In my eight years as a recruiter at an investment bank, I reviewed thousands of resumes. I’ve seen and learned a lot, from the importance of proofreading to the art of formatting. It’s enough to know that there isn’t one acceptable format or approach to creating an awesome resume.
There are, however, a few key strategies that can make your resume more effectively do what you intend it to: Catch someone’s eye, clearly communicate your qualifications, and help move you on to the next stage of the hiring process. You’re selling yourself and the value you can bring to an organization. Here are my top tips for using your resume as a marketing tool that will help you catch a recruiter’s eye.
1. It’s All On One Page
You’ve likely heard this one before, and for good reason: It’s real! Recruiters review very large numbers of resumes and will likely make an initial determination about your fit for a role based on a quick scan. If locating the relevant information about your background requires turning the page, we very well might miss it and move on.
Note: There are a few exceptions. If you hold a PhD and need to cite relevant work (like published papers), for example, there may be an argument for a second page. No matter what, though, strive to keep your resume short, clean, and relevant to the position for which you’re applying.
2. The Formatting Fits (And Shows Off) The Content
If the one-page rule is proving challenging, start by making some simple formatting changes. Narrow your margins, restructure your header to span fewer lines, and reduce the indentations of any bullet points. Speaking of which, to make sure your key skills and experiences jump off the page, organize your content into brief, bulleted sentences or phrases instead of paragraphs.
While you’re at it, proofread and proofread again. Ask yourself: Are all fonts and font sizes uniform? Are all dates abbreviated the same way? Do titles and positions line up properly? Your resume is a sample of your work product and your attention to detail. Be certain that you are representing yourself well.
3. There’s Nothing There You Can’t Discuss In Depth
Often, the biggest challenge is deciding what to actually include on your resume. Use the job description of the position you’re applying for to guide you, and don’t be afraid to make tweaks for each application. Your resume should highlight your relevant education, skills you’ve learned on the job, and the value you’d bring to the target organization.
For each role you include, highlight projects in which you demonstrated leadership or accomplished something significant, being as specific and quantitative as possible. Did you lead an initiative that resulted in a 10% reduction in annual marketing spend? Or develop a program that led to doubling the growth in membership to an employee resource group?
Most importantly, do not exaggerate. Anything on your resume is fair game for an interviewer to grill you about and to ask your references to back up. The quickest way to end your chances of getting a job is to give a recruiter a reason to question your integrity.
4. Your Personality Comes Through
Beyond your education and professional experience, personal interests can help your resume stand out. For one, organizations want to work with interesting, passionate people, so whether you’re an avid soccer player, mountain climber, Eagles fan, or trombonist, don’t be afraid to show some personality. If you’re involved with any organizations, highlight those experiences as well, noting any relevant leadership positions. Interests can also help you connect with interviews on a personal level–which matters!
Finally, interests can serve as real estate for you to demonstrate those often harder-to-gauge qualities companies may be looking for. Curate your list wisely, and if think you don’t have room to include hobbies and interests, take a closer look at the other skills and attributes you’ve chosen to highlight. While hard skills like Advanced C++, SQL, and fluency in a foreign language are crucial, soft skills like being “hard working” and “a team player” don’t add much value. Revert back to the golden “show, don’t tell” rule and swap out those adjectives in favor of experiences and commitments that help tell the story of who you are and what you bring to the boardroom table.