Resume Formatting: Do’s and Don’t’s that Help You Stand Out

Resume Formatting: Do’s and Don’t’s that Help You Stand Out

Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager. Two resumes are in front of you; both are possible candidates for the open position. The first is littered with text, margin to margin, full of inconsistent fonts and format, and very little useful information stands out. The second resume is presented with consistent font and format, short bullets with precise information, and plenty of white space. Which resume would you rather tackle first?

The appearance of your resume is not as important as its content, certainly, but your presentation can affect your future hiring executive’s impression of your candidacy. In the example above, the two resumes contain two qualified candidates, but the difference is clear. A cluttered resume displays a cluttered style — clunky and disorganized — which is the last thing any employer wants in their ranks.

Resume content is always more important than its format; however, you do need to pay attention to how that content is presented. Make sure you’re following the Dos and Don’ts for good presentation of your professional resume.

Template Don’t

Don’t use downloadable templates. On the one hand, the more generic your resume appears, the fewer seconds a hiring manager will spend glancing at it before putting it aside and forgetting about it. On the other, many templates are not built to present well across individual machines, so you never will be entirely certain that your beautiful layout will appear equally attractive on someone else’s computer, and especially not on a mobile device.

Format Don’t

Bright paper or flashy clip art will catch the hiring manager’s eye, but not in a good way.

These kinds of tricks appear unprofessional. Resumes that bring success use a combination of a clean layout with strong content without resorting to flash.

Typeface Don’t

While font choice is important, distracting choices can derail your message. Hiring managers should focus on content — your skills, abilities, and experiences. Don’t decrease readability by using more than two fonts in your resume. Using two complementary fonts, say one for headings and one for the body, highlights important pieces of the document while maintaining the integrity of the information.

Color Do

Use a strategic splash of color to emphasize particular information or graphical elements.

Spelling and Grammar Do

Spelling and grammar are small things you need to be conscious of through your resume. Spell check is not always reliable as it won’t catch every grammar mistake if of the words are spelled correctly. “To,” “too,” and “two” are often confused and can easily be missed in such a check.

White Space Do

White space on your resume is essential for the reader. Use reasonable margins as well as space strategically between sections of information. This gives the reader, a hiring manager or otherwise, a break and points of focus without using more obvious styles. While the information on your resume is important, you don’t want it to look like a page from a novel or high school essay.

Consistency Do

Being consistent with your format throughout your entire resume will allow your reader to follow patterns. This makes your resume an easy read rather than a search and find. If you use bold titles for your current workplace, you should do the same for all other experience listed. Special note: Limit your use of bold, italic, and underlined text—if you try to make everything stand out, nothing will.

By Kaley Buck, Five Strengths Contributor

Your Resume Is Your Worst Enemy:6 Ways to Defeat it

Your Resume Is Your Worst Enemy:6 Ways to Defeat it

Compiling an amazing resume is often described as the ultimate job search challenge. Truly, creating the resume that will secure an interview may well be the most difficult part of your job search. It doesn’t take much to land your shining finished product firmly in the “no” pile. There are turn-offs, red flags and simple mistakes that will send your resume straight into the garbage can. However, being aware of these common mistakes and avoiding them is half the battle. Let’s take a look…

Problem #1: Your resume is too lengthy, but you’re unsure of what to delete.

Deciding what makes the final cut on your resume can be a real challenge. Experts advise not to go further back than 10-15 years in your work history. Another way to determine this would be to not include more than your previous 5 jobs, whichever option is shorter. Descriptions of duties at each position can also take up a lot of room and is generally unnecessary. Using short sentences or bullet points can be great ways to simplify details. While there doesn’t seem to be a perfect length for a resume, one page seems to be the current trend with two-pages being acceptable if needed.

Beware of using what is termed as “filler.” This is an old trend that has gone by the wayside. At one time there seemed to be a misconception that having important words or different types of positions listed on your resume would increase your chances of landing an interview. This will not prove true if this extra information causes your resume to be so wordy and long that it is tossed in the trash bin. “More” is not “better” in when dealing with your resume. You do not want to appear to be someone who “dabbles” in everything; you want to show expertise or experience in a couple of areas instead.

Problem #2: You lack education and experience.

This can be a common problem as we search for positions that challenge us to better ourselves. When you find that job that mentions experience or education that you lack, you should still give it a shot. What do you have to lose by applying? Job listings tend to contain a wish list of sorts for the perfect candidate. Odds are, there isn’t going to be anyone that meets each requirement. Be honest in listing the education and experience that you do possess, don’t ever be dishonest. Even if your degree is in a completely different field, it still demonstrates your knowledge base and shows that you are a graduate. Fill in the blanks by expressing the interest and enthusiasm you have for the position along with a healthy desire to learn on the job. You may be surprised with the results.

