There’s no doubt that a lot of people struggle with writing resumes. It’s difficult and you want to come up with something that’s very powerful.
You need to know how someone would look at your resume. Resumes are not read left to right and top to bottom. People don’t read resumes like how they read a book. Keep in mind what the employer is going through or probably the recruiter or some human resource official when opening up a resume. They all look at it very quickly.
The first place that their eyes go is to the top center or top half portion of the resume. They’re trying to get a feel of who you are.
Now, let’s talk about what that means for you . . .
If their eyes go to the top center of the resume~ it’s like your smile. It’s like the first thing that they see. This is the best part where you can make a strong first impression and it must invite the reader to continue reading.
It is very important that you grab their attention first.
You need to know how your resume is going to look like. This is so critical.
What not to do?
Under no circumstances, it doesn’t matter if you are a college student or a pro, do not include an objective statement. I absolutely don’t have any idea where objective statements came from because it would never make sense to me at any point in our existence why anybody would put something what they want on a document intended to show what you offer.
So an objective statement is typically ”What is your objective in seeking this job, in your career, whatever it might be”. There’s NO place anywhere in the resume for that.
For both students and professionals, your education should also not be the first thing that employer/recruiter/HR person sees. They’ll get to it soon enough. Even if you are a college student, resist the temptation of putting your education at the top. Your degree is not a voucher to anything anymore. Employers are looking for more and you should give them more upfront before they get to your education.
The other thing that you shouldn’t do is ~ do not to go right into the current company that you are working for. If this is your place to shine and show them who you are, starting with where you’re currently working is just going to answer the question where you now and then they’re going to look with the rest of the resume to figure out who you really are. Employers or HR people don’t like that.
Don’t put tables anywhere in your resume but especially not at the top. Tables are boring. They oftentimes don’t include the right information, applicant tracking information doesn’t like them, so don’t put tables up at the top.
Whatever the situation is, you shouldn’t be putting any opinions about yourself on your resume especially at the top. So these are things like meaningless buzzwords that say you’re enthusiastic, excellent communicator, a leader, or whatever it is that you think you are and may very will be. Remember that on a resume, you need evidence to back that up so don’t put those words anywhere. Employers want you to put evidence inside the resume to show that you are based on what you say you are.
Some people say, ”Well I need to have a lot of white space there” , ”It’s more pleasing to the eye” , ”People will have a difficult time if there’s a lot of texts there”, ”I’ve been told that I should list my skills at the top and all that stuff”. **** Now, let’s discuss a little bit more of that.
Imagine what a trained recruiter can do with a few seconds. They see hundreds of resumes day in and day out for years and years. Do you get my point? If I’m the employer or recruiter, I know what I’m looking for and you’re giving me the right kind of context to frame it. I can pick that up in a nanosecond.
Imagine these samples that I’m going to show you, and I want you to just for a second think about how you feel, just about the way they look in the content that you’re going to see.
David Johnson! What do you know about this guy?
He’s an ”Online ESL Tutor”. To me, those three words are all I need to know and all the other stuffs below are stuffs that any ESL tutors would have. Employers or HR persons already know that. They wouldn’t even bother looking at it.
What about Kelly here? Look at her profile.
In Kelly’s profile for instance, when I look at this, I can see the title Online ESL tutor on the left and all that important stuffs and I can get all of that in 1 or 2 seconds. I know that I’m going to absolutely love looking at this resume. Now, below that she has this core competencies paragraph. Notice how in David Johnson’s case with the table, he just listed all those exact same 10 things. Now here’s the interesting part. In David’s, I (the reader) just blew by it. Whereas in Kelly’s case, she held me up at the top because I really want to kind of soak in that first paragraph. It looked like the way the text reads is that she’s got rich words in there . I can already tell that there’s more factual and interesting words rather than those buzzwords in there.
On the second paragraph of Kelly~ I wouldn’t even have read that. That’s okay, that’s not the point coz she already had my attention. David Johnson on the other hand, he didn’t do any such thing. He gave me nothing. Now he basically wasted 2 and a half inches of his resume telling me nothing.
