In a recent LD+A column, Paul Pompeo offered ideas for making a résumé rise to the top of a recruiter’s pile. An excerpt follows here:
If I were to count up the résumés our team receives from lighting industry professionals on a daily basis, 25-40 would be a conservative estimate. The average HR professional may receive 10 to 20, unless they’re running ad, in which case the number may be significantly higher. So how can your résumé stand out from all the others? Here are nine tips to toward a better and much more readable résumé:
- “Brevity is the soul of wit.” And, to paraphrase Polonius from Hamlet (who preached brevity more than he practiced it), keep your résumé concise. As I’ve written before, your résumé is not your movie–it’s only the trailer for the film—and it should contain compelling highlights that make people want to see it (or, in this case, interview you). The best trailers utilize highlights without misrepresenting the actual film. Your résumé should do the same.Don’t make your résumé too wordy. We see résumés clock in anywhere from 362 words at minimum for a one-page version résumé, to 763-826 maximum for a two-page version. Résumés coming in above that risk having too much information and may make the recipient want to put it down and return to it later. In today’s world, if people put your e-mail aside because of its lengthiness and think they’ll return to it later, they usually never do.
- Always tell the truth. This is item #8 on a framed “Family Rules” poster in my five-year-old son’s bedroom, but we see the opposite of this much more than we would like in people’s résumés: Gaps in employment are often eliminated or minimized by changing beginning or ending dates of employment. Titles become loftier (a national sales manager becomes a vice president; a lighting designer becomes a senior lighting designer). Experience overseeing projects becomes “managing teams” (implying having hire/fire responsibility when that wasn’t the case). And of course, the degree that was never completed becomes a BS (no pun intended). A series of thorough reference checks will cut through all this, so avoid the drama and have your CV be a factual representation of your experience. Everyone’s heard stories of CEOs coaches, news anchors and a myriad of other professionals brought down by exaggerating or lying about their experience. Get hired for who you actually are, not for whom you would like to be.
- No photos, please. Even if you have a professionally done headshot that you think the world simply has to see, save it for your LinkedIn profile. You will see this more in Europe and some other parts of the word, but we still receive résumés with the person’s photo. Leave it off your résumé.
- Use fonts wisely. Keep your CV in a widely used font (the most frequent we see these days are Calibri and Arial, though Times New Roman is fine). We see Calibri 11 and Arial 8, 9 or 10 most frequently. You may have a host of other cool or exotic fonts, but remember if the recipient of your résumé doesn’t have the font you’re using, it can drastically change the look of your résumé. If you want to wow someone with a font, save it for websites, posters or graphics work. Another point on fonts–don’t get “bold crazy.” We’ve seen some résumés in all boldface or where boldface is used for almost every section (and subsection heading). As for italics, a little goes a long way.
- Black-and-white: Always in style. Keep your résumé in black-and-white. Too often, attempts to use different colored fonts come across distracting, or, worst case, amateurish.
- No personal info. You used to very frequently see résumés with a candidate’s age, marital status, hobbies, and number and ages of children. Today, you see it less and less, and I feel it should now be gone from résumés. If an employer asks you about your interests or hobbies during an interview, share those things at that point.
- Watch them bullets, pardner. If you like to accompany one of your tenures at a company with bullet points for your responsibilities and/or achievements, keep it to a minimum of three per position. We often see résumés with 10 bullet points for one job tenure. If there are more than three achievements at a position you feel you have to share, save those for the actual interview. Remember the “movie trailer” tip in item #1.
- Make your employment dates and titles clear. Too often I will open a candidate’s résumé and struggle to locate their current position, title and job history. Make your work experience–your timeline/tenure at each company—clear and easy to follow, as well as positions you’ve held. Also, make sure and include month and year for beginning and ending date for each company. You may think you can paper over a short stay or a gap between jobs by including just the beginning and ending years, but that just creates questions in the recruiter, hiring manager or HR professional’s mind.
- It’s all in the margins. Make sure your margins are standard; many times, people try to cram too much content in their résumé and, in order to avoid going to multiple pages, they make the left and right margins very small or almost non-existent to squeeze in the extra content. It’s not an inviting look and almost encourages the recipient to close it and look at it at a later time (if at all). It can also cut off some of your text on both sides when printed. Likewise, don’t waste valuable space (and paper) with margins to the left that take almost half the page, necessitating you going to a second or third page.
What if you don’t have a résumé currently? Even if you’re not looking actively, an updated résumé (especially in today’s world) is always a good thing to have. It’s like insurance: if you wait until you need it, then you’re already behind the curve.