Problem #3: Not only did you not stay long at your last job, you have a history of frequently changing jobs.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are wondering if a job should be listed, here is a common guideline. If you were at a job for less than two months, leave it off your resume. If the time spent in that position was over two months than in most cases you will want to include it on your resume. Such a short time frame spent in any position is bound to raise questions from a perspective employer, so be prepared to answer truthfully. It may be that the position wasn’t what you had hoped for or maybe there were economic problems that surfaced, whatever the case, be ready to discuss it.

A similar issue that you may face comes from hopping from job to job. While this may feel like a mark against you, that is not always the case in the eye of the hiring manager. Perhaps you advanced in status due to some of your job changes? Having the initiative to continue to search until you find what you are looking for and where you will happily stay may show the company in which you are applying for that you are in a real search for a long term career. As mentioned above, be prepared to discuss these job changes and the goal of each. Remember, no trash talking, that never leaves a positive impression. Avoid it at all costs.

Problem #4: You have sizeable gaps in your work history.

If you have time off between jobs that are long enough to draw questions it is a good idea to address these in your cover letter. Take comfort in the fact that with the economic slowdowns that have hit over the past decade gaps in employment history are much more common than they once were. State in your cover letter whether the time off was due to staying home to raise children or a tough job market, but do address it. If the length of your job search has reached a point that you must get something on your resume, then take up some volunteer or freelancing work and include that. As with anything on your resume, be prepared to have an open and honest discussion about it.

Problem #5: You are using outdated resume terms.

You want your resume to get noticed, but not for the wrong reasons. Below is a list of some of the terms you should now avoid even though they were popular in the past.

  • References available by request (Of course they are, but either include them, or don’t mention them).
  • Detail-oriented (aren’t we all? At least to some extent).
  • Hardworking (actions speak louder than words; no one really believes this statement until they see it for themselves).
  • Objective (very outdated, replaced with a job or career summary).
  • Responsible for…. (Using this format will cause your resume to become to wordy).
  • Problem solver (is this really unique to you? I don’t think so…).
  • Team player (again, action and time will tell).

Problem #6: You include too much personal information and decoration.

Even though talking about hobbies, religion and marital status discloses a lot about yourself, you don’t want to include these details on your resume. You also don’t want to be the one resume that uses a bright pink cursive font. While you will get noticed, it will not bring the results that you are hoping for.

A professional resume is crucial in today’s competitive job market. The details can make or break you. Be sure that your resume shows a clear direction along with career goals that you are hoping to achieve without including information that would be deemed too personal.

Remember, every mistake you may have on your resume is completely fixable, don’t lost heart. Don’t make more of it than it is by taking yourself too seriously. Your resume isn’t a legally binding document. Your past employer isn’t going to proof read it for you. Your resume is a summary of your work history, education and experience, that’s all. It’s your journey, your path and experiences and your future. Take the time to prepare a resume that makes you feel confident or hire a professional resume writer to do so, but take pride in yourself and your accomplishments, whatever they may be.

By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor
Image courtesy of aechan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Your Competitors Can Teach You About Your Resume

What Your Competitors Can Teach You About Your Resume

 

Weeks have passed since you sailed through both a phone screening and a first interview, and yet, you haven’t heard another word. Obviously someone else has taken the position that you were hoping to score. So the question remains, why? What did they have that you didn’t? What made someone else stand out above you and the rest of the applicants? Was it their skills, personality, interview or even their resume? You can’t risk being deficient in any of the categories mentioned above. The problem lies in the fact that we don’t often hear back about why we were not chosen for a position. How do we improve with no information on what’s going wrong? We need to break the cycle we so easily find ourselves in and think like a competitor. Make no mistake, this is a competition.

Open with an Engaging Summary

In case you haven’t heard, placing an “Objective” at the top of your resume has become a thing of the past. The current trends are leaning toward a Summary. This is a friendly, more personable way to introduce yourself to prospective employers. This is a chance to let some of your personality show through in what can otherwise be a somewhat dry and detail-oriented fact sheet and job history. Think of the summary as a modern day, virtual handshake. Be professional but let your personality shine through. Do not include details such as hobbies and marital status; however, they don’t want to hear about those things at this point, stay professional but engaging. This will kick-off a current, interesting and competitive resume.

Don’t be Afraid to Show your Passion

We often hold ourselves back from truly expressing our feelings about how important something is to us. This isn’t a mistake that you will have a chance to rectify when made on a resume or at an initial job interview. Let your passion about an opportunity or your past experiences come through. A hiring agent needs to be able to accurately gauge your level of interest whether on paper or in person. You must be sure that you are honestly expressing your enthusiasm.  Hiring someone that they know is truly excited about a position will win over someone that just seems to be “a good fit,” every time. Provide solid explanations about why this company or position intrigues you. How does it fit into the puzzle of your future aspirations? What are you excited to show them?

