This Is How Your Resume Should Look

this is how your resume should look

If your resume looks as boring as this guy, you’re doing it right.

All the usual cliches apply: “Don’t judge a book by its cover” — “Looks can be deceiving” — “Trust not too much to appearances”. Your resume is not supposed to be eye candy. It is supposed to be an informational document. When all is said and done, this is how your resume should look…

Have you seen these new “modern” resumes? If you’ve been looking online for resume help, you probably have. This is generally what they look like:

The modern resume is certainly more interesting to look at than the boring old traditional resume, but guess what?

Recruiters, hiring managers, and ATSs hate them

Here’s what you need to know about these so-called modern resumes — they’re crap. Employers and recruiters hate this resume format and, far, far more importantly, ATSs don’t understand it.

ATSs are easily confused. Blocks, shapes, symbols, and columns make it hard for ATSs to parse the information they’re looking for.

The ATS’s job is to convert resume documents to text-only files so it can pick out keywords. Having to scan through too many design elements confuses the ATS and it won’t put in the effort to figure out what’s going on. It will simply pass right on by and all of your pretty design touches will never be seen by a human, along with none of the rest of your resume.

Modern resumes have about a 1% chance of making it past an ATS and landing in front of human eyeballs. Even then, a modern resume will get only a quick skim (less than the usual 6 seconds) before getting rejected. Why?

Because it takes only a glance for any recruiter or hiring manager to recognize the absence of anything of value in these “creative” resume documents.

Recruiters top 3 complaints about modern resumes

  1. Huge lack of information. Modern resumes don’t contain enough meaningful and relevant information. At a glance, a trained eye notices immediately when there is too little information.
  2. Waste of space. Whether horizontal or vertical, colored areas are a big waste of prime real estate. This will become obvious when you compare these modern resume formats to the sensible chronological resume format (coming up).
  3. Useless and distracting graphics and columns. Colored blocks, symbols, icons, and sliders provide ZERO information and disrupt the reader’s normal way of reading. The two-column layout goes against nature and causes confusion for both the human reader and the ATS.

Here’s what you should never include in your resume:

  • Tables, Columns, and Text boxes
  • Logos, Images, Graphics, and Symbols

The resume format recruiters, hiring managers, and ATSs love

The Chronological Resume Format. It’s the one most employers and recruiters want to see, and it’s the one that makes the ATS’s job more efficient.

Since there is an estimated 86% chance your resume will be scanned by an ATS, you’ll want to be sure to do everything humanly possible to make the ATS’s job more efficient. Here is a beautiful example of a Chronological Resume. This how your resume should look.

Notice this is a two-page resume. There’s a lot of back and forth out there about two pages versus one page, but here’s the truth of it. Recruiters and hiring managers are perfectly happy with two-page resumes as long as the information contained in the pages is relevant, meaningful, and useful to them.

Recruiters have no time for distractions or guesswork

The first crucially-important thing a recruiter or hiring manager will notice about the chronological resume is the clean and simple layout with efficient use of space. They like clean and simple — it allows the eyes to flow naturally from left to right across the page absorbing the information given. There are no distractions or confusion about where to look next — nothing to avert the eye from the important information, and information is all the recruiter is looking for.

The next thing they’ll love is that the resume goes immediately into work history. This is the beauty of the chronological format and recruiters love it.

They are not interested in lists of bullet points or clumps of colored blocks containing the applicants claims of Key Skills or Core Competencies. Nor are they interested in your Resume Objective.

Never put an objective statement on your resume! No one cares about your objective. Employers and recruiters care only about their own objective, which is to find a qualified employee. The way they do that is to disseminate the meaningful and relevant information contained in the resumes they read.

Other resume formats recruiters don’t like

You’ve probably heard of the Functional and the Hybrid resume formats.

In each of these formats, skills and accomplishments are placed before work history. Recruiters and hiring managers hate the Functional format and barely tolerate the Hybrid format.

The second they see Key Skills, Accomplishments, and Core Competencies highlighted at the top of the resume, they know the work experience will be lacking.

The purpose of the Functional and Hybrid resume formats is to de-emphasize the fact an applicant’s work history is less than impressive. Recruiters and hiring managers know that, and aren’t inclined to waste time reading Functional and Hybrid resumes.

However, when a job posting clearly lists the qualifications applicants must have to apply for the job, I often do a little spin of the Hybrid resume format . If you follow my lead, this is how your resume should look:

Qualifications aren’t like skills and competencies, which are little more than the applicant’s own personal claims. Qualifications are verifiable.

Qualifications are earned through education, training, certification, and in some cases, experience. Qualifications are important to the employer, so rather than go directly into work experience, I like to quickly and briefly list an applicant’s relevant qualifications.

This is meaningful information that shows the employer — bang! — this applicant is qualified for the job. They appreciate that.

