When Rubber Hits the Road: Resume Advice You Can’t Afford to Miss

Image courtesy of MyResumeBear1’s photostream

Building on my previous blog on what I look for in a cover letter, the next step is the resume. I receive resumes on a daily basis. No two resumes look the same since they are in different formats, but I always look for the same content on each and every one:

• Experience
• Work History
• Resume Format
• Spelling Mistakes

When it comes to experience, I look for well-written descriptions of previous jobs and positions. More importantly, I look to see if the candidate used some of the same language that I used in the job posting. By doing this, it shows me that the candidate spent extra time to customize their resume to the specific job. If my job requires specific experience, and I can’t clearly see it, I’ll probably end up passing on your resume.

When I say work history, I mean a few different things. First, I look at the dates of employment. In the past, a “job hopper” or a person with many short term jobs was considered a bad thing. In today’s economy, it’s not always the person’s fault if their employment is short lived (I’m from Detroit and saw a lot of my friends and family lose their jobs due to the economy). If I end up interviewing the person, I usually address this issue early in the interview. I also look for gaps in their work history. A candidate should have a good excuse for any large gaps in their resume. A good explanation can show that the candidate has good communication skills.

I know some of you reading this may think it’s a small thing, but I consider resume format to be very important. I don’t like it when people try to be creative by using different font styles (I once received a resume that was typed out in a “cursive signature” type font and it was so difficult to read that I to dismiss it on that basis alone). The print should also be large enough to be easily read, and the information on the resume should line up correctly. For example, if you have one job title in bold, the rest of your job titles should be bolded. Everything should line up correctly too. Dates of employment, job titles, bullet points and so on should all line up correctly. The standard length of a resume should be one page, but if necessary, two is fine. I don’t care how much work experience you may have, I’m not reading anything longer than two pages. I don’t need your life story and it isn’t important what you did 30 years ago at a job just out of college, I only care about your recent work experience (the last 10-15 years).

As I stated in my previous blog, when it comes to spelling mistakes, I’m a fan of the three strike rule. If a resume has more than three spelling mistakes, I’ll stop looking at it. Careless and easily correctable mistakes tell me that you didn’t take this simple task seriously. You’re trying to find a job! I think that’s serious and something that you should invest time into. When I have been in the job market for a new position, I give my resume to at least three people who I trust will take the time to thoroughly review my resume for mistakes and edits.

Combine this resume advice with my previous advice on cover letters and you should be hearing from the employer whose job you applied to very soon.

My next blog entry will focus on the next steps you should take after you submit your cover letter and resume to a potential employer. Spoiler alert…it has to do with communication and follow up.

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