Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Writing Resumes Without Shooting Your Foot

April 23rd, 2012 | Resume | No Comments »


Many people feel that as long as they include a few buzz words, they will secure an interview and have time to sell themselves once they get their foot in the door. Very few, however, consider what a resume does for you. Not only does it represent the culmination of years of your professional and academic career but, it’s also a snapshot of who you are and the most powerful representation you will show an organization.

As a technical staffer, I review hundreds of resumes daily. Most people would be shocked to find that the painstaking hours you spent on your resume is reviewed in a four, yes four, second glance or less. So what will it take to put your best foot forward? Consider these recommendations:

Formatting: Good formatting on a resume can make or break a company’s decision to bring someone on to the next step. As an employer, would you really trust someone who states they have an “acute” attention to detail when their resume is formatted with odd spacing, peculiar bullet points, or different fonts? If the attention to detail is this poor, what does that mean once that person shows up to work?

Recent First: Having the most recent work on the top of your resume is incredibly important. The last thing you want to do is confuse an employer who is trying to hunt and peck through your resume to find what they are looking for. Often, this is the number one reason why a resume gets discarded.

Course Work: If you are a recent graduate applying for your first job, make sure to include your school work; listing a degree is not enough. Every school and curriculum is different, so make sure to paint as clear a picture as possible, especially with Capstones and Final projects.

Work Examples: What speaks more than a thousand words? A picture. If you have examples of your work, include them. This can be as simple as a link to previous work or to your own website; it shows a better idea of your vision. If you are a front end, UI, or Graphic Developer/Designer, this is an absolute must. This little bit of effort will absolutely pay off.

Contact Information: Keep the contact information professional. You want an email address that has your first name and last name; if you have the same cute one from high school or college, highly consider a new email. Additionally, make sure it is not an email that will expire; there is always a chance to be contacted months or even a year later and an email that bounces will not be considered.

Descriptions: It is helpful to describe your general skills and the types of things you’ve done on the job. This should be less than 5 sentences. You want to have a description but not a novel.

Bullet Points: If you accomplished something unique or if you worked on a project that improved your skill-set, highlight them here. Your descriptions are there to impress, not for employers to get lost. Try to keep these in the 5-7 bullet point range.

History: So, you have 30 years of work experience. That’s great. Having a successful career is something to be proud of. However, how relevant do you think your technical work from 30 years ago remains? How much has technology changed in 5 years? To employers, that length of extensive work history means very little. Keep your work history to no more than 15 years. It’s time to move on and show only your recent, relevant skills. Most likely, those are the only ones that represent the jobs you are interested in.

Outside Experiences: Have you been leading a meet up group or coding session, volunteering your IT skills for a great cause or working on the side in a relevant field? List it. This is especially important if you are making the leap to a slightly different technology. If it’s not on your resume, how will an employer know about those experiences?

Length: Do you have 5 years of experience of less? Keep your resume to 2 pages. If you have more than that, then yes, you can expand. A caveat to long resumes is that more than 3 pages typically ends up raising more flags then answering questions. If you perfect your resume, you can sell the minute details later. Don’t expect to list every single thing since the beginning of time. Listing your summer camp experience with a technology company when you were 14 isn’t going to help.

Technologies: List the technologies as you use them. If you are using .Net, don’t take it for granted the employer will know that. For all we know you might still be on classic ASP so make sure to paint a clear picture. As with the descriptions, describe how you used each language within every important project. One of the largest mistakes professionals make is hiding technology proficiencies in a box at the top or bottom of the resume and expecting everyone else to translate their worth.

Overall: Make sure you represent yourself well to secure that first interview. Keep your resume updated as it changes; it will be far less daunting if something exceptional comes along. Also, keep your original template because reformatting is never fun. Hope that helps, and remember, I and our recruiters are always here if you have more questions.

Ana Malecki