How to Land a Job, Part 1: The Resume

2 Feb
So you want to land your dream job, or at least a job you can live with. Great! Having a goal is the first step. Now where do you go from there? This is the first in a 3-part series that will give you some basic knowledge and tools that will help you land that job.

 You’ve heard countless bits of advice from countless sources about what your resume should look like. While I’m not claiming to have THE definitive answer, I can say with certainty that my opinions are shared by the vast majority of HR pros and recruiters with whom I’ve come in contact. Your resume should be simple, easy to read, and as succinct as possible. This means that if you have fewer years of work experience than you can count on one hand you shouldn’t need a page two.

 Keeping it on one page (or two, if you have enough experience to back it up) means that you may have to exclude some things to save space. First on your list of exclusions should be your objective. It’s almost painful to say, but companies don’t care what you want. They care whether or not your skills, abilities, experience and personality fit with their needs.

 You should list your jobs chronologically, starting with the most recent. Under each job, list bullet points of your tasks and achievements. For any job, employers want to see that you have the requisite skills for the job you’re applying for. For an entry level job this may mean internship experience in a related field. For more senior level jobs it will depend on the desired position and how much experience the employer is looking for. 

 If you’re an entry-level candidate, you may need to keep unrelated jobs on your resume to take up space and to show that you have actual work experience under your belt. If this is the case, keep these job descriptions very succinct and be honest. If I went by only the entry-level resumes I’ve reviewed over the years, there has never been just a lifeguard, just a server, or just a bartender in the history of the universe. Conversely, there have only been HEAD lifeguards, HEAD servers and HEAD bartenders. This doesn’t do you any favors – it just looks like you’re trying to talk yourself up.

 This next tip might seem like a no-brainer, but use a professional email address. firstname.lastname@whatever.com always works for me. Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, and many others offer free email accounts should you find yourself in need. Hotmama@…, Partygrrl@…, Dudelkslikealady@…, Studly1@…, will find your resume in the “circular file” faster than you can say “hit me up.”

 Do not put your picture on your resume. No exceptions. I don’t care how good looking you think you are.

 There are some common phrases that you may be tempted to include on your resume such as “outstanding communication skills”, “detail-oriented”, “multi-tasker”, etc. I’m sure that you are all of these things, but guess what – so is everyone else.

 “References Available Upon Request”. I would assume and hope so; there’s no need to type it on your resume. This is one of those items, like the objective, that can stay or go. If you need to fill space, leave it. If you don’t, there’s no need.

 Once you’ve put together your resume and know that it’s perfect, don’t get married to it and don’t feel like it has to be a finished product. Your resume should always be a work in progress, and you should feel free to make changes for each job you apply to. Read the job description. Is the job ad focusing primarily on something that may be the fifth bullet point down in your description of duties? Move it up! If the position is heavy on writing, and you have your writing responsibilities down below your pitching and management responsibilities, make that change before sending your resume. Don’t lie, but make sure you’re highlighting the attributes that are going to land you the interview.

 Now, before you send your resume there’s one more step: check for spelling and grammar. This doesn’t mean just running a spell-check on it (although you should have done that before even reading this article). Read it, re-read it, and have a couple of your friends read and re-read it. They’ll catch things that you won’t – after all, you know what you meant.

 OK! Your resume is ready to send. Now the question is where do you send it, how, and when? Not to worry. Part II of this series is right around the corner. While you’re waiting, give that resume another proof-read, just for good measure.

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6 Responses to “How to Land a Job, Part 1: The Resume”

  1. HR Dave February 3, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    And speaking of resumes, I came across this article by Phil Rosenberg (www.recareered.com) that breaks it down even further. Check it out! http://bit.ly/fcKC0N

  2. Fyza February 16, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    This is a great article and it has definitely given me some insight. I’ve been searching for a job for a while now, but it seems like my resume, while it follows your rules, doesn’t get me to the interview stage.

    Another problem is that as a freelance designer, it’s hard for me to fill up my experience with specific full-time/part-time employers. Would it be wise to list my individual clients and elaborate on the projects that were more than say, a simple logo design?

    I’m considering using a resume writing service like JobFox. Maybe I’m following the rules but am using the wrong wording to get myself past a recruiter’s first glance. After all, my design is better than my writing ability.

    It’s just a shame that for my profession I still have to rely heavily on a resume instead of a potential employer putting more stock into my portfolio. If you were looking to hire a designer, would you go by credentials or would you go by actual skill? It seems a little backward to me.

    Anyway, sorry to vent on here, but if there’s any feedback or insight you have, I’d appreciate it.

    • HR Dave February 17, 2011 at 8:27 am #

      Fyza – It can be a singular challenge for designers to get recruiters and hiring managers past the resume to the portfolio. Some of the tactics you mentioned are spot on. Definitely list the clients that you’ve worked for and the types of work that you’ve done for them. If there’s a specific type of design you want to focus on, highlight the work that most closely matches that. If the kind of work you want isn’t what you’ve done, take it upon yourself to do some projects on your own time that are similar to what you want to do. And make sure you have a link to your online portfolio near the top of your resume, right under your name.

      • Fyza February 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

        Thank you!
        I’m not into the work I have to show right now, so I’ve been working on projects in my own time to put up on my portfolio. I’m glad that you suggested this though, as I was worried that potential employers would want to see “real-life” work opposed to something I did on my own.
        Thanks again for the feedback. I appreciate it!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. How to Land a Job, Part 3: The Interview « HR Dave - February 7, 2011

    […] Feb Just joining us?  Check out part 1 and part 2. You have created an amazing resume. You have submitted it for the right job at the […]

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    […] employer. I’m talking about finding a way to do something that’s worthy of putting on your resume. If you’re an accountant, offer to do your friends’ taxes. If you’re in marketing, find […]

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