I’ve asked a number of people over the years what they consider to be the primary objective of their resume. The majority have responded “to get me the job”. Well, that’s true, but before that dream job is in the bag, one first has to get through a field of highly qualified candidates to get to the first round of interviews. In other words, the primary objective of your resume is to create enough initial impact to get the interview. The second objective is to try and guide the interviewer to ask those questions you need to invite them to ask, so you can sell yourself.
Many resumes list endless job functions and lack impact. These are referred to as “duties and responsibilities” style resumes. But consider that you are in a competitive field of candidates. If many of those candidates possess similar qualifications and experience, how can this type of resume format stand out from the competition? Surely fancy fonts, pictures, colours or page layouts aren’t going to do the trick. Neither is a resume that carries on for 5 or more pages. Let’s face it, who has the time to read a 5 page resume when there are dozens of others to review?
In the career management profession, there is an old saying: “The best jobs don’t always go to the most qualified people; they go to those who are best at getting jobs”!
From our experience, a resume should be qualified in terms of relevant skills, expertise, qualifications and more importantly, achievements, to the direction you are seeking, or to the job for which you are applying. Ideally it should be no longer than 3 pages, with some exceptions like a background in academia or a lot of contract employment. Achievements from your current or most recent job should be prominent on the first page and unless you’re a recent graduate or age 20-something professional, your list of courses and qualifications will sit well on the 3rd page. Exceptions might include CPA or CA, PRINCE2 or PMP or an Executive MBA, for example, which might be important to show at the beginning of your resume.
It is a good idea to have a strong executive or professional summary at the top of the first page. This should contain around 6 points outlining your areas of expertise, while limiting intangibles like being “a team player” or a “big picture thinker”.
A resume is also important in networking. Remember, if someone asks to see your resume or suggests they might wish to pass it on to someone else, it is better to err on the side of brevity.
One final note: There are as many different opinions on what constitutes a good resume as there are resume formats. So it’s best to always keep in mind that a lot of HR professionals disqualify a candidate on the basis of their resume in a mere 20 seconds! Make sure yours has impact!
Posted by Scott Spaulding
See also: Why Networking is So Important