In Sept. 2008, I had the privilege of attending an HR panel who took the time to share what they wanted to see (and did not want to see) on a job candidate’s resume. Here’s what they had to say:
State your objective.
You needn’t have an “objective” section per se but HR reps agree that they want to know right off the bat that you’re well aware of the position for which you’re applying. This may seem like common sense to you but to someone with a stack of 100 resumes, it’s an important distinction.
Avoid functional resumes.
Whenever possible, use a reverse chronological format and make sure to highlight the last five years of your work/life experience. The panel agreed, it’s fine if your recent work is irrelevant; you should still discuss it.
Consider combination and hybrid formats.
If your most impressive work accomplishments are earlier in your work history, add a highlights section to the front of your resume but make sure to limit it to the top 1/3 of the page at the most. Another option is subtitling your bullet points with headings that are relevant to the reviewers’ needs.
Don’t stress over job titles.
Titles mean different things at different companies, depending on size, industry, and location. For this reason, resume screeners pay less attention to job titles and more attention to job responsibilities.
Compensate for a missing degree.
Not having a degree is NOT a deal breaker. Some advice to those without degrees is to play up personality traits and soft skills. Degrees denote commitment, follow-through, and organizational ability (to name a few). If you illustrate your talents in these area, you’ll hit an emotional chord with your reader, and they’ll want to interview you.
Keep fonts traditional.
Unless you’re in an unconventional field, use Georgia, Times, Courier, or Arial (10-12 point) font.
Verbosity, excessive confidence, hyperbole, and over-inflated language were all greatly looked down upon. Stick to the point and you’ll win every time. Better to explain a shortcoming than try to cover it up.
Lose the keyword section.
Running lists of keywords are so 1990s. A successful resume will integrate keywords throughout all of the sections, not try to lump them all together in a desperate attempt to attract as many different job opportunities as possible.
Include links to your online profile.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other networking sites provide valuable information to complement your resume. Panelists agreed that recommendations and comments from these sites prove helpful in evaluating candidates.
Keep links “hot”.
Some resume reviewers enjoy moving from the resume to your online profile to your employer’s bio. Supply these links to make surfing easier for them. The more time they spend learning about you and your work history, the better off your are.
The above information was taken from a 2-hour seminar as part of the National Resume Writers’ Association annual conference in San Diego, CA, 2008. There were 6 panelists comprised of recruiters and HR reps, representing a broad range of multi-national corporations and small businesses.