January, 2013. Apparently we haven’t sped straight over the fiscal cliff. Now what? Time to focus on positioning yourself in the best light possible. A few months ago, I wrote a blog entitled “Back to Basics.” This blog will be more specific in regard to fine tuning your resume and the information is also applicable for your Linkedin profile, which should mirror your resume.
I have been in the recruiting business for many years and rarely see resumes that clearly and concisely articulate the experience of the person we are interviewing. It is never too late to revise your resume and perhaps the start of 2013 is a perfect time to take a fresh look.
Here are some tips:
- Summary/Profile. Ensure this section at the top of your resume is succinct. Summaries can be in either paragraph or bullet format. In both formats, limit to 3 to 5 sentences. Most likely, this section will be scanned so too much information will simply be ignored. Write it from the perspective of a hiring manager reading it. In other words, what value do you bring to them? Do not include anything that does not answer that question.
- Career Objectives. This section can be combined with the summary and should leverage the experience you have gained while being tailored to the position for which you are applying. Avoid generic phrases like “looking for a challenging career.” Who isn’t looking for a challenging career? Make sure that each word on your resume carries weight and sets you apart.
- Margins. Have them. Many people try to squeeze in more information by reducing the margins. All good things in moderation. Better to have your resume on 3 pages rather than 2 with miniscule margins. Sloppy presentation is clearly not what you intend.
- Organization. It can be overdone. A trifecta of italics, underlining and multiple levels of bullet points is confusing. Too little and your resume looks like a narrative. Too much and employers will need a decoder ring to understand it.
- Dates. Clearly state dates and assume that these will be verified. Months are not required but my opinion is to include them, if only for those companies that are sticklers on details. Including the months is a must if you were in the position for less than a year.
- Punctuation. Be consistent. I have seen numerous resumes where some sentences have periods and others don’t. It’s a minor infraction but you want people to focus on the content and not get sidetracked.
- Key words. Many HR departments in large companies use technology to cull out resumes with key words. Monster searches also highlight these words when employers specify search parameters using them. It is an easy way to narrow the numbers of incoming resumes for positions. Your resume should have key words which are meaningful in the market today and if you are applying to a specific job, ensure that it includes key words directly from the job description – as long as it’s true, of course.
- Reasons for leaving and salary information. There is no need to explain why you left a company or state salary information on your resume. Save this information for the interview.
- Quantify. In an accounting or finance resume, numbers tell a story best. If you have saved a company money by implementing a new cost controls process, for example, explain that and identify the amount of money that was saved. Similarly, if you are in Payroll, state the number of employees that you process monthly at a given company.
The following should always be at the bottom section of your resume, never at the top:
- Education. Only include your most recent education. If you have college and graduate school information, no need to provide details from high school. If you are opting not to include exact years, then you must add the type of degree (ie, Bachelors of Science) that you attained. This is an area that is often checked so be truthful. I have seen people try to fudge it and, once revealed, it does not leave an interviewer with a good feeling about that candidate. Inaccuracies have also resulted in rescinded offer letters, even if the mistake was an innocent one.
- Technology. In this market, many employers are looking for candidates who already have experience with their particular system. If you can’t recall where you gained a certain technology that is on your resume, don’t include it. Know what version of the system you were using. If it is more than 10 years old, be prepared that since technology is changing so rapidly it probably won’t make a substantial difference in getting you a job with a company using that system.
- Languages. They can be a strong addition to your candidacy in this increasingly international climate. If you’ve visited France, though, and can only say “bonjour” – do not claim to be fluent in French. Identify languages in which you are currently fluent or a strong intermediate in the three following areas: reading, writing and speaking.
- References. No need to state “references furnished upon request.” The hiring managers know that and as such, these are empty words.
- Affiliations. Include any applicable accounting/finance related affiliations like CPA, CFA or CISA, and note whether you are an active member. Use discretion when including volunteer activities. While companies increasingly value employees who give back to the community, it can be a double-edged sword if it is political or religious in nature.
Remember that there are resume writing services. It is my personal belief that revising your resume can be a do-it-yourself project. Beyond this humble blog, there is a wealth of information online about how to craft a resume. Sift through it because resume writing is an art, not a science. If you have stared at your resume for so long and you’ve tapped any personal resources you trust to advise you, try the resume writing service. Before you hire them, research the types of resumes on which they focus and ensure it lines up with your experience.
In many cases, your resume is the first impression you make on a company. Ensure it reflects your professionalism and expertise. Best wishes for a healthy, happy 2013.