How to Make a Resume
There is so much information available about how to make a resume you can be left overwhelmed and confused. Knowing how resumes are selected can help you. Resumes are selected based on the criteria of qualifications, formatting, correct spelling, font sizes and so on. However, the number one reason why resumes are selected is not known by most job hunters and at one time was a great mystery to me.
While most of this next story is about common sense, this is what led to my discovery of the number one reason resumes are selected. Here is a true story that about how resumes are chosen that I hope helps you learn how to make a resume that gets chosen.
Jim Simon was a manager for a telecommunications company in the Midwest. When he received over one thousand resumes in five days for one IT management opening, he called me and requested my experience to assist him in screening the candidates. Jim had advertised nationally for a local position. I asked him to have all one thousand one hundred twelve resumes he received available for our appointment. When I arrived, Jim directed me to a conference room with a table completely covered by stacks of envelopes.
“I have one thousand one hundred twelve hard copy and digital resumes. You can see my quandary. I don’t have time to read all of these. I need somebody within two weeks.” Jim said as he scratched his head in puzzlement.
“This seems harder than the days when we couldn’t get enough qualified candidates. Will you show me what you would do?” he questioned.
“First could you please get me a couple of large boxes and mark rejected on them for me?” I replied.
Newsflash: Employers have A and B resume piles, and sometimes C. A could be for accepted and B could stand for Bad, and C might stand for can, as in trash Can. The C pile can also be the D pile – D is for Delete.
Jim came back with two four-foot high boxes.
“Just keep count for me.” I immediately went to work, opening, sorting, and dropping resumes in the boxes.
“How are you making decisions so quickly?” he asked.
“I don’t want any resumes that have staples, have been placed in fancy binders, or are oddly folded.”
“Why you’re not even opening some. Do you have x-ray vision?” Jim queried.
“Was your name and company name in your ad?“
“Were they both spelled correctly?”
“Yes, I check our ads,” Jim answered.
“Then do you want someone running your IT department who can’t get the answer right even when it’s been given to them?”
“No of course not!” Jim smiled.
Newsflash: There are two misspellings that will eliminate you faster than any other:
1. the company’s name
2. the contact’s name
No one likes to see his or her name misspelled, especially if all someone has to do is copy the name from a job posting. If you do not have the correct spelling, call the company and ask the receptionist or anyone you can talk to for the proper alphabet symbols and sequence.
Newsflash: Some resumes are never opened. Poor packaging, such as cramming a resume into an envelope that is too small, folding or stapling the resume, a sloppy written address, or resumes sent in the wrong software format could disqualify you. Digital resumes in a less common file format are also rejected.
How to Make a Resume and Avoid the Ten Biggest (Hard Copy) Resume Packaging Mistakes
1. Resume has been folded. Use a 9×12” envelope.
2. Address has been handwritten. Sometimes illegible writing causes delivery failure or delay or writing becomes smeared. Use a computer label or typewriter.
3. Insufficient postage.
4. Staples – Do not use staples.
5. No cover letter.
6. Misspelled or incorrect address, contact, or department.
7. Resume has been placed in some sort of binder. This will most often work against you because your resume does not fit easily into the file or pile of other resumes and becomes misplaced.
8. Odd sized paper other than 8.5 x 11”.
9. Cover letter paper is different than the resume.
10. Cover letter or resume is on personal or decorative stationary.
How to Make a resume and Avoid the Ten Biggest (Email or Digital) Mistakes
1. Resume is not attached.
2. Instructions were not followed about who to address the resume to – should be in the subject line.
3. Resume is an uncommon file type and employer cannot open.
4. Resume is not incorporated into email as requested.
5. No cover letter – YES, emailed resumes NEED a cover letter.
6. Resume does not contain contact information.
7. Email address is unprofessional.
8. Instructions were not followed.
9. Subject line is blank.
10. Job or position applying for is not referenced.
After the first round of sorting I had eliminated two hundred and seventy four of the resumes. I continued by placing resumes that were more than one page in a separate pile.
Newsflash: Employers (in many fields) will eliminate resumes longer than two pages. Keep your resume and cover letter to one page each when possible. (A great way to get around this rule with digital resumes is to increase the length of the page size. This presents an issue only if the resume is printed, in which case you take the risk of frustrating an HR person. Few employers ever print your resume.
I asked Jim and his two assistants to quickly scan cover letters and resumes and eliminate any containing misspellings, illegible font sizes, poor format, or more than one page.
Newsflash: Misspellings, bad English, and poor vocabulary will count against you. Use spell check and proofread. Have someone else proofread your resume.
One of Jim’s assistants showed me a resume and cover letter that smelled heavily of perfume. “Should I eliminate this one?” he asked.
“Usually yes, but we have so many letters together that I hesitate to say which one is the scented culprit.” Sure enough, we found several now had the same aroma.
Newsflash: Hard copy scented resumes and letters or those that smell of smoke will not be appreciated.
We now had six hundred and seventy nine resumes in the “A” pile. These were all organized chronologically by postmark. I asked Jim and his assistants to each start reviewing resumes from pile “A,” looking for the five years of experience and seven key skill words that he had placed in his ad. I also pointed out that with this tremendous response, Jim should have enough local candidates to eliminate anyone with an address outside the area. I wanted them to stop when they each found twenty-five resumes that fit the criteria.
