How to get Your Resume in the YES Pile

 

You know that saying Don’t judge a book by its cover? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret – that rule doesn’t apply to recruiters. When it comes to hiring, that “cover” is your resume, and recruiters are judging it. Big time.

As if the job hunt isn't competitive enough, research reveals that recruiters spend only 6 seconds reviewing each individual resume to determine initial fit. That means you MUST ensure that your resume is absolutely flawless, visually appealing, and stands out from the crowd.

Talk about pressure.

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. 

After spending the first 10 years of my career in HR and recruiting, I consider myself a pro when it comes to career advice.

In fact, as someone who has hired hundreds of people throughout my career (my favorite being the year I hired over 100 people for one company), I’d estimate that I’ve probably interviewed just over a thousand people. That means I have looked at close to 10,000 resumes during my time. Woah.

And, today, I'm going to reveal my insider tips to turn you into your very own resume-editing pro! No more worrying about whether your resume will stand out, because after we get done here, you'll be too busy fielding calls from interested recruiters. 

So pull out that resume, roll up your sleeves, and read on, because it's time to get to work....

 
 
 

<<Warning: These probably aren't the same generic tips you've read dozens of times before. This is brutally honest feedback, because, if I don't have longer than 6 seconds to look at a resume, I sure as heck don't have time to sugar coat it.>>

 

Resume Editing for Beginners:

Since you have just 6 seconds to make an unforgettable first impression, let's get down to business. These first few tips relate to the what you're writing. They're also where I recommend starting when first making changes to improve your resume. 

 

>>LESS IS MORE.

You don't have to list out every-single-responsibility-EVER. We get it, you did a lot. We all do a lot. Instead, make your contributions stand out. This is especially important for those who are more senior in their career. And, if you've had lots of jobs throughout your career, no need to detail them all out. Just list ones that are applicable to your career or the role you’re applying for. 

Instead of the standard "responsibilities" you would find in a job description:

 
  • Run weekly reports and analyze results
  • Build recap and present findings to senior team members 
  • Look for opportunities to make improvements 

Try combining the above responsibilities so that you're sharing a more meaningful contribution that shows how you added value:

 
  • Lead monthly analysis meeting for 30-person sales team, presenting results and offering recommendations to increase sales volume, consistently improving quarterly results by an average of 10%.   

 

>>PUT YOUR MOST IMPORTANT ACHIEVEMENTS AT THE TOP OF EACH JOB.
When I was a recruiter, I only ever read (let's be honest, skimmed) the first and, if you were lucky, second bullets of your two most recent positions. Moral of the story? Make them count.

Read through the bullets for each of your jobs and reorder them so that the most impressive ones are listed at the top.

Advanced tip: If you happen to be applying for a job in a totally different field, this tip comes in very handy. Reorder your bullets based on achievements that are most applicable to the job you're applying for. So even if you're in Finance and you now want a job in Sales, you have a better chance of standing out to a recruiter simply by reordering your bullets so that any sales-like achievements are listed at the top. 

 

>>#’s, #'s, #'s
And, no, I'm not talking about hashtags. I'm talking numbers, baby! Use them whenever you can. Numbers catch a recruiter’s eye and force them to read what's written next to them. Saved the company money? Awesome! Didn't include a figure attached to that dollar sign or a % of savings? Literally, no.one.cares. 

Instead of: Looked for opportunities to negotiate agency contracts to reduce cost per hire and save money
Try this: Negotiated agency contracts to reduce cost per hire by $900, resulting in $25K annual savings

 

>>RECONSIDER THE OBJECTIVE SECTION. 
"Objective: To obtain a challenging and rewarding position where I can utilize my experience to contribute and develop as a professional."

zzzzzzzz...

Oops, did you just catch me drooling? I'm sorry but Objectives are a total snoozefest to me. They're so 1990’s. And, honestly, they just take up space on your resume that you can use for something more valuable or to make your resume look less busy.

If you feel obligated to keep the Objective section, for the love of Pete, please make it specific and ensure you write the correct position you're applying for. I can't tell you how many resumes I've seen that have made this unforgivable mistake. Including this gem from 2013 that I just had to share with the Facebook world: 

 
 

 

>>OUT WITH THE OBJECTIVE. IN WITH THE SUMMARY. 
This tip only applies to people more senior in their career who have held multiple positions. (My rule of thumb: at least 5+ years of experience and/or 4+ progressive positions.) Though only a light recommendation, not a requirement, the summary section can be used at the top of your resume to highlight experience and expertise. It is especially useful to tie together common themes from various positions throughout your career, so they are more likely to stand out to a recruiter. 

Here's a simple example: 

 
 

 

>>CURRENT JOB: PRESENT TENSE. PAST JOBS: PAST TENSE.
I've had people tell me they heard you should keep everything consistent, so they list their entire resume in past tense — including their current job. Nope, you're wrong! (Or, at least, I disagree with you.) And remember, I'm the one who spent years looking at hundreds of resumes a day. ;-)


Advanced Resume Editing: 

Now that you've successfully made the easy changes above, I'm about to get real persnickety and turn you into a resume-editing pro.

