The cornerstone of a quality resume is having a targeted, consistent message that conveys your ability to use your skills and leverage your accomplishments to add value to an organization. But in addition to that, there are a number of subtleties that can impact how you resume is viewed by your audience. You can significantly improve the quality of your document and your interview response rate by reviewing these simple resume strategies.
Evaluate Your Email Address
It is critical that your email address be both professional and easy to type. Addresses like “partygirl7” or “masterhacker9” may allow some employers to question your credibility or commitment to your search. Exceptionally long addresses or those that use a long series of numbers invite an employer to question your sense of judgment, since it’s very easy to miss key such addresses when responding. It’s best to stick with your name or some variation on it, i.e. marysmith, msmith, mgsmith10, etc. Another option is to establish a domain name. By doing this, a prospective employer will always be able to find you in the future, even if you chose to switch internet service providers.
List Phone Number with Professional Greeting
You may think that your three year old’s rendition of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” is an adorable greeting for your answering machine, but a prospective employer might not agree. Record a professional greeting requesting the caller’s name, phone number, and reason for calling. Speak clearly and slowly and minimize background noise while recording your message.
Typographical and Grammatical Errors
Nothing will kill your chances for an interview faster than a resume or cover letter with an error. Such mistakes give the reader the impression that you are not detail-oriented and that you do not take pride in your work. You should use the spell check feature on your word processing package, but don’t rely on it to catch all your errors. You could have a word that is spelled correctly, but isn’t the word that you meant to write. In addition to spell check, try proofreading your resume backwards (this forces you to slow down and makes it easier to catch mistakes) or ask a friend to proofread your document for you.
Whenever you introduce personal data on your resume, you create an opportunity for bias. While some of your readers may be impressed by the fact that you’re into bungee jumping and bowl skiing, others may decide not to call you for an interview for fear that should they hire you, your hobbies will lead to an escalated use of sick days and exorbitant healthcare costs for their company. Revealing information about a religious or political affiliation could also slant someone’s opinion of you. It’s always best not to include any personal information on your resume.
Boring! Nothing says “cookie cutter” applicant like a template resume. None of the information jumps out at the reader. The goal of your resume is to present your qualifications in a unique and memorable way. This is difficult to achieve with a template resume. In addition to appearing boring and dated, many templates present your contact information in an extremely small font. Don’t assume that the hiring manager happens to have a magnifying glass on hand to decipher your phone number or email address. Try using bold text or a larger font for your contact information.
Check Your Resume Margins
Margins should be at least one-inch all around. If you make your margins smaller, parts of your document may be cut off when it is printed, copied, or faxed.
Review Your Resume Length
Some applicants create such long resumes that their key contributions get lost among all their pages of text. Or conversely, they limit themselves to one page and fail to showcase their significant accomplishments for fear of extending to page two. The rule of thumb for resume length is one page for every ten years you have worked, but this is just a guideline. The reality is that whether you have a one-page resume or a ten page resume, the reader is going to focus on the top half of the first page, so make sure that your most important information is presented first.
If your greatest accomplishments occurred ten years ago and aren’t showcased until page three, consider a section on page one with the heading “Selected Accomplishments”. This allows you to list accomplishments from any of your previous positions, prior to providing a chronological format. This way you increase the likelihood that your reader will recognize accomplishments from all phases of your career.
Too Little or Too Much White Space
Too Little – White space is important on a resume. A resume without white space suggests clutter and chaos. White space is reader friendly, easy on the eyes and encourages the reader to maintain focus.
Too much – Some people make the mistake of creating a resume that is a page and a half or a page and three lines on the second page. That’s a lot of white space and it gives the reader the impression that you’ve run out of things to say. It is better to adjust your fonts and spacing than extend your resume to a next page that you cannot fill.
The visual image your resume conveys is paramount. Using bullets, capitals, italics, and boldface type are all techniques for making key information stand out. Whatever formatting styles you choose, strive for consistency. If the first company name you list is in bold, make sure all your company names are in bold. If your first sub-heading is underlined, repeat this process throughout your document.
References Available Upon Request
Employers have no intention of checking every applicant’s references. They will only check your references if you are a final candidate for their position and they will ask for your reference list at the appropriate time in the interview process. Writing the statement “References available upon request” is dated and unnecessary. Save the space for something more interesting.
Copyrighted — Barbara Safani. May not be used or reproduced without express permission.
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