Writing a resume can be frustrating, especially when there are a zillion contradicting opinions about what works and doesn’t work. I recently figured why it was tough to write a resume by testing out resume types and personally applying to some companies. This gave me a huge opportunity to measure, analyze, and test the effectiveness of different resume types.
In this article, I’ll share what I have learned as well as provide some valuable tips on the best ways to write a winning resume.
Over the years, I have read various “how to write a resume” blogs, attended several employability workshops and I realized that most of the advice out there has not been proven against the actual end goal of getting a job. It’s easy to say “one page works best” when you’ve seen it happen a few times, but how does this hold up when we look at 100 theories against resumes from different industries, experience levels, and job titles.
Based on my research, here’s what works and what doesn’t work:
- Quantitative Results/Achievements
Most resumes lack them. The goal is to give the recruiter a solid reason to not only look over the full resume but also move you through to the next stage of the interview process. Many of us tend to flood our resumes with a list of job responsibilities/duties forgetting that the recruiter knows what you should have been doing every day on the job. Think about it, the reason for a role is to meet a need, your resume should speak to your knowledge of the need and how you have tackled these challenges successfully. This has been tried and tested by yours truly and I must say, the invitations came within hours of applying.
|Here’s an example:
Executed in-house marketing strategy that resulted in a 15% increase in monthly leads along with a 5% drop in the cost per lead
- Simple Design
These days, it’s easy to get carried away with our mission to “stand out.” I’ve seen colourful Canva resumes from graphic designers, video resumes, and even resumes with images of candidates in very unprofessional outfits. While those can work in very specific situations, we want to aim for a strategy that consistently gets results. The format I saw the most success with was a black and white template with sections in this format:
Skills/Interests Education Experience- focus on achievements) References (Available on request)
According to research, hiring managers scan resumes for an average of 6 seconds. If your resume is in an unfamiliar format, those 6 seconds won’t be very comfortable for the hiring manager. Our brains prefer things we can easily recognize and digest so you want to make sure that a hiring manager can get the full scope just by glancing at your resume.
- Short and Concise Resume
As times change, processes change too. Back in the day, we had 3-4 pages of resumes to prove that we had been successful or good enough for a role. We would even go as far as including volunteer, industrial attachments, and summer jobs just to make our resumes lengthy. Today it is the opposite with the introduction of ATS software and focus being on accomplishments and not job duties. As much as possible, you want to make your CV short, simple, straight to the point, and specific to the role you are applying for.
Here’s what did not work:
- Grammatical Issues (typos, spelling errors, & grammatical mistakes)
In my research and years of reviewing resumes, I found that close to 60% of resumes have some sort of typo or grammatical issue. Have your resume reviewed on three separate occasions – by spell-checking software, like Grammarly, by a friend and by a professional. Spell check should be covered if you’re using Microsoft Word or Google Docs to create your resume.
- Lengthy Resumes
As earlier stated, recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing your resume and if it’s more than one or two pages, it probably isn’t going to be read. Increase your margins, decrease your font, and cut down your experience to highlight the most relevant pieces for the role. When you’re dealing with recruiters who see hundreds of resumes every day, you want to make their lives as easy as possible.
It is important to not use too many buzzwords. Yes, you’re a hard-working innovator with excellent communication skills but so is nearly every job applicant you’re competing with – at least according to their resumes. Instead of using buzzwords, write naturally, use bullets, and include quantitative results whenever possible. Think about it, would you rather hire a salesperson who “is responsible for driving new business across various sectors to help companies achieve their goals” or “drove $15M of new business last quarter, including the largest deal in company history”?
‘Creative,’ ‘outside the box,’ ‘innovative’
What you think it says: “I come up with good, new ideas.”
“If you could think ‘outside the box,’ you’d be able to phrase it less blandly,” Scherwin says. These trite descriptors can undermine your case if you don’t back them up with specifics.
In addition to the above, I have also found that resumes with a link to a comprehensive LinkedIn profile have a 71% better chance of hearing back, 76% of resumes are discarded for an unprofessional email address. Resumes with a photo have an 88% rejection rate. 58% of resumes have typos. Applicant tracking software typically eliminates 75% of resumes due to a lack of keywords and phrases being present.
Now that you know every mistake you need to avoid, the first item on your to-do list is to comb through your current resume and make sure it doesn’t violate anything mentioned above. This experiment led me to understand that If you don’t know what consistently works, you can’t lay out a system to get there.