To modify a line from Winnie the Pooh, “the most frustrating things about resumes is that resumes are frustrating things.” If asked to design the best way to evaluate the top talent for a job, few people would recommend the submission of a document no one knows how to prepare and that requires a great deal of professional coaching and adjustment.
Ask a number of people for their opinions on the best way to create a resume and chances are you’ll get different answers from everyone you ask. Students often come in and tell us that a partner at a major firm advised him/her to use a specific format, and assume no one can question the wisdom of a partner.
The somewhat frustrating reality is that resumes are much more an art than a science; there are very few absolutes to what should or should not be done to create a winning one. As disconcerting as that may sound, it is realistic; we don’t often get to create the hoops, we just have to know how to jump through them.
As there is also no way to fully describe all of the elements of a winning resume in one article, we will return to this topic in a future column. (In the interim, we would be happy to send you the “Touro Career Services Resume Checklist” to use as a guide.) So how do you begin to jump through those hoops and produce a winning resume that gets you noticed?
To start, let’s understand the function of the resume. Your resume is your calling card; it describes the skills and experiences you have that would make you a valuable employee. The goal of the resume is to help you get an interview, not the job itself, so you need to focus on creating a compelling case that convinces the reader it is in his or her interest to call you in for an interview.
While career professionals will disagree as to what you need to include, there are some general guidelines you can follow. To start, resumes created with the Microsoft Word template should be thrown out. Human resources professionals see that format so many times a day; they are ready to pull their hair out. So, even if your resume contains some great information and you have all the qualities to make an excellent employee, it looks just like everyone else’s and it will not make you stand out.
There are some great resume books by the Five O’clock Club and Martin Yate that provide alternative resume formats that have actually landed jobs in the past. Most libraries have these books, and are well worth the investment of your time.
Once you pick a format, remember: typos, misspelled words, formatting errors, etc. must be avoided at all costs. This is your marketing document and calling card. Mistakes on a resume indicate that the applicant is not particularly careful about the manner in which s/he presents him/herself and gives the reader a good indication that they would be just as careless when employed.
Send your resume to your friends, have a professional review it – just be sure there aren’t any mistakes. Honestly, the smallest error can be the difference between securing or not securing a job interview.
Be honest. The claims you make as to work experience and tasks need to be factual. This is very similar to how you present yourself on a shidduch date. Put your best foot forward and present the best picture of your greatest qualities.
While resume experts disagree about the inclusion of a “summary” statement describing your skills (we highly recommend using one), it is essential that your resume be keyword rich. Most major companies use scanning systems for resume review. That means your resume will never reach human hands unless it satisfies the search criteria set up in advance.
Scanning technology is far from perfect, so there are a few important rules to follow. Many career advisors suggest using a PDF format to ensure the copy you send opens in the exact same format regardless of the system the reviewer is using. However, scanning systems tend to have a lot of trouble reading PDF files and often misread the content. A Microsoft Word document is much safer, especially when utilizing .doc, not .docx, but we recommend you send it to several friends using different computer systems so you can ensure the formatting remains consistent on all of them.