Resume Writing 101
Your resume can be a great asset or the weakest link in your quest to land your next dream job. Your resume is a marketing tool that allows you to introduce yourself to prospective hiring managers with the hope that you will be invited in to interview. This is your time to brag a little about your accomplishments and show a hiring manager why you are the best person for the job.
The VHA recruiting team has more than 300 years of combined recruiting experience in both agency and corporate environments. We have reviewed, edited, and written thousands of resumes. In addition, we have direct insight as to how Corporate Recruiters and Hiring Managers screen resumes. We have taken knowledge gleaned over the years and used it to provide these tips for writing a marketable resume.
Resume Length: A one- or two-page resume is recommended, but if you require a longer resume limit it to no more than four pages. Recruiters and Hiring Managers often scan the first few pages for appropriate experience, tools, and education while the trailing pages get little attention. Keep the focus of the resume on the last seven years of your career. For experience beyond seven years, including an “Additional Experience” section is most effective. Simply list out the dates, company, location and title of each position. This gives the Hiring Manager an opportunity to ask you about this experience during the interview.
Be Brief and Focused: To keep a resume short, you must be succinct. The focus of each position should be your key accomplishments and how you impacted an organization in a positive way. Use action words and phrases such as “designed and developed”, “led a team”, and “delivered results” versus “participated in” and “worked with”. Managers tend to look at your experience as an individual, even though you were a part of a team.
Executive Summary or Cover Letter: The cover letter is a great way to market yourself and describe why you fit a particular position. It also allows a bit of your own style and personality to come through. However, Recruiters and Hiring Managers may not always take the time to look at an extra attachment. Adding a brief “Skills/Executive Summary” allows you to summarize information from a cover letter onto the actual resume. Review the “required experience” section on the job for which you are applying and make sure the summary reflects your experience in those areas. Using the same terminology used in the job description is helpful, especially in situations where human resources personnel are the first to review your resume. Many internal Recruiters screen resumes for multiple departments within an organization and may not have the expertise required to understand the details of each job requirement. They will be looking for key words and phrases listed in the job description.
Key Words: Many Recruiters and Hiring Managers use databases with advanced key word search functions to screen resumes. They will run searches with specific words, phrases, and titles to pull out what appear to be the best matches for the position. In your resume you should include key words for “on-the-job” skills that accurately reflect your experience. Be mindful of adding too many buzzwords.
Skills Summary: The skills summary is important whether your desired position is functional or technical. This section should summarize your experience with various tools, programming languages, applications, etc. It should be near the top of your resume for quick and easy viewing. It is important that the terms you list in the skills and technical summary are represented in the body of the experience section. Recruiters and Hiring Managers look not only to see whether you have the tools they need, but also how and where you have used them.
Experience: In the experience section, list your professional positions in reverse chronological order, starting with your last position first. Using bullets to list your direct experience draws the eye to each individual accomplishment. For every position, include the type of projects you have worked on, what your individual role was, overall contributions, and tools you have used. If you have trouble summarizing your experience, you might consider pulling information from your past job descriptions or annual reviews.
Education and Training: This section should include degree type, completion date, minor/major, school, and location. If you are still working on your degree, use the same information, but rather than completion date, include “expected date of completion.” List training and certifications in a separate section including dates of training or receipt of certification. Always include the acronym with the title because Recruiters may search for either the acronym in lieu of full title. For example, Project Management Professional (PMP) or Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). Closing your resume with education and training is recommended.
Multiple Job Functions: If you are a multi-faceted individual and are willing to look at various types of positions, you might consider creating a basic resume and several additional job focused resumes. For instance, if you are a Programmer who has also worked as an Architect and Project Manager, you may want to create a development resume, an architect resume, and a project management focused resume.
Internal Screening: During the screening process, Recruiters and Hiring Managers look for reasons a candidate is a good fit, but they also look for reasons a candidate is NOT a good fit. These review criteria may include:
- Does the objective or summary match the job requirement?
- Is there appropriate and sufficient overall experience?
- Is there any critical experience missing?
- Are there examples of communication and teamwork skills?
- Are the job titles similar to the requirement?
- Is there effective use of tools, systems, and applications?
- Is the required education or certification present?
- Is the resume clear, easy to read, and without errors?
- Are there explanations for gaps in employment?
- Is the information in the summary sections or cover letter reflected in the body of the resume?
- Is there upward mobility as career has progressed?