Written by Gary Matsuda
Working on updating your resume? Here to help you distinguish fact from fiction are four resume experts who have a total combined experience of working with hundreds of hiring managers and recruiters!
Myth: Include all jobs to show experience.
Save space, employers don’t need to see everything – only what is important to the job they are trying to fill. Unfortunately, there is just too much for them to read. Specialization is everywhere, so your job search must niche down as much as possible to the specific job opening.
Lori Norris, Get Results Career Services, says the biggest resume mistake is a failure to focus. Three or four pages might be too much (unless you are upper level executive management). They don’t want to see everything, only what is important to them. If you try to appeal to everyone then you will reach no one. Have multiple versions ready that target and focus incorporate keywords from job descriptions.
It takes work to remove non-essential work experience, but a shorter, more focused document will improve scoring by an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and will be easier to read by us humans.
Brenda Cunningham, owner of Push Career Management, says to keep it to one page, but it depends on your experience. If you were in the same position for a long time it will look good if it was kept to one page. Most resumes for mid-career professional are 2 pages, but if the job application asks for one page – then you must follow directions!
Grain of truth: Show all your experience that relates directly to the job you are applying for.
Myth: Listing all duties and activity makes you look well rounded.
While you should include relevant accomplishments, your resume isn’t a list of ‘chores’. What employers want to know about your experience is did you perform well and will you be valuable to them.
Martha Rockwell, owner of A+ Resumes & Career Coaching says, not to fall back on merely describing activities but include results of your effort.
Donna Tucker, founding member of Resume Writers Council of Arizona: Don’t include your whole story but leave some details for the cover letter or interview. In your resume quickly tell what problem you solved and make it easy to read.
Brenda: Your resume should answer the ‘So what?’ question. Don’t just write that you ‘answered phones’, but say you ‘made 400 calls a day while documenting detailed notes’. Show what made your work special.
Martha: If you give too much information, they may not call for interview since they believe they have enough information from you. Hold back on some details but give enough to tempt them to ask for more. Highlight your value by showing quantifiable results, ‘sales increased’ or ‘reduced rework’. Describe how you made money for the company!
Donna: Including too much can also leave you open to assignments you don’t want and may indicate that you’re desperate or don’t know your strengths.
Brenda: Keep it relevant, don’t make the reader work to figure out what is important. Also, don’t be creative in describing your job title, call it what it is and use what they call it. Be clear on job titles for instance, there’s a difference between project manager and project coordinator. Show what you’ve done matches what the job requires.
Grain of truth: You may include your responsibilities but it’s more important to show the value you’ve provided to the business.
So how can your brilliance be captured on a shorter resume? Go deep, not wide. On to the next myth.
Myth: Don’t need cover letter (because ain’t nobody got time for that!)
A well written cover letter shows your personality, communication style and enhances your chance for an interview. After passing initial screening, resumes and cover letters will go to hiring managers but because they’re not going to interview 20 people for a job, they’ll read cover letters to make final selections.
This is the sales pitch that shows what you have to offer and why you are the best person for job. Include a call to action that specifies what happens next. For instance, ‘I will call you for possible of interview’. But if you include this, be sure to do it!
Martha: While the resume is an objective document, a cover letter is more subjective but still tailored to a specific job posting. Place the most important requirements near the beginning of cover letter to show clearly you can do the job.
Donna: If an ATS asks for a cover letter separately, then don’t attach to resume. Its content must be specific to the job. Don’t repeat information that is on resume.
Lori: If uploading to an ATS and there is no separate upload for a cover letter, you might be able to upload the resume first then followed by cover letter attached. Keep them separate if possible.
Myth: Fancy fonts help make a resume stand out
Getting past the ATS gatekeeper is difficult enough and fancy fonts can make it even harder for automated software to read your resume. Microsoft Word is best, while PDFs can be tricky for ATS to read. Leave the fancy resume for the interview.