Highlight Results-Driven Accomplishments

When listing previous employment, do not provide endless explanations or lists of duties preformed or extreme details of what was required of you. While you want to be thorough, you don’t need to list every position that you have ever had. Instead think about unique methods and ideas that you contributed that had proven measureable results. Such as: increases in sales, customer numbers, social media presence, etc. Stay focused on relevance as well as stability. You want to highlight the results you can bring to the table. A bulleted, verb packed format can be a great way to present this information as it is a quick scan for your interviewer and an easy discussion starter.

Remember the All-Important Keywords

As you prepare your resume, remember that you are competing not only against other resumes, but against machines and talent-management software. This software will generally dispose of up to 50% of resumes and cover letters before they even grace the presence of a human being. Using the correct keywords becomes more important every day. You can create your own list of important keywords by previewing many different job listings in the field in which you are seeking employment. Search for similarities in skill sets, tasks, duties, and so on. Be sure to insert these important key-words naturally throughout your resume, be thorough but of course, don’t overdo it.

Be a Confident Competitor

There are many ways to make your resume stand out above the rest. Your resume is the single most important part of your job search. Read it aloud to ensure that it is competitive, concise, and attention getting. Also, don’t forget your cover letter.  If after revamping and applying all the techniques above you are still not getting the recognition that you feel you deserve, it may be time to call in a professional Resume Writer. Turning the process over to an outside source with well-trained methods can be just the boost you need to make it to the top of the list.

By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Creative Ways You Can Improve Your Resume

5 Creative Ways You Can Improve Your Resume

Compiling a unique, powerful and attention getting resume has always been difficult. However, in today’s tech-driven world, it is getting even more challenging. There are elements that are game changers, such as electronic resume scanners. It is more critical than ever to be at the top of your job-seeking game. This means, first and foremost, having an optimized resume that will get you that interview.

Do Not List an Objective

Rather than listing an objective, write a summary statement. You do not want to start off your resume by making demands as having an objective seems to do. You would do better to set a different tone from the beginning. A short synopsis that illustrates your work history, achievements and experience is a welcome addition to any resume. These statements may even be done in a bulleted format for quick skimming by a prospective employer. The objective section is now out, and the summary statement is the current trend.

Change the Design but be Consistent

We often seem to get into a rut with the style, color and design of our resumes. We may go in and update information, but we rarely change formatting, color or detail. To stay current with today’s job market, it is crucial to get ourselves out of this box and make our resume’s stand out. We are able to use graphs, charts, boxes, images and so on to enhance our resume. In adding these details, however, you want to be sure to stay true to your industry and not go too far over the top. You don’t want to use more than two different font types or sizes. It can just be too much. Think about the field you are applying in and make sure your resume is a good fit. However, this is a great chance for a creative and attention getting self-promotion of your skills.

Describe Your Future, not Only Your Past

A resume is not your life story. It must be kept short and concise. You are in fact trying to “sell yourself,” not give a narrative of your history. The goals you have for your future career should be what guides the information that makes the cut and appears on your resume. The past experience that highlights these goals should be maximized and highlighted. You want to be in control of which aspects of your experience are focused on. Emphasize the past employment that relates to the position you are applying for the most. This will keep the direction of your resume where you want it to be. Clarity is the goal.

Practice Skimming

Once you feel that your resume is close to ready to send out, put yourself in the recruiter’s seat. Set your resume on your desk and look at it from afar.

  • Does it look like more than you want to read? Than it probably is and you need to cut out some of the unnecessary words and fluff. Also, be sure to leave some white spaces between paragraphs for ease of readability.
  • Can you easily pick up on details and critical keywords that fit the position you are applying for? If not, make them more obvious, emphasize them.
  • Are you able to quickly scan through within about six seconds and get a good idea of the qualifications contained in your resume? Is there enough information at a glance to make you worthy of an interview?
  • Does your contact information stand out clearly? If you have listed more than one phone number or email address, simplify. Give them one or two most direct routes to contact you and then be available if they do call.

Spend some time on each of these questions to ensure your resume is ready to be distributed.

Format for Delivery

Have you ever felt unsure about the format you should send a resume in? Don’t be, the answer is PDF. By the time you are submitting a resume for consideration, you have spent countless hours making sure that every line is formatted correctly, every bullet point lined up. Don’t lose your hard work by submitting a resume in a Word document and having it arrive with these fine details lost. Sending a PDF insures that your resume will arrive exactly as you sent it.

Using the ideas and tools in this article should help you re-think your familiar approach to your resume. Step out of your comfort zone and dare to be more creative. The goal is to have your resume be informative yet pleasing to the eye by those who evaluate it. Take your time and do it right, you won’t regret it.

By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor
Image courtesy of lekkyjustdoit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What to Do Next With Your Résumé

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Guide to Cover Letters

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Job Search Letters of Acceptance, Refusal, and Resignation

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Can I Get a “Generic” Resume?

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Explaining Résumé Tense

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Dispelling the One-Page Resume Myth

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