Over the course of my HR career I've literally seen thousands of resumes of people at all levels and points in their careers. Bottom line? Most of them suck. That resume template from MS Word you're so proudly sporting? Yeah, I've seen that one li
ke 10,000 times. Like using fancy fonts? Sorry dude, it can't hide the fact that you've had 3 jobs in the last 12 months. Sure, LinkedIn and social media in general have changed the way that candidates interact and present themselves to potential employers but a proper resume is still almost always part of the hiring process. But here's my real issue – us HR Pros still have to review your sucky resume and trust me, after 10-15 doozies in a row it's pretty hard to stay focused. So I thought I'd share with you what I look for in a resume to help me quickly rule candidates in or out.
Is the candidates a doer or an accomplisher? The very first thing I do when I review a resume is look to see how the candidate talks about the work they've done. Do you use the valuable resume real-estate to give me a list of every task you were responsible for completing? Well don't. If you're an accountant I think it's safe to assume that you closed the books every month. And if you're in sales, I'm pretty sure it's a given that you have to go out and make sales calls. In other words, every job has “table stakes” and you don't need to waste space telling me about them. The resumes that really get my attention are the ones where the candidate talks about results or what they actually accomplished. Tell me about how you increased sales or revamped your accounting processes to save money. Results trump table stakes every time.
How long has the candidate worked at their last few companies? If you have a string of jobs where you lasted in them for less than 2 years you're most likely going to the “pass” pile. In my opinion, it takes at least 18 months to two years for anyone to make a real impact on a company. The first year is really just about getting your bearings, learning about the company and building the relationships which will help you accomplish things in the future. So if you're gone in anything less than two years, I'm not sure what you really could have accomplished that will be la
sting. Now, I understand the economy plays a role here and layoffs, mergers, etc are a way of life and it's not always your choice to leave a job. The best resumes I've seen deal with that upfront – they either briefly provide the circumstances around any short stints in a cover letter or in the resume itself. Doesn't mean you'll get the job but it keeps you from getting ruled out right of the bat.
What do you do with your free time? I'll be honest, it wasn't until recently that I paid any attention to what someone did in their free time. Didn't think it was my business or relevant to whether I hire you or not. I've come to the point of view that these activities can provide some insights into the type of person you're hiring. Someone who uses their free time to volunteer for a cause they feel strongly about tells me something about their passion, beliefs and that they're willing to help those who need it. All generally good qualities in an employee. I have a particular soft spot for the amateur athlete. Three years ago I couldn't swim more than 50 yards without stopping but I decided I wanted compete in triathlons and since then I've completed almost 20 races. So, when I see the woman who tells me that she runs marathons for example, I know she's more than likely pretty dedicated and willing to put in hard work (like running 20 miles first thing in the morning, in the cold, on her day off). Moral of the story? Your high school guidance counselor was right – extracurricular activities do matter!
What does your Linked In page look like? I check out the Linked In profile of any candidate who makes it past the initial screening phase. I'm generally looking for a few key things – have you taken the time to actually update your profile or did you go the no picture, no description of your work route? What do your connections look like? If you've been in the workforce for more than a couple of years and have 20 connections I might think twice about why. But the most important thing I look for is consistency between your profile and your resume. Let's be honest, you can pretty much put whatever you want on your resume but you'll probably think twice about embellishing your accomplishments on a public site. And if you do embellish, well then I'm glad I checked!
What do you look for in a resume? Let's compare notes in the comments…