Sunday, April 25, 2010

Your Resume Isn’t Only About You, It’s About the Reader Too

Write your resume with the reader in mind. Put your audience first if you want to get past the gatekeepers.

Who are the gatekeepers? It depends on three things: where you’re at in your career, your professional network and whether you’re using job boards.

If your career and professional network are well-established you'll probably bypass the gatekeepers. If someone is moving from Apple to Google either they’ve been headhunted or they have a relationship with someone at Google. Their resume will not be the door opener. In fact they’ll only need a resume if someone from HR requires it as a formality.

What if you’re not at that stage in your career? Then your resume has to appeal to two gatekeepers: the resume search engine and the human recruiter who stumbles across your resume with a keyword search or when you apply directly to a job post.

Search Engine vs. the Recruiter
A search engine doesn’t care how long your resume is or how it’s formatted. It’s is only looking for keywords that match a search query. But if the search engine does match your resume to a job then readability is a crucial differentiator.

Recruiters are very concerned about readability. Use consistent fonts and formatting, engaging language, and put the most relevant information first. Recruiters only take a few minutes to figure out if you’re qualified. They depend on you to make it easy for them to skim your resume and decide whether or not to give you a call.

Hook the reader on the first page. Generate enough excitement to entice the person to turn the page instead of moving onto the next resume. Action words, your achievements and accomplishments will make the person want to keep reading. Describe an accomplishment that shows specific tangible improvements that are relevant to the job you’re applying too. For example, if you’re a QA manager describe how you achieved a 10% decrease in bugs when you successfully implemented a new bug tracking tool within budget.

Don’t Bury Your Experience. When I see a resume that lists skills or methodologies on the first page and no job experience my recruiter radar wonders whether this person has the work experience for the job.

How far back should you go? Some people say that your resume should only cover the past 10 years. I believe that a detailed description of 7-10 years of experience followed by a bulleted list of your additional experience should suffice. For example, an IT project manager who was a programmer analyst earlier in their career should have detailed descriptions of their project management experience followed by a section summarizing the analysis, design and programming they did earlier in their career. Information about complementary experience early in your career could be the differentiator that gets you the job.

Final word: It’s okay to brag when you are writing a resume, just remember that you’re not getting paid by the word.

Tim Collins

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