Ever heard the statistic that recruiters read resumes and decide on who they’ll consider in 20 seconds or less? It may seem impossible (and scary), but it’s often true. So it’s important to focus on clarity and brevity – how to get the important information across as quickly and clearly as possible.
What are recruiters looking for in those 20 seconds?
- Location. If you’re not local to the opportunity, make sure to include a note in your opening email (and keep that opening email short) about your willingness to relocate. If you have a temporary address in your desired location that you can use, that’s even better.
- Recent experience. Include your most recent role (including title and company, of course) near the top of the page. Don’t spend an entire front page on long-winded descriptions of your skills. You can elaborate on skills and accomplishments under each respective position.
- Industry. If the company is looking for someone with specific industry experience, make sure you include that experience on your first page and/or intro email; otherwise, a recruiter may overlook it and not consider you.
- Turnover. If you’ve changed jobs frequently, that is often a red flag. If you have good reasons for job changes (ie. layoff), please include a one-line note about it in your resume, under the job to which it applies.
- Spelling and grammatical errors. PLEASE make sure you don’t have any of these in your resume. It will disqualify you with just about every recruiter I know. Spellcheck isn’t enough – read through it with a fine-toothed comb, and ask friends to proof it as well.
Recruiters have different opinions on format but, given that we’re typically looking over the information quickly, I go for simplicity. I don’t think it’s necessary to include an objective, though a brief summary is nice. (For example, “Accomplished advertising account services professional with 10+ years of B2B and B2C experience partnering with large brands.”) I prefer chronological rather than functional resumes. I want to see companies, keywords, bullet point accomplishments, titles, and dates - not paragraphs full of jargon. Make sure you include relevant accomplishments with lots of keywords, but don’t write a novel. You can discuss all of those details in an interview. Don’t make a recruiter go to the second page before they can see your current title and company.
I don’t believe in the “one-page-fits-all” mentality – if you’re not junior level, you shouldn’t have a one-page resume. Don’t cut out important accomplishments in order to keep it short. At the same time, don’t go overboard – resumes shouldn’t be over three pages long. Two is ideal for someone who is mid to senior level.
Keep cover letters short and to-the-point. I prefer them to be written directly into an email or message, not sent as an attachment. If you include a cover letter, make sure you tailor it to the individual. It’s embarrassing to send a cover letter to Traci that is addressed to Judy, or a note to Apple about how excited you are to work for IBM.
Above all, be truthful while showcasing your skills in the best possible light. This motto works well for resumes, and for life in general.