Circles and bars don’t describe skills

Recruiters and hiring managers do not buy into this crap. In the modern resume, these kinds of sliders and symbols are meaningless.

By whose standard is the applicant “grading” their skills? If an applicant is truly excellent at something, they should be able to describe how they came to be excellent in that skill by describing work experiences wherein they used and cultivated that skill. That’s what recruiters and employers want to see — proof! Not colored bars, stars, symbols, and ridiculous, unsupported claims of excellence.

Useless waste of prime real estate

One of the worst things about modern resumes is that they waste space. Have you heard the term, Above the Fold?

It refers to information that is provided in the top one-third of the resume. It originated in the newspaper industry and means: give readers the scintillating information above the fold of the newspaper. The idea is to catch their attention and entice them to purchase the newspaper and “read all about it”.

It’s the same idea with resumes. Even though resumes are read largely online, the reader has to be enticed to scroll. Top-load your important information, which by the way, is not your name, contact info, and career objective. Just look at this massive waste of prime real estate above the fold.

Although your name and contact info does belong at the very top of your resume, it does not have to be 24 point font nor listed line-by-line. I see a lot of this (below), which is an incredible waste of space. Don’t do this:

The top one-third of your resume should look something like this

To entice the reader to scroll, this is how your resume should look. Your name and contact info goes on one line. That’s it. Name, city, email, LinkedIn, phone. There’s no need to give your street address — you can throw in your postal code if you think it matters to the employer to know what part of the city you live in.

Always put your phone number last on the line. Recruiters tell me all the time how they wish all job applicants would do this.

Recruiters are insanely busy people. They don’t have time to hunt through your contact info looking for your phone number. I even bold the phone number so it stands out. Your phone number is the most important information on your contact line.

Whether or not you have (or should have) a LinkedIn profile depends on your occupation and sometimes on your location. Some employers in some industries in some (smaller) towns don’t care about LinkedIn profiles. But rest assured, recruiters do, no matter the town or industry.

Recruiters will look you up on LinkedIn and here’s an important tip: it’s better not to have a LinkedIn profile at all than to have an outdated profile that doesn’t match the resumes you’re sending out.

1995 called — it wants its Objective Statement back

Time marches on. Things change. An Objective Statement has no place on today’s resume. Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for information about applicants’ suitability for the job they are applying for. No one gives a fiddler’s fart about what you want to do. They care about what you’ve done and what you can do for them. Give them a brief, fact-based Professional Profile that is relevant to the job posting.

The Professional Profile is a great place to use a couple of keywords from the job posting. ATSs don’t care how keywords are used in a resume, but humans do. Pop a few in your cover letter, a couple in your Profile, and the rest in your work descriptions.

Accomplishments beat “numbers” every time

Almost every blog out there that gives resume-writing advice says you must use numbers. It’s B.S.

If you’ve got meaningful numbers, by all means use them. If you don’t have numbers, don’t sweat it. There is far too much emphasis placed on this number thing.

Numbers matter in sales and certain other occupations where an applicant’s success is typically quantified by mere numbers. But not everyone has numbers and not every employer cares about numbers.

Big-time resume-writing expert, Kamara Toffolosays:

“As a resume writer, I’m always looking for ways to quantify the results my clients have created in their careers. But slapping a number on an accomplishment just to quantify it doesn’t suddenly make it more relevant and powerful. The use of a number needs to make sense, and often, it doesn’t. There are many situations where you can’t quantify an accomplishment, and some cases where you shouldn’t even try.“

Your resume is not an art project

Getting back to the overall appearance of the modern resume versus the traditional (sensible) chronological resume, what do you think?

The modern resume may be more interesting to look at, but what does it matter? This resume format goes against everything we know about appeasing the ATS.

Therefore, human eyeballs are unlikely to ever see it. Even when resumes are not subjected to an ATS but instead go to an email address, no one is impressed with these “creative-type” resumes.

Recruiters and hiring managers simply don’t like the modern resume, particularly with its Skills “grading” metric that is completely meaningless. Dots and bars indicating an applicant’s personal claim of excellence or inter-mediocrity is utterly useless and unimpressive. It tells the hiring manager nothing.

Plain white paper containing lots of useful, meaningful, and relevant information is the way to go. Plain and simple — this is how your resume should look. No bells ‘n whistles. Your resume is not an art project.

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terri at resumepro

Terri is an expert resume-writer and a pretty good job coach. During her 30 years in the conventional work force, Terri was fired from 11 jobs, got laid off from 2 jobs, quit 3 jobs, sued 1 employer (successfully), made another cry, and wrote over 100 resumes for herself alone! Since embracing the good old “take this job and shove it” attitude, Terri decided to put all of her shitty “workin’ for the man” experiences and life-lessons to good use, and thus was born www.goresumepro.ca/blog. Enjoy!

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