As a recruiter, my day is filled with looking at, scanning through, editing, and evaluating resumes for different positions.
While resumes may seem like common sense - you write down your work experience - with ATS (applicant tracking systems) and the overload of information on what the “perfect resume” should look like, they’re much more difficult than they seem to be.
With that said, I’m going to run through a few tips that will help you improve your resume. Now, before I get started, I do want to say that every recruiter has different opinions on what the perfect resume looks like and what should be listed where, so take everything here with a grain of salt.
Let’s start with the basics
How you write out your resume may depend on the job you are interested in. I would always advise having your resume written chronologically, from most recent to least, as this is the easiest way for a recruiter to see your career history.
That being said, if your most recent position does not align with the job you are looking at, it may be more suitable to create a targeted resume where you detail your experience that most aligns with the position first.
Resume design and formatting tips
Unless you are in graphic design or an artistic field, keep your resume simple. Think black and white, 10-12-point basic font, Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial typeface.
Many of us saw Elon Musk’s beautiful one page, perfectly designed resume mock up a few years back, but I promise you, Elon is not sending that to recruiters, and no one needs a four-page description to know what he has accomplished in the past.
How long should your resume be?
There is ample debate in the recruitment world on how many pages resumes should be; you’ll see anything from one page to as many pages as it takes to describe your accomplishments.
My rule of thumb is always to get all the information in your resume but do it succinctly. If that takes three pages, it takes three pages. That being said, if you are well into your career, you probably don’t need to include the three months you spent as a lifeguard (unless you are applying to another lifeguarding position).
After three to five years in the workforce, move your education to the bottom of your resume.
Include your contact info
This is an absolute must. It’s so frustrating as a recruiter to get a perfect resume for a position and not be able to contact the candidate because their phone number and email address were missing, or worse, they have outdated contact info.
If you have a LinkedIn profile, include a link to that. However, make sure your LinkedIn aligns with your resume, there is nothing more confusing than seeing different job titles on the resume and the LinkedIn page.
Check for typos and errors
Spell check is your best friend, use it. The number of times I’ve seen directors apply to positions and misspell “director” is shocking. Simply, it just looks bad and I don’t want to send a resume to one of my clients with spelling errors in it.
The important stuff
So now you know how to format your resume, but what do you put in it?
You want to make sure you quantify anything you can. This makes it very simple for recruiters to see what you have accomplished in comparison to another candidate.
Writing a different resume for every job you apply to is probably unrealistic. However, if you have your heart set on a job, go through the job description and see what keywords they are using. For example, if they are looking for someone who has implemented ISO 14001 and 18001, make sure it’s on your resume if you have done that in the past. Likewise, if they are only looking for someone with a CIH make sure CIH and Certified Industrial Hygienist are on your resume so that the ATS will catch it.
One word of caution: if you haven’t had experience in something, don’t put it on your resume. The last thing you want to do is get to an interview and look silly for over-exaggerating your accomplishments. Make sure you include context about your employers. Recruiters are extremely busy, so if you have worked at a particular company but give no context to what that company does, your resume might be skipped over. Directly under the company name, write a very brief description so the recruiter doesn’t have to Google the company. For example:
A Steel Manufacturing Company
Using action verbs, include accomplishments and job duties for every position, summarised in at least three to five bullet points. Do not copy and paste your job description into your explanation of your position. Likewise, your resume should not read the same for every company. Be specific here; this is what is going to get you a phone call.
If you have a gap in your employment, explain it. There’s nothing wrong with writing that you decided to be a stay at home mom or dad for a few years or that you took a year off to travel, but make sure it’s in your resume so the recruiter doesn’t have to guess.
Before you send it
Before you hit send, there are a few more things to remember. First, spell check your document one more time, to be sure.
Next, make sure you save the file as something that makes sense. Recruiters can see the document name, so try something simple like FirstName.LastName.Year. This way when a recruiter looks at the attachment, they know who it belongs to and that it is up to date.
Save the file as a Word document. Don’t send a Google doc link; candidates often forget to grant access, meaning the recruiter can’t open it. If it is going through an ATS, the Word doc will be the easiest thing for buzzwords to be picked up.
Finally, have someone else read it. You’ve probably stared at it for hours at this point, so pass it to a friend to check over as they may see something you’ve missed.
In today’s job market, resumes are only the first half of getting a new position, but they are the first impression you make on a company, so take your time to make a good one.
As a recruiter, I have talked to many candidates who just struggle to write a resume, and it can be difficult, not to mention time-consuming. While the tips above are a great start if you need extra help reach out to a recruiter in your field, or consider consulting a career expert that (for a fee) will work with you to write your resume.
Before you do that though, if you are in the EHS field, feel free to reach out to me to take a look over it, and I will help to streamline your resume to help secure your next position.