What are readers looking for in resumes today?
Q. I need help on my resume. I decided to educate myself on “the
art of writing a resume.” Well, that was a mistake. I went down
to my local bookstore and started looking at resume books. However, by
the time I left the bookstore, I was totally confused. All of the books
had different formats, different dos and don’ts. It was truly overwhelming.
I’ve tried incorporating resume-writing tips from each book I looked
through. The question I’d like to ask you is: What are resume readers
looking for in resumes today?
A. Fair question. Within the first few seconds, most resume
readers want to know three things: (1) Your current or past level (“level”
is generally measured in terms of years of experience, title or other
responsibility), which may tell the reader how flat or steep your learning
and earning curve is; (2) the roles and functions you can perform; and
(3) the settings in which you have performed them. If the settings are
similar to the company where you’re applying, the staffing people
are likely to believe you can repeat your previous triumphs with their
company. Past settings in many cases will also reflect the kinds of places
in which you want to work.
With all the conflicting points of view that exist out there concerning
resume styles, writing a new resume can at times be very confusing and
difficult. In a hype-filled world, there is a tendency to confuse the
latest with the greatest, and that attitude has been pronounced of late
when it comes to effective resume styles. Nevertheless, if I were currently
conducting a job search, the only type of resume I would use is an ABR
(achievement-based resume). In my opinion, if you’re not using an
ABR in this bottom-line oriented job market, you’re spinning your
The next time you submit your resume to a company or answer a help-wanted
ad, create an image in your mind of two piles of resumes sitting atop
a hiring manager’s desk. One tall stack consists of hundreds of
resumes for which their authors will receive carefully worded rejections
(if the company actually acknowledges them at all). The other pile, perhaps
less than an inch high, includes correspondence from candidates who are
invited to interview.
What gets your resume into this smaller pile to be interviewed is an
understanding of what your resume can and can’t do for you. Consider
the following: The purpose of your resume is not to tell the reader every
detail about yourself or your prior experience. The purpose of a resume
is to get you an interview. When examined in this context, a resume is
not a “tell all” document. After all, resumes convey only
three types of information: Positive, negative and neutral. By using an
ABR format, you will be able to quickly convey positive achievement statements
throughout your resume.
Guest columnist Joe Hodowanes MPA, SPHR is Career Strategy
Advisor and President of J.M. Wanes & Associates, Tampa, FL 33688.
This article is reprinted with permission.