Career & Resources

What’s in a résumé? Things to include

As a professional in the business world I feel like I am constantly updating my résumé. My vintage 1999 résumé is definitely drastically different than my résumé today. Not only has my experience increased, but the way I phrase that experience has definitely evolved.

Each time I apply for a position I ask the hiring manager to provide me feedback on documents in support of my application including my résumé. I have passed it around to peers and shown it to upper management in development conversations. I have received insightful tips through my madness to perfect it. I thought I’d share some of my favorite tips and feedback, although this is not a comprehensive list and I am by no means a résumé expert. Be sure to comment on your favorite résumé tips.

1. Be sure YOUR objective is sure to meet THEIR objective. When I was in college I used to write an objective or mission statement at the top of my résumé. It sounded something like this: I aspire to work for a results oriented organization that cultivates the growth of their employees. 

That statement is not only a little generic but it talks about what you want out of the position. Hopefully you have researched the company and/or department you are applying for and determined if their mission matches your objective. That’s a key indicator for applying in the first place. But if you’re writing to someone about why you’re a great fit for their company sometimes the cover letter is the best place for that message. Trying to pin it down in a résumé objective statement can be risky. I like to summarize my background at the top with keywords regarding my experience and then details on that experience under each position description. This résumé does a great job of summarizing the experience at the top and then highlighting specific areas of expertise just below that.

2. Be specific about what you did. In detailing your experience make sure to talk about the SIGNIFICANCE of what you did and the specifics of how UNIQUE it was. For example, saying that you lead a team to develop a new product is not specific enough. Anyone could list that on their resume. Instead say something like I effectively lead a team of ten business professional and three agencies to develop a new product representing 35% of the company revenue, and transformed the bobble head retail industry. (Obviously I don’t work in the bobble head industry, but you get the gist). What did you do that set you apart from someone else that did the exact same thing? Did you challenge a team to drive results faster? Did you turn around a troubled team and get them back on track? Did you shift a mindset of stakeholders to get them to buy-in on an idea? Don’t get hung up on adjectives that aren’t specific. Make sure you talk specifically about what YOU did that you can replicate on the new team that would make a hiring manager recognize your value.

3. Summarize training and awards relevant to the position. If you are applying for a position outside of your organization and only hold awards within your organization just make sure you accurately explain the award when you list it. Also, be sure not to list experience or certifications that would not be relevant to that position. For example, if you’re applying to be an Elementary School Teacher, listing a processing certification may not be relevant and could actually cause confusion if it’s not something that is known within that industry. It also takes up real estate space on your résumé.

4. Number the pages and include your last name on both pages. This one seems easy, but it’s something that I didn’t have on my early resume version. Listing your last name with a comma and followed by the page number on each page of your résumé ensures that if your résumé is printed and included on a stack of papers, they can be paired together again if they’re seperated.

5. Include your LinkedIn url on your résumé. This tip was from a friend that is a recruiter. It adds a nice touch to indicate that you have a network and you’re in the loop with today’s digital age. Just make sure your LinkedIn account is relevant and updated if you implement this tip.

6. Don’t include more than ten years of experience. This one helps to develop a depth to the positions you have held and ensure your résumé is kept tightly at two pages. The exception to the rule for this one is to call out positions you further than ten years back if they’re relevant to the position you are applying for. I have included reference to an operations position I held in my early years with my company in order to reference my understanding of the customer interaction and consumption of a product.

7. Tailor your resume to the job that you are applying for. The one-size-fits-all resume doesn’t really exist. Unfortunately work is required to tailor a résumé for each and every position you are applying for. The payoff is that hopefully by doing this your résumé stands out enough to qualify you for an interview. Think of the résumé as the summary for the hiring manager on what you have done that is relevant to the skills needed to effectively transition to the new position and achieve success in that role.

Résumés have always seemed to me to be the gateway to the interview. If you can summarize your career and experience in just two pages to a hiring manger (coupled with a cover letter) and achieve an interview, then that is a testament to the success of your résumé. Be sure to ask for feedback often from all levels within and outside of your current organization. And good luck in all your future career endeavors!

PS: Do you remember when Joey (on Friends) admits he can’t do anything listed on his résumé- miss that show so much!

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