deciding whether to call the candidate.
So it is in your best interests to capture the interest of the recruiter/ employer in the first 2 or more seconds with your resume.
They specifically look for information that will help them quickly screen out candidates so they have a final list of two or three potential candidates for the position.
Also, ninety-five percent of resumes never make it to the hiring manager’s desk since they tend to get screened out by the external recruiters or the company’s internal recruiters.
Recruiters look for key skills needed for the position and anything that would indicate they have a winning candidate. So a few seconds of reading for a possible wow! is what most resumes get for making it to the prestigious call/interview bucket versus being put away for good.
The hiring manager once again reviews the resume/s that have been shortlisted by the recruiter. If everything looks good, the manager may share the resume with his or her team or simply schedule a phone interview to further screen the candidates.
Phone interviews are typically used to verify if the candidate on the phone is consistent with how he or she appears in the resume. It is the resume that caught their eye, so the questions they ask in the phone interview will give you clues as to what they liked or have more questions about in your resume.
If you match their expectations and are consistent with your resume, you will probably be called for an in-person interview with a few members of the team and the hiring manager.
An Awe-Inspiring Resume Format
Here are the key things that make for a highly effective and awe-inspiring resume:
Keep It Short
A resume should ideally be no more than two pages long or three pages if you have many job experiences to list. The first page should highlight your overall career accomplishments, education and skills.
Next you should highlight your job specific accomplishments preferably starting with your latest job and going backwards in reverse chronological order.
I’ve seen several resumes where the education is listed after the work experience and almost toward the end of the resume. In my experience, it is especially good to present your education in the first page if your college degree is in a related field.
If your education happens to be in a different field than the job requirements, say if you were an arts major in college who is applying for a technical job, you can highlight your experience first and your education toward the end.
It’s all about presenting your most relevant credentials in the first page to grab the attention of a prospective reader in the first few seconds.
#1: Name and Title
The first line of your resume can start with your name and a title/ target-job-title by which you can describe yourself in about two words.
#2: Your Brand Statement (Page 1)
After this, have a sentence or two describing the benefits you bring to the company or team you would work for.
#3: List Your Top Two Or Three Career Accomplishments
Describe briefly your top two or three career accomplishments till date. Measurable and quantifiable information such as percentage of increase in sales you achieved, or number of lines of code you wrote, or the number of people you managed can be listed here.
Bulleted or numbered points work best here to highlight your key accomplishments.
#4: Education and Skills Roundup
List your education here if it is in the same field or at the end if it is unrelated to the job’s target industry. Follow this with your top skills here. When listing the education, start with the highest college degree first, say the master’s degree followed by the bachelors degree.
Next list your skills in specific categories that are relevant to the job. For example, for a software developer, I would list the tools and software, programming languages, training/certifications, databases and so on.
The above categories are just examples and you can customize them based on your specific occupation and industry.
As mentioned earlier, if you had a non-science major in college, your job related skills can be listed here and you can move the education part toward the end of your resume.
#5: List Jobs and Positions
For each job you’ve held ideally starting with the last position going backwards, list the company name, your job title, your month and year (dates) of employment and your work location.
Then write two to four sentences describing your main work, skills used, and key accomplishments in that position. Use fewer lines describing the positions of shorter duration and more lines for the ones lasting several years.
In case you have been in the same company for many years, you can separately list the different projects you worked on for the company. This will allow the reader to grasp how you have contributed to the company’s growth and success in a variety of projects and roles.
If you are right out of college and have no work experience, just use the accomplishments section(#3) to list all major accomplishments from college that align well with the job requirements.
Any project work, thesis or research you performed in college, top grades you obtained in related exams, and any clubs you participated in, along with any volunteer work you did can be listed in individual sections instead of listing your work experience.
#6: Your Contact Details
I generally put my name, address, phone numbers and email address in the footer section of each page of my resume. Your phone numbers and email address are great for getting a call back or an email response.
Your physical address helps recruiters and managers to see if your home is an easy daily commute to the company’s work location.
Ever since the dot-com bust of the last two decades, most companies have become very cost-conscious and prefer hiring local candidates. Among the very few who might be okay with relocation, most will not offer relocation packages and will ask candidates to relocate at their own expense.
Some companies might agree to pay the interview travel expenses or the relocation expenses of non-local candidates. This rarely happens and only for the high in-demand positions that are not so easy to fill.
More Resume Resources
Tony Beshara’s Unbeatable Resumes is available on Amazon and is an extensive resource for professional resume examples and ideas.
If you are looking for someone to re-write your resume, take a look at the following:
- GotTheJob: This company has top notch resume writers who are guaranteed to get you the job.
- Job Scan: This unique software helps you tailor your resume by scanning it against the job description of your target job. This is a great way to customize your resume to make sure you get the interview when you apply for a new position.
Everything in your resume reflects your professional image of who you are, your capabilities and what benefits you bring to the company that hires you. So be sure to go through every word of your resume and get prepared to answer questions on all the accomplishments, job duties and skills you’ve listed on your resume.
Know your resume in-depth to add power to your job search and to enable you to get to the interview stage very quickly. Maintain the same consistent professional image in all further interactions with the recruiter and the interview team. To do this, you need to foresee all questions or objections they may raise about your resume and respond in a professional way that completely satisfies their queries.
It is through your resume and your interactions that the recruiter and the interviewers get a glimpse into your professional capabilities.
So you need to be comfortable with every line and word you’ve presented in your resume and then present the same outlook in all future communications with them.