5 Ways to Make Your Resume More Effective

Resumes are the subject of many different opinions, yet I feel are relatively misunderstood. Here are the top 5 comments I have, as a hiring manager; some of which have also been relayed to me through books and mentorship in the past, which I hope can make your resume more effective.

1. One Page. Somehow people think a resume should summarize all of their experience, as if they feel it has to be listed to get “credit”. But view it from the hiring manager’s perspective. Am I actually going to read all of that? If I have a stack of 10-15 resumes maybe 20 sitting in front of me, I’m going to weed people out I think aren’t worth calling. It makes me laugh people that say they are good communicators but then proceed to list every task they performed at a job they had 5 years ago. Clearly they don’t know their audience or understand the purpose of their resume. The whole point of a resume isn’t to get you a job or document all the experience you have. It’s to get you a call by someonemaking some type of decision. It’s to showcase just enough of your talent, background, and achievements that the hiring manager wants to know more about you. Once you spark that interest it’s up to you to impress over the phone or in person. How you perform from there will get you the interviews which might lead to a job. After that point the resume’s job is done. If I meet with someone and think I’ve found a good fit, I’m not looking back at the resume to affirm my beliefs. I’m looking to their interview performance to prove it – especially if my interviewing style is effective.

2. Formatting Counts. If I’m going to judge you based on a piece of paper, why not spend the time to make sure that it’s not aesthetically distasteful? Why would someone have a full first page and five lines on page two? That tells me they are lazy. They are either too lazy to learn about a good resume or too lazy to fix their own. I also want dates to be easy to read. I want company names, job titles, and degree programs to pop out. Use a couple different fonts and make sure you consider composition on the page and white space. If you’re going to be judged, why not make it look good? These techniques can also help you achieve my first point, one page.

3. No Career Objective. You’ll find huge fans on listing your career objective. They say you should have a sentence at the top of your resume which tells the reader exactly where you want to go in your career. I disagree. First, is the reader to be turned off if I’m applying for a Controller position and I say I want to be CFO? Second, if they aren’t turned off by that, how many other people are going to say they want to be CFO? And third, if I don’t say CFO and instead said something like “provide financial leadership and guidance to top management…” is my audience going to know what that means? If I simply I want to be Controller as my career objective, does that help either? The reader must know I want that job, that’s why they are reading my resume. So in light of being concise, keeping everything to one page, and thinking about the fact my resume only gets me a call, not the job; I just don’t see the value. You have to remember if your resume is going to get 20 seconds do you want that person to gather “I want to be CFO” or spend that time learning something else about you?

4. Key Words. Today your resume needs to communicate with decision makers telling them you deserve a follow-up. Often, before you even get to this point, an automated system has either searched and provided your resume to the decision maker as relevant or pre-screened your resume and eliminated it from the pool automatically. This is why it is important to think about, from a computer’s perspective, what is most likely to keep you at the top of the stack. First, make sure your systems experience is listed somewhere. This is important for accounting and finance people as we all have different levels of experience with different systems. Don’t take up a lot of room talking about how well you know the system, just list them: “Hyperion Essbase, SAP Business Objects…” That way the decision maker can search for Hyperion or Essbase and you’ll be included in the results. If they call you, you will be prepared to explain exactly what capacity you used this or that system. In case they do call you, don’t stretch and list a bunch of systems you can’t explain either, be realistic. The point is list the vendor and the product both, list vendor product families together. Use industry standard abbreviations such as “SAP FI/CO” or “VBA”. In other sections of your resume you will want to use terms like “Visual Basic” instead just to cover the longer version of the term. Using this variety will also be more appealing to the reader.

5. Results. I like bullet points. I know I can skip them if I’m not interested, and I know I can read a couple if I am. What they say should be worth my time if I read them. If they don’t tell me anything new, I just waisted part of your 20 seconds which could decide whether or not you make the cut. Don’t tell me you were a staff accountant and then list the journal entries you prepared. I can assume you prepared journal entries. Instead focus on the results and achievements you accomplished in that position. What went above and beyond what I would expect you to have done in that position? Maybe you envisioned, designed and participated in implementation of paperless AP. Not exactly part of being a staff accountant (at least stereotypical one). If I read that, I’ll come away with more appreciation from you, knowing you can get results. I think you’ll also find it easier to be concise when you don’t have to list every task the position entailed. If you have a unique title that needs explanation, consider giving one line below to explain the position (who it reported to and what its function was) and then use bullet points below to showcase results. In the end I want to his someone that can get results. Even if they are not relevant they sound a lot better than the other candidates that list out tasks and responsibilities I would have assumed they did anyway.