When it comes to career advancement and new job opportunities, your resume is at the heart of it all. It is the key that unlocks the door to networking, interviews (formal and informational) and building your personal brand. A solid resume is essentially a marketing tool that helps you stand out from the crowd. In short, it is an extremely important personal asset.
Recently I attended a session called Revving Up With Recruiting as part of SAP’s Leadership Excellence Acceleration Program (LEAP). During this session, Kevin Sheal, a recruiting expert with SAP’s Talent Acquisition team, and Glenn Sward, VP of Talent Acquisition at SAP, tackled the question of what recruiters are looking for in a resume. With over 40 years of collective experience in recruiting, the two were able to share some really insightful tips on resume writing and interviewing. For this blog, I’ll focus on resumes.
For most of us, writing a resume is not easy…or fun. It’s tough to boil down years of experience into one measly page and to demonstrate all the great work that you’ve done in short bullet points. And when recruiters spend an average of only 20 seconds reviewing your resume, it has to be compelling and unique.
To help you accomplish this difficult feat, here are some great tips to help both early-stage and late-stage career people write a resume that truly impresses:
1. Highlight your results. With only 20 seconds to impress a recruiter, you really want to focus your resume on your accomplishments. In fact, 80% of your resume should be results. Take the time to quantify the specific business outcomes that your work has delivered and highlight your impact on the business. For example, a result on your resume may be that you reduced costs by 5% or that you increased revenue or improved cycle times by 10%. It’s not enough to state that you increased productivity – you need back it up with quantifiable data whenever possible.
2. Include a professional summary. A professional summary is a high-level summary of your results and achievements. This provides you with the opportunity to tell a little more about yourself and to highlight your key attributes and accomplishments upfront. So, don’t worry about an objective – recruiters and hiring managers usually skip over it, or worse, will screen your resume out based on an objective that is not a perfect match for the job they are hiring for. Instead, let your professional summary and experience, skills and results make the case for you.
3. Put the strongest results first. Recruiters often only read the first few points, so put the accomplishments that you’re most proud of and that are most relevant to the position first. When it comes to resumes, “space equals importance.” Spend more time and space talking about the things that are directly related to the job for which you are applying.
4. Have multiple versions of your resume. The “one-size fits all” approach won’t cut it in today’s marketplace of increasingly specialized needs. Your resume should be tailored to the position. This includes updating your resume frequently to include your most recent accomplishments.
5. Focus on two guiding principles: relevant and recent. When writing your resume, focus on including the most relevant (to the open position) and recent (within the last 5 years) information. If you have 20+ years of work experience, you should reduce experiences that occurred more than 5 years ago to one or two bullet points. The specifics are only important for recent career experiences.
6. Keep it one (or two) pages. With resumes, size matters a lot. Keep the resume to one or two pages depending on your experience. If your resume is more than a page, be sure to include your name and email contact on subsequent pages. Also, do your best early on to make sure the recruiter and hiring manager will want to read more!
7. Get a second set of eyes to review it. Ask someone you trust to carefully review your resume. Make sure that after reading your resume that person fully understands your background, skills, qualifications and accomplishments.
8. Avoid all complicated fonts or design elements. To be considered an applicant, you will likely be uploading your resume to an applicant tracking system (ATS). If a resume is difficult to read recruiters usually won’t bother reading further.
9. Edit very carefully. Check your resumes for errors of fact, typos, formatting woes or omissions. After you have reviewed it, let a trusted person look it over as well. One inaccuracy or misspelling could cost you a second look.
10. Don’t include everything. Omit any unnecessary, or potentially controversial, information, including sexual orientation, religious or political affiliations. It’s illegal for employers to ask for this information and it is irrelevant to whether you are a strong candidate for the job.Comments