In our world today, inventors and developers pride themselves on developing products that will do several functions — “ like the cell phone that is also a camera and a GPS device. But a resume is not such a product. It needs to do one thing — make the employer want to interview you — and it needs to do that one thing extremely well.
Think of this as branding — when you see a white box with black spots that makes the box look like a cow, you know exactly what came in that box and the purpose of the product. Use the resume as a way to brand yourself as the best possible candidate for the job opening.
Employers will dismiss a resume if the content is too general; resume content must be focused and specific to the job opportunity. Resume information that is too broad will not appeal to prospective employers. Your resume must be written to make you relevant to the specific job you are seeking.
On the other hand, your resume must not be so specific to one goal or type of job that an employer wonders why you applied for his/her position. The need to make the resume specific requires that you have a well-written resume that can be modified to fine tune it for each job application.
One way to brand yourself in the resume is to use appropriate language to the job and the industry. For example, every resume writer knows that a resume should not contain jargon that is unknown to the prospective employer. You would never use engineering terminology in a resume for a psychologist. However, knowing and understanding the correct language for a position and using that language suitably in the resume content will brand you as a knowledgeable candidate.
Another way to brand yourself is to create the same look and feel in all your documents by using the same margins, fonts, and font sizes throughout. The resume, cover letter, and any other accompanying documents that come from the job candidate should be alike in format and feel. When the prospective employer reads the cover letter and then picks up the resume, he or she should know immediately that these documents came from the same candidate.
- Font – choose a font that is common enough that it will be recognized by the software the employer uses. If you use a font that is not recognizable to the software, it will be switched to a default, usually to some ugly font that you don’t want in your resume.
- Font Size – no smaller than 11 points if using a font such as Arial or Times New Roman. Compare this standard to other fonts for appropriate sizes. Tiny text on a resume may be the first reason the employer uses to decide to put your resume in the “I don’t have to read this resume” pile.
- Margins – keep appropriate margins in the resume. The default Word margins are 1.25 on the left and right and 1 inch on the top and bottom if you are using Word 1997-2003. Unless you don’t have lots of experience or information to include, don’t use the extra wide margins. One inch margins all around are the most appropriate — this is standard on Word 2007. Never use half inch margins or anything smaller!
- White Space – Narrow margins and dense text are also turn offs to prospective employers. The resume needs to be written with enough white space that it is easy for the reader to move down the page and quickly identify relevant experience. Employers won’t read the resume word for word, so you must provide them with reasons to look at the document. White space allows the eye to rest and indicates the importance of information on the page. If there is no white space, there is no way for the employer to identify pieces of information that are important to him or her. Think about the ads in a newspaper or the pages of your favorite magazine — white space makes you want to read the text. A few words of text surrounded by white space draws the eye.
- Professionalism – Your resume must indicate your level of professionalism. If the resume is written in informal language, uses inappropriate words or qualifications for the type of position, or has the look of a grade-school student’s history report with lots of different fonts, varying text sizes, and inappropriate clip art, then you have lost the respect of the employer before he or she ever reads your resume.