When it comes to the layout and design of a resume, this is what separates the exceptional from the average. It's also where I spend the most amount of time when I'm helping clients and friends improve their resumes. Trust me, taking the time to make these improvements will garner huge gains. 

 

>>GIVE THAT RESUME TEMPLATE AN UPDATE. 
Sorry, Microsoft, but your resume templates are like Objectives — they're so 1990s. I literally grunt when I come across a resume straight out of Word's “Templateville,” filled with insane indents, giant blocks, and unnecessary spacing. Instead, check out my Freebies page where you can download my Free Resume Template to build a kick ass resume in minutes and ensure you stand out from your competition! 



>>MAKE BETTER USE OF YOUR BULLET POINTS.
Play around with your bullet points — they don't necessarily need to be super indented, they just need to be consistent and clean. Most resume templates align their bullet points with the job title text listed above, which means the text next to the bullet point is unnecessarily indented. Instead, move your bullet points to start in the left margin so that the text next to the bullet is aligned with the job title text above it. 

Check out a sample before and after below. 

 

Look at all that extra space you gain with this quick and easy tip!: 

 
Don't : Align your bullet points with the text above. It leaves your resume with a lot of wasted space

Don't: Align your bullet points with the text above. It leaves your resume with a lot of wasted space

 
 
DO : Move your bullet points into the left margin. This will make better use of your space and still keep a clean look!  Click to download my free resume template!

DO: Move your bullet points into the left margin. This will make better use of your space and still keep a clean look! Click to download my free resume template!

 

As you can see in the example above, any opportunity to get rid of unnecessary blank space is well worth it! And one more bullet point critique before I forget...Please make sure ALL of your bullets are aligned all the way down the page. Wonky bullets drive me crazy!

 

>>MAKE IT AS VISUALLY APPEALING AS POSSIBLE.
My biggest "ugh" about resumes is always related to layout and design. Some recruiters may not be as big of a stickler as me, but as a visual person, I can't bother looking at a poorly designed resume for more than 3 seconds. #ontothenext

On the other hand, discovering a beautifully laid out resume makes me want to print it out and pin it on my wall while gushing, "You get me, you really get me!" 

One of the [craziest] things that drives me bonkers? Bullet points that bleed into two lines but the second line of text doesn't go further than halfway across the page. Therefore, if your second line is <5 words, figure out a way to get it to one line. That could mean using less words, tightening up your spacing, realigning your margins, whatever! Just make it work. 

 

>>DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT BREAKING THESE RUDIMENTARY RESUME RULES.
Want to earn a free trip to the "no" pile in under 2 seconds?  All you have to do is ignore any of these basic rules! 

  • >2 years of experience and/or >2 jobs: Time to move that education section to the bottom, kids. 
    • When you're fresh out of college, you definitely want the Education section at the top of your resume — after all, that's probably the most impressive thing on there. But once you get a few years under your belt, it's time to show some maturity and move that section to the bottom. 
  • <4 years of experience: One page. No excuses. 
    • More than 4 years of experience? Now I might find it reasonable to consider extending your resume to two pages. But like my issue with the 2-line rule above, if your resume rolls onto two pages but takes up less than 1/4 of the page, condense that baby down to one. And definitely don't roll onto two pages with just a sentence or two. Yuck
  • Have a professional email address that includes your full name.  
    • I can’t believe I even have to say this but your email address should show that you’re professional and current. The only acceptable email address should include your first and last name, and a modern email service like gmail. Please don't have an email address that includes nicknames, tons of numbers, or an insanely outdated email provider. C'mon people, it's 2017 and gmail is free. There is literally no excuse. 
      >> yes to johnsmith@gmail.com
      >> hell no to johnnyboy123@aol.com

 

PDF. ALWAYS.
I cannot stress this enough. Whenever you can, submit your resume via PDF over any other version. This guarantees that the recruiter sees your resume exactly as you see your resume when they open it. If you send it via Word, you run the risk of someone opening it with a different version than you have, which may not keep the same layout (or font!). If they're stuck looking at a wonky resume, that means they're passing on you as a candidate. Remember, PDF is your friend. 

 


Make the ultimate first impression. 

If you're relying on just your resume to land you your dream job, you have only 6 seconds to make a good first impression. In order to stand out from the crowd, remember the following tips:

  • Less is more. 
  • Focus on achievements (rather than responsibilities) and list the most important ones at the top of each job.
  • Look for every opportunity to include #’s.
  • Objectives are outdated. Consider adding a Summary section, but only if you're senior in your career. 
  • Current job: Present tense. Past job: Past tense. 
  • Make it as visually appealing as possible. That means no outdated templates, useless space, or wonky bullet points. Whenever possible, avoiding unnecessarily bleeding into an extra line or page. Don't you dare break those rudimentary resume rules!
  • Always submit your resume as a PDF. 

And don't forget, my resume template is available to you for FREE! Download it today and be sure to check out my other free resources


Have more resume related questions?
Feel free to comment below or shoot me an email at kelly@kellyannkeegan.com

And if you need assistance in your job search, I'd love to help!
You can learn about my services here or feel free to schedule a discovery call to chat with me directly.