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Ask a Recruiter: 5 Steps to a Competitive Resume

If you ask 10 different people how to create a compelling resume, you’re likely to get 10 completely different answers and at least a few of them will contradict one another. As a talent acquisition professional with experience in HR and recruiting across multiple cut-throat industries, here’s what I really look for in a resume.
resume
Image Credit: flazingo_photos/Flickr

In this modern market, your resume has to do some serious heavy lifting. Gone are the days of walking your resume in to a prospective employer and delivering it with your signature, award-winning smile and charm. Shoot, gone are the days of printing your resume at all! Your resume is the last frontier of first impressions, and it can make the difference between landing your dream job and landing in the unemployment office.

Take it from somebody who has spent years wading through piles upon piles of resumes and applications: There is no silver bullet when it comes to condensing your entire professional life into one page (or perhaps more; see the section “Maximizing Your Real Estate”), but below are some suggestions for making your resume more competitive.

  1. The Very Beginning:

The very beginning, as Julie Andrews says in The Sound of Music, is a very good place to start. Your resume header should be clear, compelling, and clutter-free; consider this section your “virtual handshake.” As a recruiter, the information I’m looking to gain from your header is your name, email address, location (City, State) and a “tagline” of sorts.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Why not your phone number, you ask? If I’m interested in coordinating a call with you, I’m likely reaching out to you via email, at which point I can ask you for the best contact number. Who wants a call out of the blue anyway, AMIRIGHT?! Good thing you included your email address in your header.

Why not your full mailing address? If a company wants to use snail-mail as their main mode of communication with candidates … I’d venture to say that you don’t want to work there anyway.

“Tagline”?! Please, for the love of all that is good, get rid of that old Objective Statement (the one that usually begins by playing coy: “Objective: ____”) in favor of a personalized tagline. Your tagline should tell me a bit about yourself, your qualifications, and your career path.

Caitlin Williams ? MyEmailAddress@gmail.com ? Seattle, WA
Talent Acquisition professional dedicated to building best-in-class organizations by leveraging superior candidate sourcing and screening skills, strong strategic relationships with hiring managers and their teams, and a passion for creative employment branding.

  1. Tell Your Story:

Your resume should tell your story. It should be chronological (most recent experience –> oldest experience) and should account for your time.

Listing that you worked at TechCompanyXYZ from “2010 – 2011” could mean that you spent nearly two years there, but it could also mean that you worked there for two months spanning the New Year.  Make your timeline clear: you worked at TechCompanyXYZ from March 2010 – December 2011.

Take some time off to travel? Say so! Explain the employment gap.

Talent Acquisition Partner, TechCompanyXYZ……………..…..May 2010 – December 2011
[Traveled abroad: Europe, Russia, Brazil]…………………………………November 2009 – April 2010
Full-Cycle Recruiter, EcommerceCompanyABC………………….…July 2006 – November 2009

  1. All About That Keyword, ‘Bout that Keyword, No Prose:

The advent of tech tools such as LinkedIn, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS; Taleo, iCIMS, Greenhouse, SmartRecruiters, etc.), and various job boards (Monster, CareerBuilder, Dice, Indeed, etc.) has fundamentally changed the way recruiters find your resume. The best way for me to find candidates for the positions I’m looking to fill is to use Boolean search strings in any of the above-mentioned platforms. (Yes, even to search within our pools of direct applicants within our own ATS.) When building your resume, keep this in mind and make yourself searchable.

What does it mean to make yourself searchable? Below I’ve provided a rudimentary example of a Boolean search string I may use to find software sales professionals within Seattle. Notice that it’s all about keywords.

[(“Sales” OR “Account Executive” OR “Inside Sales” OR “New Client Acquisition”) AND (“SaaS” OR “Software”) AND (“Seattle”) AND (“Salesforce” OR “CRM”)]

In addition to providing specific, meaningful descriptions of your experience and achievements for each role listed on your resume, you could also include a “Skills & Qualifications” section where you optimize for keyword search-ability.

Skills & Qualifications:

  • Candidate Sourcing
  • Phone Screening
  • Interviewing
  • Offer Negotiation
  • Requisition Qualification
  • Talent Mapping
  • Headcount planning
  • Applicant Tracking System
  • Boolean String Searches
  • Employment Branding
  • Recruiting Coordination
  • Full Cycle Recruiting (FLC)
  1. Maximizing Your Resume Real Estate

You should think of every square inch of your resume as extremely valuable real estate. Use it wisely.

Each and every bullet point in the descriptor of your experience should be tested with questions such as “How often? How many? With whom? Using what tools? To what end? For what audience? For what team? What was the impact?”. The more of these specific data points you can provide (and the more quantitative), the better. For a really simplistic example:

  • Filled all open positions within the Sales organization

Becomes…

  • Achieved 102% of 2016 talent acquisition goals, hiring 72+ sales professionals YTD across all levels of the Sales organization; owning the full life cycle (FLC) recruiting process from requisition qualification to offer negotiation and closing.

The most commonly asked (and asked…and asked…) question I get is about the appropriate length of a resume. This is one of those questions that you’re bound to get conflicting answers on, but my general rule of thumb is this: If you’re treating every little bit of your resume as valuable real estate and filling it with relevant data points about your education, experience, and achievement and just cannot possibly fit it all onto one page … then don’t.

With that said, if you go over that one-page mark, you better be earning that overage with meaningful and necessary content. Push, prod, and play with your formatting choices. Review (again and again) to ensure you’re not taking up extra space with redundancies. Enlist your friends and family to offer fresh eyes to check for these same redundancies or opportunities to condense your formatting. If you’re still above one page after all of this, I’m totally fine with that.

  1. Getting Started:

Struggling to get started on your resume? I started my own by putting everything out there: every responsibility I’ve owned, every achievement I’ve made, every recognition I’ve received. I think I ended up with some arduous, seven-page monstrosity. From there I whittled, whittled, whittled until I was left with one page that packed a punch.

Happy resume writing!

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Caitlin Williams
Read more from Caitlin

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