Your resume, or as known in other parts as a CV (curriculum vitae) is an overview of your experiences and qualifications to perform a specific job. It is your first introduction to a prospective employer and determines if that introduction will ever progress to a meeting or formal interview. I have read literally thousands of them in my life. In that time I learned very quickly to decide if I had any interest in looking further. I will share some thoughts on what things I loved and hated about reviewing CVs.
My number one decider in looking at a resume was if after a very brief glance at education and experience was if I could tell what position they were applying for. I often had multiple positions open at once and if the resume did not make it very clear what position they might be suited for I did not have time to try to figure it out for them.
Since cover letters were very often simply fill in the position blanks at the top followed by a few clichés and generic reasons why they wanted to work for us I did not really even read them. The resume should be clear enough about qualifications that an employer does not need to guess where your interests lie. Much as the cover letter – the objective at the top is typically so ubiquitous and generic that I never bothered reading it until I had decided if I was interested or not.
I like brevity and straight forward approach on a CV. It is an overview, not a chronological history of every life accomplishment. If I am interviewing for a position requiring an advanced degree and 5 years professional experience I do not care about the science fair results when the applicant was 12 – or the grocery store they worked in during college. Fluffing the length with superfluous information detracts from the important parts.
I always recommend a customized resume for any position you are truly interested in. For blanketing a job market a single well written one makes sense but if you see a position to apply for that you actually want take a few minutes to adjust it to be more focused on that specific jobs requirements. Many services that do CV’s like Employment Tiger offer unlimited free revisions. Make use of that fact either for specific jobs or categories of jobs. If you resume has the same focus for positions requiring any college degree as it does for positions requiring your exact degree you are making a mistake. One should focus on people skills and educational achievements while the other should focus on your specific accomplishments within the discipline.
When looking at key personal attributes I want to see “how”, not what. Great team player in some version or another is on 98% of all resumes. How am I to know you are in fact a team player and not simply keyword stuffing? Give examples that do not require explanation. Team leader for three years at current position, employee spokesman at company meetings, even played football in school all say far more to me than simply naming yourself a great team player.
If there is an obvious weakness in the qualifications I prefer to see an explanation than for it to go unanswered. If it is a 2 or 3 year gap since last employment tell me why in the CV – not a drawn out explanation – simply returned to school for professional advancement, parenthood, old employer went out of business, whatever the situation.
It is not just so I know why – it also shows you understand enough about the position you are applying for to recognize it as needing explanation. The majority of the resumes I reviewed were over applying (applying for a position that it was very questionable if qualified for). I would still consider speaking to them if they made it clear they understood the position well enough that there would be a question on it. Many simply do not even know themselves that they are reaching too high and lacking that understanding I am certain that I will not be able to train them in a reasonable time period.