Some people however might read Kelly’s second paragraph with the core competencies. They might look to see if she has anything out of the ordinary. But do you know who’s going to read that paragraph? 100 % of the time~ the computer. The applicant tracking system. Remember that resumes are not solely for people. Well, the goal is to get to a person or human being, then wow the person (which is the employer or HR person) and eventually to get to the interview but to a lot of people who are going to get them past the applicant tracking system, it would be very tricky.
The applicant tracking system don’t like tables, graphics, acronyms and all that stuffs. Research have shown this and a lot of the tools that are out there support this. This is why the top half portion of your resume is so important and if you think for one second that you are repeating yourself, then, think again.
Kelly Miller put together a profile that immediately got me excited as a reader. She gave me a frame of reference for what I’m about to read and she put my bias on the positive side because now I’m excited. It’s like setting someone’s expectations. David, on the other hand put me to sleep.
When I have to go through all these resumes , if I am a human resources person or a recruiter working for a company and I’m getting all these, it’s not exciting to me. I’m not in a great mood when I get down to the rest of your resume. But Kelly gets the benefit of the doubt.
You get to control the narrative. This is why it’s so important to have a career profile. You get to say whatever you want to say up top. I’ll say this again~ stay away from those things that you should avoid to put on your resume.
There are lots of format that are out there, and I favor, always have, always will favor the chronological format. I mean the reverse chronological format for the work experience section of your resume or professional experience section. That means you’ve got the company name at the top left of that section, then maybe you have a little line or two about what the company does and what you’re doing within the company, then your title, then your responsibilities, and then your previous title and those responsibilities, and so on. And then the further back you go in time, those companies, list those out in order as well so that your first company or the longest ago company that you have on your resume, whenever you decide to cut your resume, is at the bottom.
There are other types of resumes. You’ve probably seen them or heard of them like the skills-based resume or the functional resume. The skills-based resume highlights those features you have. So in David Johnson’s example where he has lesson planning, time management or whatever that is, he might call those out and then highlight the companies that he worked at where he actually gained those skills.
The reason that those styles, those layouts are ineffective is, the second question that an employer has after who are you is where are you. Think about it. Think like you’re the employer or recruiter receiving a functional resume. What’s the first question you have in mind? Is it where are they now or where were they most recently? It’s very difficult to tell.
So employers, hirer, HR people, recruiters, whoever it is, they like to see that chronological order. It shows them the evolution. The other thing that the skills-based or the functional resumes do is that they put suspicion in the mind of the recruiter like you’re trying to hide something. We don’t want them to think like that and start looking for something bad like a gap in employment. There’s nothing wrong about having a gap in employment but as an applicant, you should show them where it is. Stick to the chronology coz it’s much easier to follow.
Now, another point that I want to make is about the way in which you articulate yourself in the bullets themselves or the sentences that you write, whether it’s on the career profile or on the career highlights section which I also recommend. Focus on your accomplishments. I say this a lot ~ it’s not good enough to show them what you did. Employers want to know what happened as a result of what you did.
Let me give an example.
So if you teach ESL learners of all ages ~ well, recruiters see A LOT of resumes like it. What doesn’t it tell me? Are you a good teacher? Do you get excellent class reviews? Do students love how you teach? Is your company happy of your service? Have you done anything to streamline those processes or whatever. So this probably has some place on the resume. It could probably be broken up, it could be buried, it could be up in the summaries but I would much rather see a bullet that said something like …
These are the kinds of things that are very important for you to get onto your resume. Whether you’re putting them on a highlight section or putting them in the professional experience section, which you should be.
If you focus on making sure that the top center of your resume sings and gets people excited to read it, you make sure that you lay it out in a great format chronologically that’s easy for them to see what hopefully is a nice career evolution for you. Make sure you’re focusing on your accomplishments in addition to what your responsibilities are.