A resume is a critical career tool. If you haven’t dusted yours off in a while, it pays to invest some time in updating it, especially when you aren’t in a crunch to bring it up to date. If you have a current resume in your files, congratulations! But don’t ignore it. Have a look at it periodically and tweak as needed.
As an executive search firm, we are retained to find leaders, both interim and permanent, for our clients. Over the years, we have seen thousands of resumes and would like to share with you some tips about making your resume better. While your qualifications for a position might override a mediocre resume, more often a sloppy resume will quickly eliminate you from consideration.
Provide updated contact information
Include your email (hyperlink your email address), LinkedIn profile link and your cell phone number…not your home phone number. Not everyone will be enchanted by your four year-old taking their message.
Include a summary statement
Use a few sentences at the top of your resume to help potential employers gain a broad understanding of your skill sets and experience. Try to tie your previous experiences together with one common theme. Don’t take up this space with an objective statement that describes your career goals. Make it a powerful summary that shows how you will add value to an organization. Think of the manager reading your resume among many others—your summary should make him or her take notice and move your resume into the “look at more closely” pile.
Summarize each organization you have worked with
In addition to a short summary of yourself, follow up with a summary of the scale, scope and mission of each organization in one or two sentences. Then identify your accomplishments during each role. This provides a hiring manager or recruiter insight on your career path.
Highlight relevant experience
Be sure to review and modify your resume for each position you are applying to. Tailor your resume for each specific position, highlighting specific skill sets, experience and accomplishments. This makes it easier for a hiring manager or recruiter to see why you are the right fit.
Provide evidence for your success by describing your history and giving the reader a sense of scale. Specify the number of people you supervised, amount of sales increases, products you represented or dollars of savings you created. There is a big difference between “increased sales” and “reversed a three year sales decline and increased sales 12% in the first year.” Or between “reduced wait times” and “reduced excessive waiting times in outpatient clinic from 45 minutes to 15 minutes.” This added context is essential for proper appreciation of your accomplishments.
Keep it short
If you find yourself having difficulty fitting your experience to one or two pages, three pages are appropriate. Those who use CVs don’t need to pay attention to the page limit, but should provide a summary at the beginning of the CV that is customized for the specific position.
Proofread again…and again
We cannot say this enough. It is critical that you proofread your resume. Typos and grammatical errors and even incorrect contact information are not uncommon. No kidding! A recent survey from CareerBuilder found that 58% of resumes contain typos. Updating a resume is crucial, but editing can lead to misplaced verbs or misaligned sentences. Be sure to have someone else read your resume prior to submitting it for an application.
- Don’t include your references; this takes up space and is often unnecessary for the initial screening process.
- Headshots and the use of color are not necessary and can often take away from the professionalism of a resume.
- Organize experience in reverse chronological order; your most recent or current job goes first.
- Use two fonts or less.
- Align your dates and locations to the right— it makes it easier for the reader to follow along.
- Do not use more than 2 lines per bullet; more verbiage makes your resume more difficult to skim.
- Use action verbs like: “Resolved” “Implemented” – You solve problems and take initiative so every word should build that picture.
- If you are a very seasoned executive, it is not essential to include every job and accomplishment you have had. Often, you can cluster together “Previous Work Experience” with job titles and organizations.
A well-crafted resume will not land you a new position, but it can get you in the door. And that first step is critical so pay attention to your resume.
About the Authors: Joshua Berg (Search Associate), Annette Cooke (Senior Vice President), Fernando Limbo (Search Support Administrator), and Ellen Mahoney (Vice President of Search Operations) are team members at ZurickDavis, a retained executive search firm exclusively serving health care organizations.