Lori: The way it looks is not as important as content. You don’t need fancy if you’ve got great content.
Donna: To get your resume read more accurately by an ATS use san serif fonts ‘no feet’ such as Calibri or Arial.
Also avoid text boxes, tables, no images, don’t even include your photo!
Grain of truth: Print an alternate ‘fancier’ resume to present at interview.
Myth: I can create a resume on my own without help
Not so much anymore. Applicant Tracking Systems have gotten much better at scoring, approving and rejecting applicants depending on how well content matches a job posting. With hundreds of different ATS software screening your applications, you’ll want as much feedback as possible from professional resume writers. The best resume coaches go through professional training, evaluations, certifications and keep up with hiring trends at local and national Human Resource conferences. Based on their relationships with recruiters and hiring managers who are currently trying to fill positions, they keep current on the resume screening process and the foundations of a good resume.
Brenda: We all have different opinions however, if you get advice from too many voices, it may be hard to know who to listen to. It can be counterproductive to apply what every resume writing coach suggests so our advice would be to pick one professional’s help and go with that.
Donna: Time is money and a resume is a tool that gets an interview. It costs a few dollars but gets you started quickly.
Lori: There’s no one right way. There are many format variations, however whatever style it is, it must get you interviews.
Grain of truth: You can create your own resume but get professional help, it is worth every dollar.
You Against the ATS Machine
Identify keywords used in the job posting and verify the hard and soft skills required. Good resources to research what keywords are used generally by industry are:
• Occupational Outlook Handbook
Lori: It’s probably best to have multiple versions of your resume. Target and focus by using keywords found on the job description and place them higher on your documents. Show how your results were measured and how you made impact. Remember it’s not about you – it’s about how you will add value to a potential employer.
Donna: ATS vary in sophistication but they generally scan for keywords, parse and score documents for the hiring managers. No one has time to go through all the resumes. They are also stored so they might still review them for another opening. Be careful with formatting, using fancy fonts, headers, that can cause rejection. Keep it simple!
Chronological is most widely accepted format. Functional resumes may sometimes throw off the ATS if it is looking for sequence. It may be flagged as something missing and can appear as if you are trying to hide something.
ATS tracks everything you do, even the number of times you’ve applied to each job, so apply only to relevant positions!
Mature workforce tips:
How far back should you go? What about jobs held back in 1998?
Go back no more than 15 years, but you can use a section at the bottom of your resume to add other career highlights and measurable accomplishments. You may just note that you have 7+ years’ experience without dates.
Brenda: Don’t give hints that may tip them off about your age. Don’t give them reason to think you are expensive or have outdated skills. Age discrimination is real so don’t give them clues that you are older.
Lori: Imagine what a 24 year old hiring manager might be thinking: you could show them up, be after his job or be judgmental. Realize that they may feel intimidated by your experience. Veterans – don’t say you are retired (and reveal you are getting pension). Unconsciously they may think you could just coast through the job and really don’t need the work. Instead, say that you enjoyed a successful career in the military.
• Your email address may give you away. AOL can look outdated, but Gmail is better. Don’t use year of birth in your email address, it can be obvious if a number in your email address looks like a birth year!
• Remove date of college graduation.
• While it may help you feel good to list work done 20 years ago, keep the reader in mind and see if your experience appears relevant.
Employment gaps on resume?
Too long of a break in your career may give the impression your experience and skills might not be current. If you can, show you were productive and learning, where you have been getting an education or trying a new profession. Get guidance at Career Connectors, go to specific industry organizations, take classes, volunteer, be intentional on building your skills so you increase your qualifications. If you took time off to care for family, then just say so.
As one of Career Connectors more well attended events, it’s apparent that in this booming job market while you may be:
• Already working but looking for something better
• Looking for your first job out of the military
• Getting prepared for the next layoff
Resumes that follow expert guidelines will make it easy for employers to know who you are and what you can do for them while getting a job that is the best fit for you.
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