It seems we chat daily with candidates about resumes—what they should contain, how they should be improved, and what hiring managers really want to see—so we thought we would take some time to answer those questions for you here. A lot of people pay for help with their resume, and the answers they get are pretty similar to what we will discuss below, so save your money and take our word for it.
Pretty Does not a Good Resume Make
For starters, candidates tend to focus on how a resume looks instead of what it contains and the story it tells. Having a beautiful photo doesn’t elevate your resume, nor does a fancy design layout. It’s about the content. Tell your story (more on that here).
The highlight of a resume should be your results and successes, and anything that detracts from that shouldn’t be there (including a photo). The longer a hiring manager has to take to dig for evidence of your success the less likely they are to look deeply at your resume.
If you want to get a bit flashy and pretty, use your LinkedIn profile for that. Your resume should have the quantitative data and skill words that an employer (and their AI resume screener!) needs to see. If they’re interested in you, they’ll look you up on LinkedIn to see more.
Feature Numbers Over Long Paragraphs
Our number one tip to really make your resume stand out is to be specific and strategic about how you present your work history in terms of results and metrics. The most important thing to convey to a hiring manager is that you have made an impact and contributed to growth.
To that end, you can’t just have a big paragraph about your roles and responsibilities, which is the most common thing we see. Usually, a potential employer will be familiar with the standard tasks of a given role within your industry. You really only need the in-depth paragraph for things that may not be standard. What was unusual about some of the things you did? How did you excel at them? What actually needs explaining? Quantitative data is just as important as if not more important than qualitative data.
Instead of focusing on what you DID, focus on what you ACHIEVED. How were you measured (quota performance, revenue contribution, renewal rate, etc.)? What was your contribution to the process? How did you improve things for your client and/or employer? Describe not only what you were tasked with but how you met or exceeded those expectations. Be SPECIFIC.
Note that quantitative information isn’t always about revenue; it can be years of experience with a certain function/tool, time to fill a project, or in creative roles it may look completely different. Again, how was your success measured and how did you meet or exceed that?
Resume Red Flags
We previously discussed this more in-depth, but when your LinkedIn profile doesn’t match what’s stated on your resume, that’s a red flag. While what you choose to feature can be a bit different and tailored to a specific position, the essential data should match. The way LinkedIn is set up, you can have more information there in terms of qualitative data, while your hard copy/electronic resume should be more about the numbers.
Any break in tenure should be explained on both your resume and on LinkedIn in case they see one before the other. What were you doing during that time? Also, if you’ve changed jobs too many times or have left after a short tenure, explain that.
Keep Your Information Balanced
Resumes often show a lot of the WHAT, but they need to be more balanced. Show the WHO in addition to the WHAT. If you’re a salesperson, who did you sell to? Who did you work with? What was the product you sold? How does that product align with the product you would sell at the new company?
Use an Easy-to-Read Layout
That “Overview” section at the top? Don’t skip it. Your overview should be an introductory paragraph featuring your years of experience, your role, the field you’ve been working in – all the standout bits of information you want someone to know right off the bat. Don’t make people do math when it comes to years of experience. This section is the TLDR of your resume, so use keywords relevant to your job. Keep in mind that more often than not, companies use resume-scanning/applicant-tracking systems that tag and sort them based on keywords. These systems not only scan your traditional resume but also your LinkedIn profile, so again, it’s essential that they match.
The easier it is to read and find information on your resume the better. If you’re long-winded, don’t be. If you must be long-winded, find a way to pull out the keywords like in the bulleted list shown below. Use white space well so the hiring manager isn’t looking at a giant block of text. Trust us, they won’t read that.
Stick with the last 3-5 years of your work history in detail and summarize if it’s older than that. Your resume can be more than one page, but it needs to feature the right information. If you’ve made a career jump, summarize irrelevant jobs and highlight the relevant ones in greater detail.
Additionally, make sure to highlight any top achievements – don’t let those get buried in the big descriptive paragraph. If a product you work with is sought after, highlight that. For example, “I sell B2B SaaS products.” (Yes, even if they’re in your keywords.)
Start with a short paragraph:
Overview: Sales leader with 15 years of experience selling B2B SaaS products to the higher education market.
Then add your keywords in a bulleted list:
While listing your education is important, keep it compact and don’t use too much of your resume real estate to focus on it (unless a certain level of education is a requirement for your position).
Finally, and it seems like a no-brainer, but make sure to include your contact information! Not necessarily your home address, but at least your email and phone number. You need to be reachable if you actually want the job. You’d be surprised how often this is left off. Adding your full LinkedIn URL is a good idea too so they can get that extra information. Make sure it’s personalized and not a bunch of numbers.
The bottom line is how quickly a hiring manager can get to the information you need them to know. Make your resume clean, easy-to-read, and feature all the reasons why you’re a fantastic hire and you’re much more likely to get the job.
Is your resume ready? If you are open to new opportunities, please send it to us via our Connect page! Then we will contact you when roles come up that fit your profile.