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How to Make Your Resume Stand Out from the Rest
With the economy the way it is, more and more people are finding themselves laid off and having to find a job. The job landscape is getting tougher as more and more people are competing for significantly fewer job openings. This means that hiring managers will have to sort through stacks of resumes and pick a subset they can call for a possible interview.
If you wish your resume to be picked from a stack of possibly over 100 resumes, then you'll want to know what goes through the mind of a hiring manager and what challenges they face when determining who to call for the interview.
When you finish reading this article, you will know how to improve your resume presentation in order to improve your chances of at least getting to an interview.
The Resume Layout
When I was in the Air Force, one of the many things I learned is how to write a proposal for a general level officer. As some of you may know, generals are like CEOs who have a lot of things on their schedule. Every chunk of time they have are typically blocked off by their executive officer with some activity of one type of another. As such, when they receive a proposal, the proposal has to brief, concise, and to the point. A typical proposal would have a one page executive summary on the front page and any supporting documents or details behind it. With this format, one could quickly digest the executive summary and immediately know what you need or are proposing.
Your resume's layout will have to be similar--1 to 2pages (I repeat, no more than 2 pages!). Any supporting documentation like certifications, awards, and recommendations can be attached behind it. Your resume should be simple and should provide information in the order shown below:
- You contact information (full name, address, personal email address, and cell number)
- Brief paragraph that summarizes who you are (this needs to make the hiring manager want to read on)
- Relevant educational background (degrees, certifications, titles); this should be 1 to 2 lines long
- Skills (any relevant skills; should only be 1 to 2 lines)
- Relevant major accomplishments (what major things have you done to help current and prior employers?)
- Employment history
This section should be at the top of your resume. Put attention to your name by putting it in boldface. Include your mailing address, personal email, and cell number.
I specified personal email because using your current work email address is just not right and will quickly put a question mark in the hiring manager's mind about how good your common sense is. You can always get free email accounts out there from the likes of gmail.com or yahoo.com. Don't use the email provided to you by your ISP. You may change your ISP someday, and that would result on that email address being invalid.
Use your cell phone number, not your current employer's cell phone. Not many people have land lines anymore. Plus, you'll want to answer calls from a potential employer regardless of where you are to help increase your chances of being reached and called in for an interview. If you are in still at work when called, you'll have to make proper judgment depending on what you are doing. Worst case, if you are in the middle of something apologize and see if you can call them back at a better time.
The very first thing you will have on top of your resume under your contact information is a paragraph that briefly describes who you are and why someone would care to hire you. This is designed to catch the attention of the hiring manager. Remember, these guys have to go through hundreds of resumes. You'll want to make it as easy as possible for them to figure out who you are and why they would hire you. Make it relevant to the position you are seeking.
This information can be very relevant for the job position. The good thing about this is that it can be completed and conveyed in 1 to 2 lines, and it is relatively easy to scan, thus quickly giving the hiring manager a feel for your educational level. Provided they are relevant, the higher the educational level, the higher your chances are of influencing the hiring manager's bias towards you, especially if the school you attended have a good reputation of producing top people in the field.
Briefly list skills that are relevant to the position. Like the prior section, keep this lean and to the point. You'll want anyone scanning this section to quickly get a gist of your skills.
You should put at least 3 major accomplishments here. The objective of this section is to show the hiring manager that you are a person who delivers results, and as such can do the same for their company should you be hired.
Accomplishments listed here, need to show quantifiable information. For example, it may say something like "Increased sales revenue by 200% over a one year period.". I would not write something that says "Improved sales revenue in one year.". This doesn't really say anything, and may even distract the reader since they are now thinking "So how did he improve sales revenue in one year?".
Only include relevant employment history. When you describe what you did in each of the positions you've held, write it with a slant for the job position you are seeking. List them in order of the most current to the oldest.
One of the things hiring managers look for in this section is how often you change jobs. If your employment history makes you look like a job hopper, you'll need to put a brief one liner explaining why you left that job. Job hoppers can turn off a hiring manager. Hiring managers see job hoppers as a waste of time and effort.
Your employment history should not make you look like a job hopper.
Add 2 to 3 personal references at the end of your resume. This should not take more than 2 to 3 lines. Having this isn't as high priority as the prior sections. Everyone seems to have their own opinion about this section. Some say, just put "references provided upon request".
I put this here so that it conveys to the hiring manager that you aren't afraid of anyone checking up on your background or references.
Typical Resume Flow
How does your resume reach the desk of the hiring manager?
Well, there are many ways your resume could end up on on the hiring manager's desk. If you contacted a "head hunter", then your resume went from you, to the "head hunter", then to the company's human resources (HR) department, and finally to the hiring manager.
If you contacted the company directly, then your resume went from you, to the HR department, and finally to the hiring manager.
Be advised that if they got your resume through a "head hunter" it will typically cost the company a percentage of your salary should they end up hiring you. This means that it is more expensive for them through this route. Sorry to digress a bit, but it is just good to know this little tidbit of information.
"Head hunters" work hard to maintain a good reputation of delivering highly qualified candidates, because if they don't, companies will not waste time with them. As such, if you resume gets through the "head hunter", your resume has survived the first hurdle. Resume's that come from this source will most likely get to HR, and quickly go to the hiring manager with no or minimal filtering from HR.
If your resume went through the route of the HR department, then you'll need to make sure your educational background and skills have the necessary key words easily identifiable by HR. If the position being filled is for a UNIX System Administrator, you better have these words and other UNIX-related terms in the Skills section (e.g. shell scripting, vi, Linux, and cron). Without these relevant key words, your resume will hit a wall in HR.
Once it gets through HR, you are pretty much home free. Your resume has reached the hiring manager's desk. This is where your resume has to catch the eye of the hiring manager.
Insight into Hiring Managers
Once your resume has reached the hiring manager, you must realize that they are human too and will most likely be working through a stack of resumes.
Also remember that although it is the job of hiring managers to interview, hire, evaluate, and even fire employees, most of the time these managers are busy doing their day-to-day jobs--i.e. managing the company's resources (to include a budget, employees, and capital equipment). After all, they are there to make the company they work for a highly profitable one. As such, most hiring managers end up taking the resumes home and reviewing them after work hours.
Having reviewed many resumes myself in the past, I know how tiring and difficult it can be reviewing resumes, and working to make sure the best candidates, at least on paper, are selected from the initial batch.
This is where the format and layout of your resume come into play. A very simple and easy to read resume can go a long way. Keep your font size no smaller than 10 pt. Use bold font where necessary to highlight key areas or point. Below is a simple resume outline that I've found to be very easy on the eyes:
Hiring managers look for:
- Relevant experience and background
- Length of time in current and prior jobs
- Written communication skills
- Attitude conveyed by the resume (is this guy a "go getter?")
Hiring managers are turned off or are negatively impacted by:
- Small font
- Spelling errors
- Long resumes (more than 2 pages)
- Irrelevant experience and background
- key word spammers
- Job hoppers
We covered the following topics:
- Resume layout
- Resume flow to hiring manager
- Insight into the mind of the hiring manager
If you keep these things in mind when building your resume and applying for your next job, you should improve your chances of being seen by the hiring manager. That is the very first step.
The rest is up to you.