What is a good resume?

You already know that your résumé is no good if it does not reach the employer or grab their attention, still millions of resumes belonging to qualified candidates evade employers,  even though they follow all the resume-writing rules the candidate has picked up, because they lack certain elements that make them a “good resume”.  While this may sound simplistic, a good resume is simply one that does what the candidate sends it out to do, get employers interested enough to contact you.  The following five tips will help you achieve that with your résumé.

1. Your résumé should target the job you want

If you are looking for a sales position then you want to talk about your sales experience, and if you are looking for a legal position, then you want to talk about your legal experience.  In other words, emphasize the skills and experience that most closely mirror the skills and experience the employer is looking for.  I have run into resumes where the candidate is focused on all the esoteric things that they have done in their lives while ignoring the actual skills and experience that the employer seeks.  Take for instance an Accountant, seeking a Staff Accounting position, lists Job Title as Staff Accountant but under job description emphasis is laid on departmental group project which was focused in forming a cohesive project team for an online advertising project.  Even if the candidate excelled here, most employers do not care, unless a significant part of your job is dependent on team work, or advertising.

Also remember that your résumé typically has to get past pre-screeners, who are trained to look for specific information.  If you have irrelevant information, but need to include it in your résumé, to show what you have been doing with your time, do so, but do not lay much emphasis on what you did in such a position.  Most of the time your job title and a brief summary will suffice.  Filling your résumé with information that does not matter will only cause your résumé to end up in the reject pile.

2. Use only relevant experience

Many senior level-management candidates that are downsized wonder why they are not considered for lower-level positions which they may have been in charge of.  Take for instance, a Sales Manager seeking a job as a Field Sales Associate.  Many of such candidates cite age discrimination as a reason for rejection; and while this may be valid, as a former recruiter that worked with many  such candidates during the largest depression we have known in most recent times, I can say with much validity that employers are more focused on your experience than they are your age.  Most rejections for such candidates will come as “over-experienced” or “over-qualified” not “over-aged”.   Don’t be shy to dumb down your résumé if you need to, once you get the job, if you feel an absolute need to let your  new employer know that you were president at another company, go ahead.  Bottom-line is, if you are applying for a position as an administrative assistant, the employer does not need to know about your former experience as a director of sales.  At least, not before they have made the decision to interview you, or make you a job-offer.

3.  Value remains the key 

What’s in it for me? AKA WIIFM.  That’s the way most rational people who are in a market to  buy something think.  Employers are in the market to buy a candidate, and they want to know why they should hire you.  They look for clues as to the value you can offer by drawing hints from the information you have presented them.  They want to know, how you would affect their bottom-line, increase their productivity or even contribute to their getting a promotion.  Nobody wants to hire a “seat-warmer”.   Recruiters sell candidates to employers everyday by approaching them with what they have packaged as “exceptional candidates”.   They sell the candidate’s “value” by presenting probative information such as sales figures, awards, verifiable work, references and so on.  You can get the same results as most recruiters do by showing employers how you have added value to positions you have held in the past.

4. Keep it clean

I will not bore you with how long an employer or recruiter spends on your résumé, because it is all over the internet, but I will tell you that you want the employer to continue looking at your résumé after the first glance.  Make sure that your relevant skills stand out, if you need to put it in a list format, do so.  Make sure all keywords are included, this is necessary for electronic as well as visual pre-screening.  Needless to say, remove information that clutters your résumé, such as your second email address (unless necessary), your spouse’s name, and how many children you have (believe me, people still do this).

5. Know the employer 

Most employers want the same thing, talent, added-value, productivity, ability to work in specific settings and stability; but it may help you to research a specific employer a little more, just before sending out your résumé.   Ask questions like, What are they looking for, who are they and what do they like? Also find out what other people know about them, and  what the internet says about them.  Knowing an employer and what is important to them will help you craft your résumé in a way that may get their attention.

In summary, a good resume doesn’t just make it through the pre-screening process to the desk of the hiring manager, it pushes the hiring manager to invite the candidate to an interview. Make sure that your resume can do this for you.

Thanks for reading, I would love to hear your opinion on this article.

2 responses to “What is a good resume?

  1. missdisplaced October 20, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    Regarding point 2. Use only relevant experience

    True, but employers also don’t like to see gaping holes on a resume.
    If you are “dumbing-down” your experience/work history due to age or deleting certain positions how do you then address the holes this would cause in your job history?

    • Christine N. Udeani, J.D. November 13, 2013 at 9:13 PM

      Sorry for the late response, was away from blogging for a while. I do agree with you, but dumbing down your resume doesn’t have to leave gaping holes. You give the employer the information they need and withhold those you think will hurt you. For instance if you were an executive manager, putting department name and manager under your title will bring you a level down, and just putting the department you worked in will bring you three levels down (perception wise). Thanks for your comment!

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