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5 Simple Tips for Writing Better Resumes

by on July 12, 2014

A lot has changed in just the past few years in terms of resume writing and posting expectations. Turn to these five short tips to save time and get answers to some of your hottest questions as you spiff up your resume for prospective employer consideration…

I was fortunate enough to attend a resume writing seminar by Lee Hecht Harrison, the largest outplacement provider in the world, and I learned a number of short but very helpful resume writing tips that should come in handy for anyone launching a job search or simply updating their most important credential. The job search world is changing in numerous ways, thanks to the newest technologies available in company applicant tracking systems, on Linked In, and even in light of identity theft. So join me for a quick tour of some of the newest twists and recommendations that outplacement coaches are recommending for their clients.

1. What to Include and What to Leave Out

Your resuart_resume2me is a marketing brochure, and standard menu items that most employers are looking for include the following:

  • Heading
  • Core Qualifications
  • Key Accomplishments
  • Professional Experience (i.e., work history)
  • Education and Foreign Languages
  • Professional Designations and Certifications

In comparison, you can leave out the “Career Objective” section typically found at the top of the resume along with “References Available Upon Request” tag line at the end of the resume. The Career Objective typically limits you, and the reference add-on is pretty much understood, so it just takes up unnecessary space. Likewise, don’t include salary information or reasons for leaving on the resume itself: save that for the employment application when the time comes.

2. Resume Heading

First, make yourself easy to find. Your cell phone and email address are a given, but be sure and include the address to your Linked In profile. And be sure it’s in a “vanity URL” format, which is much shorter than the original link that Linked In generates when you create your online profile. If you’d like a 5-easy-step plan to creating a vanity URL on Linked In, simply click here:

Next, leave off your street address at the top of your resume. The World Wide Web can forward your resume into the unknown recesses of cyberspace, and for safety’s sake, you don’t really want to announce your street address to the whole wide world. GPS tools simply make it too easy for strangers to show up at your door. However, you’ll still want to include your city and state so that prospective employers have some idea where you currently live. So a heading that looks like the following will work well:

Los Angeles, CA
(###) ###-#### Cell

3. Acceptable Font and Size

You should employ a uniform font size throughout your resume, and it should be nothing smaller than 11-point font. Further, while Times New Roman is historically the font that’s been used most often, it’s considered a bit outdated these days. The “hotter” fonts in today’s market include Ariel, Calibri, Tahoma, and Verdana.

Here’s another interesting tidbit: Qualifying the companies where you’ve worked is always a good idea, especially at the senior executive level. Generally speaking, you’ll want to include the company size in terms of revenue and/or number of employees along with any other special accolades. When doing so, bold the company name in ALL CAPS and then bold and italicize your title. Here’s what it might look like:

GRIFOLS BIOSCIENCE, Los Angeles, CA ……………………………………2012 – present
Ranked by Forbes in 2013 and 2014 as one of the world’s 100 most innovative companies, Grifols (Nasdaq: GRFS) is a $4.5 billion bio-pharmaceutical manufacturer of plasma-based protein therapies headquartered in Barcelona, Spain with 12,000 employees worldwide and 9,000 workers in the United States.
Vice President, Human Resources

[The description of your duties, responsibilities, and accomplishments can follow here.]

4. Resume Formats

You’ll generally want to save your resume in three separate formats: MS Word, PDF, and as a text file. The reasoning? The Word doc is the most common and what you’ll typically upload when filling out an online application. A company’s applicant tracking system will be able to scan and filter your Word resume version for key words (which a PDF won’t be able to do since it’s only a static snapshot).

The PDF version is necessary because it’s the most secure (i.e., it can’t be manipulated or changed on the receiving end) and because it can be opened on any computer. Therefore, there’s no concern that outdated software on the recruiter’s or employer’s end could unintentionally garble your content when it’s opened. The PDF will also ensure that your two-page resume remains two pages long and doesn’t unintentionally grow to a third page because of an orphan line that’s carried over due to software differences.

Finally, save your resume in a text-only format for times when you’re required to paste it into an online application’s text box. Text-only resumes are not very pretty, but they’ve got one feature that Word resumes don’t: they break lines naturally, so the lines on your resume won’t continue on beyond the right-hand margin. If you paste a Word document into a text box instead, the reader could have a very hard time getting to your content because of all the right-margin scrolling that may become necessary.

Special Note: If you’re emailing your resume directly to someone, include both the Word and PDF versions (but not the text version) so the recipient has both for convenience.

5. Posting Your Resumes to Job Boards is Not Necessarily Recommended!

This one was really an eye opener for me. Open job boards like Monster make your detailed employment history accessible to the entire world. Add that to the fact that real estate and financial websites may be able to reveal details about the price of your home or other personal matters, and you’ll soon come to realize that identify theft could become an issue if you provide too much data about your career specifics. In short, it may not be worth the risk of posting your resume on open job boards after all.

Here’s why: Statistically there is only a 4% response rate for blind resume uploads to online job postings with no network introduction (versus an 80 – 90% success rate with network introductions). Also, the potential for actually having your resume seen is much stronger with Linked In than with Monster or any of the other job boards. In fact, because in-house recruiters only have so much time and resources, they may only look at the first one hundred resumes of an 800-resume batch, so your resume uploaded to the job board may never even be seen. If you do opt to post your resume to an open job board, be sure and note your user name and password so you can deactivate it once your job search is complete. But again, the payout may not be worth the risk when “blind” applications have so little statistical success and identify theft is clearly on the rise.

A lot has changed in just the past few years in terms of resume writing and posting norms and expectations. Hopefully these five short tips will help save you time and answer some of your questions as you spiff up your resume for prospective employer considerations.