Recruiters spend easily eight hours a day, five days a week, looking at resumes. They may look through thousands of resumes per week -- including LinkedIn profiles, job board postings, and other candidate-sourcing tools. Hiring authorities have many significant demands on their time, so their time with a single resume is more limited. On average, they spend a maximum of seven to ten seconds on a resume before either discarding it or deciding that it merits further consideration. So candidates only have a few seconds to make a strong first impression and demonstrate their ability to make money, save money, and solve problems for companies. Here are some ways to make sure your resume makes a big impact in a short amount of time.
Do: Make sure your resume is organized and easy to read.
First and foremost: Your resume must be easy to read. There is no “correct” format, as long as it’s clean and well organized. A resume that is disorganized, sloppily put together, or written in a long-winded, narrative way makes it very difficult for readers to get a quick understanding of who you are and what you can do for them.
Don’t: Limit yourself to one or two pages.
The most common misconception about resumes is that you should keep them basic and leave yourself something to talk about during the interview. Why would a busy hiring authority bring you in for an interview if you don’t give them a good reason on your resume? If you’re early in your career, you can probably fit your work history, education, and relevant skills on one or two pages. But for professionals with 20 years or more of experience, there’s simply no way to cram your career onto two pages -- and if you do, you probably don’t provide enough information to entice the reader. That said, you should be careful not to ramble on for too many pages since a reader has a limited amount of time with your resume.
Do: Include all of your work history, even the early years.
You might think that the work you did at the beginning of your career isn’t relevant to the level of position you’re currently pursuing. But the foundation of your career has an impact on the type of training you’ve received and is important for employers to know about. For example, if you’re looking for a Vice President of Construction role and you started in the field as a laborer, that likely means you can relate to both office and field personnel equally, and that you fully understand the nuts and bolts of how a building goes together. So include your full work history and don’t skip over the introductory roles that helped launch your career.
Don’t: Leave dates off.
Most recruiters and hiring managers are going to assume that if you leave the dates off of your resume, you’re trying to hide something -- whether it’s your age or the length of your stays with your previous employers. Neither of those things are automatic disqualifications, but dishonesty is. Include the dates and be prepared to explain any short job stays.
Do: Embrace your age -- whatever it is.
Whether you’re early in your career or approaching retirement, you have a lot to offer prospective employers. Rather than trying to hide your age on your resume, embrace it by noting what makes you uniquely appealing based on your career stage. For example, if you’re a Superintendent with forty years of experience, you might open your resume with this: “Experienced construction professional with a passion for mentoring others while bringing in projects on time and under budget.” The hiring manager may have a talented roster of up-and-coming professionals and need an experienced field employee who can show them the ropes. If you’re less experienced, you might highlight your technological prowess, long career runway, and commitment to joining a team for the long haul. What hiring manager doesn’t want a long-term hire who can be trained exactly the way they prefer?
Don’t: Assume the reader will understand your title or duties.
Titles and job duties vary widely from one company to another. For example: if you look at someone’s business card and see that they are an Executive Vice President, can you tell what they do? What are their day-to-day obligations? What does their job consist of? You can’t tell from that title alone. So make sure that the titles you show on your resume are descriptive and provide some context to the reader. Briefly note your most significant responsibilities and achievements so that the recruiter or hiring manager knows whether you’re a good fit for the position they’re working to fill.
Do: Update your resume every six months.
Even when you’re not looking for a new job, you should keep your resume up to date. It’s much easier to remember significant accomplishments and projects as they come up than it will be if you wait several years and need to hunt down the details. In addition to updating your resume for accuracy every six months, you should also be updating it every time you submit it to a new company. Tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for and speak the company’s language -- find phrases on their website or the job description that accurately reflect your qualifications.
So there you have it: seven ways to make a great first impression with your resume. No matter what type of position you’re pursuing or what company it’s with, a great resume is the best way to get your foot in the door -- so make sure it’s representing you well.