11 STEPS TO A MORE POWERFUL RÉSUMÉ
Make sure your first impression isn’t your last
By Paul Pompeo
Part of the job description of each member of The Pompeo Group is to review résumés. I probably look at three or four résumés a day on average, so figure our team views at least 8,000 or more résumés a year. We have the opportunity to see some outstanding résumés, some not so great and most somewhere in between. The résumé is your first foot in the door of your potential employer, so it’s important that you get it right. If you’re about to put together or update your CV, here are 11 tips to keep in mind:
Be Brief. “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter,” wrote Blaise Pascal in The Provincial Letters. Take the time to make your résumé shorter; it should be two pages at most. There is really no reason to go beyond that.
- Objective. Having an objective or summary is not critical, but if you choose to include, only use one or the other. Your objective should be three or four lines at the most. Tailor it to the position you are interviewing for and make sure it’s specific to the position and career for which you are interviewing. A vague objective can come across as just fluff to pad your résumé: “Seeking a position with room for growth.” Instead, include industries you would like to be a part of and/or the level of position similar to the one for which you are interviewing. Make sure your résumé aligns the skills you possess with the position you seek. If you’ve done both sales and marketing but are going after a marketing-only role, include accomplishments that highlight your marketing expertise. Provide specifics without making it too narrow that you’re not considered for other roles within your scope or with that company.
- Font. We still receive many résumés with multiple fonts. Often, it is accidental and gives the impression that someone is either unfamiliar with creating a professional-looking document or doesn’t proof their work—neither is a good message to send. We recommend using only one commonly used font; stay away from unusual or exotic fonts that might do strange things to punctuation and spacing when read by someone using a different operating system.A nice but judicious use of boldface or key headings can be very striking, but don’t overdo it. Use the underline sparingly. Also, don’t mix in colors; résumés look best in black and white. Remember the very first thing that a person sees about your résumé is the overall look and “feel”—make it professional. There are many good fonts to select from—most common in résumés seem to be Arial and Calibri, though we still see the occasional Palatino and Times New Roman. These seem a bit outdated to me, but that’s just a personal opinion. A size 10 font is most common for the body of your résumé with 10.5 coming in as well. We see 11 or 12 size fonts for certain headlines (candidate name, category headlines, etc.).
- Margins: Many people use too many margins for topics, indenting and indenting further with subtopics and categories, creating a tremendous waste of space on the left side of the résumé, forcing the document to run to more pages than necessary. Conversely, we will see some people trying to cram so much content in their résumé they go almost to the left and right edges of the document and sometimes much lower on a page than most printers will normally be set for. This gives your résumé the look of someone wearing clothes two sizes too small—not a good look for clothes or a résumé. Best guideline is to go with the standard margin settings in MS Word as that will be compatible with most printers of potential hiring managers and HR professionals.
- Bullet Points. Limit yourself to a maximum of three bullet points per position. Bullet points should normally be just one sentence, possibly two. Don’t let them snowball into large paragraphs.
- Legibility. To stand out among the crowd of résumés, make yours one of the most user-friendly. Don’t make the reader have to search for basic information. For example, it shouldn’t be a mystery as to the position you held at each of the companies on your CV. Similarly, make your beginning and ending dates of employment for each job tenure easy to see at a glance. If your recipient is frustrated trying to get basic information, their first impression, at best, is frustration. At worst, they put it down and plan to look at when they have time—and you know how that movie ends.
- Achievements. Don’t create a laundry list of responsibilities; instead list accomplishments resulting from those responsibilities. Avoid vague buzzwords like “leadership/management skill” that aren’t quantified. Instead, use phrases that demonstrate that skill. “Forecasted sales goals for my team and implemented strategies that helped increase revenue by 20 percent in 2016” leaves a much stronger impression than “Was responsible for overseeing goals and increasing sales.”
- Degree. List your education clearly and accurately. If you haven’t completed your degree, don’t mislead the reader to believe you did. Employers will consider work experience, but once you’re caught in a fabrication, you’ll be eliminated. More than one candidate has had an offer rescinded, not because they didn’t have the degree but because they lied.
- Accuracy. As with any information you include in your résumé, make sure it is completely accurate and not overstated. Be careful not to take credit for something that was accomplished by your team, but do take credit for your individual contributions. Make sure that employment timelines (start and end dates) are accurate and don’t stretch them to cover periods of being out of work or to make a period of unemployment appear shorter than it was. Many companies will contact a candidate’s previous employers to verify titles held and length of tenure. There are stories of very accomplished people being fired from their company based on having been less than truthful on a résumé.
- References. Never include reference names in your résumé or cover letter. If you want to mention references, state something like “References furnished upon request.” Your references should be trump cards and should not be offered to just anyone. Most companies will not want to contact your references until you have been through at least a few steps of the interview process.
- Proofing. Double-check your spelling and grammar, and have someone else review it as well. It may sound silly, but reading it aloud is helpful and often will let you catch a sentence that is awkwardly worded or those words that spell-check won’t catch (“your” versus “you,” “manager” versus “manger”).
I’ve talked in past columns about it being a candidate’s market in lighting, IoT and electrical and that still is the case. That said, you are obviously still vying with other candidates for job opportunities. Almost always, the very first impression a hiring manager, executive search consultant or HR professional has of you is actually not you, but your résumé. Followed correctly, these steps will give you a competitive advantage. The ball is in your court from there, but these steps will help you get in the game.
Author’s Note: I canvassed our team to get their suggestions for a candidate to have the very best résumé possible. Special thanks to Mary Lindenmuth, Krista Keay, Michelle Martin, Stephanie Klumpenhower, Julia Humphus and Eric Waters for their contributions to this piece.