After Jim and his assistants met their quota, there were still over three hundred and fifty resumes in pile “A.”
“What shall I do with these?” Jim inquired.
“We may not need them,” I answered.
After a break, Jim informed me that he had received a hundred or so more responses, via email. He looked surprised when I told him to “put them on ice.”
Newsflash: Employers often read less than the first thirty percent of resumes received, especially in a tight job market. Those thirty percent are often the first resumes received. It pays to mail, email, or post your resume immediately upon learning of a job opening.
However there is an exception I call “The Exception to the Rule of Older Job Postings.”
We closely scrutinized the seventy-five selected resumes.
The following eliminations were made:
• Four dated themselves with schooling over a decade before, with no mention of any certifications or schooling since. Jim thought these candidates would not be up to date with his technology.
• Two did not have a telephone number or email address listed on the cover letter or resume.
• Six were in a functional format and had to be ruled out because the time of experience was indeterminable.
• Six did not indicate any achievements or mention specific performance, and read, as Jim stated, “flat!” (Employers are people reading advertisements.)
• Twelve had gaps of more than one year between jobs of “unaccounted for” time.
In addition, these resumes were eliminated:
• Four had attended a school that Jim thought provided inadequate training.
• Two had come from a competitor that Jim felt was unethical (Maybe that’s why these candidates were looking for a new employer.)
Newsflash: Employers could eliminate your resume for a reason you will never know. This is true. However, this book will help you avoid as many reasons as possible.
Of the remaining thirty-nine resumes, twenty-six had used “power words” and seventeen of those had followed AIDA in their cover letters. Jim was in charge from there. Many of the eliminated resumes contained some of The 197 Words That You Should NOT USE on Your Resume. If you don’t have the eBook, get your FREE copy now. When you get the book you will also have the opportunity to get on my free mailing list for updates and fantastic inside information about job hunting.
Ten hours after we had begun, Jim had selected ten resumes out of the last thirty-nine, from which he scheduled eight interviews.
Jim had received over one thousand resumes. I asked Jim what he liked about the final winning ten resumes besides their qualifications.
“I like the formats,” Jim responded.
“Anything else?” I asked.
“They have no spelling or grammar mistakes,” he answered.
“Is there any other reason?”
“They just felt right,” he told me.
This might surprise you…
Employers do not always hire the most qualified person for the job. TRUE. While qualifications are vital, employers pick resumes for interviews based on more than 27 other criteria than qualifications!
When I surveyed 107 HR resume reviewers and decision makers, one of the top reasons they stated for choosing a resume is because the resume or cover letter “felt right.”
At first I thought this was absurd!
How can a resume or cover letter feel right?
Since then I have heard this many times more from employers.
Newsflash: Employers choose resumes they “feel right.”
How to Make a Resume Feel Right
How many times after we get a job do we go back and read the resume that got us the job? I know nobody who does this. Until we need a job again, we don’t even think about our resume.
In my years behind the scenes in business brokering (buying and selling companies), my work often required assessing the employees of each company. This involved examining their personnel files, which usually included their original application, resume, and job description. I did this in order to value each employee’s position or job and the performance of that employee. Most losing resumes were kept in a file also.
During this process I could not keep myself from searching for clues that would help solve my mystery. I have to tell you, whether the resumes were paper or computer files, at first I was not getting any feelings or vibes from them. I did notice that most of the winning resumes had matched the keywords for the knowledge, skills, and abilities the employers had advertised for or were in the job descriptions.
Each resume had met the basic criteria of an attractive easy to read format and no spelling mistakes. Most of the cover letters for the winners had been simple and followed some of the laws of advertising.
Only when I had been in the company environment for a few days and compared the losing resumes to those of the employees did I start to see (or feel!) a common thread.
The winning resumes had somehow mirrored the company’s environment. Objectives, experience, and statements of skills and abilities matched the phrases of the advertised job descriptions AND the level of vocabulary and industry specific terms being used at the company. These winning resumes did feel right!
Whether by chance or not, these candidates had used vocabulary in a convincing manner to get attention and interest in their cover letters, create desire, and inspire action. The very words in these cover letters and resumes reflected the company or industry atmosphere. Even more, each resume seemed to do so in a fashion appropriate for the targeted position.
Some of these employees had come from similar companies in the same industries. This gave them an advantage. They no doubt knew the industry language.
So once the mystery was solved, I developed methods any one could use to mirror the company where they were applying.
Investigate and Collect
You should know everything you can about a company BEFORE you submit a resume.
KNOWLEDGE is POWER. The more information you have about the company and position advertised, the more job hunting ammunition you have. You can use this information for:
• Job hunting
• Resume preparation
• Resume writing
• Cover letter writing
• Phone conversations and correspondence with the company
• Salary negotiation
• Benefits negotiation
The source where you learned about the position is the first place to get information. If you saw an ad online, visit the site. If someone told you about the position, ask them for more details.
What you should know about the position:
• Where is the position advertised?
• How did you learn of the opening?
• How long has the position been open?
You should also:
• Get a copy of any advertisements about the position
• Check their competitors for similar open positions
• Check with the company to see if they have a job description for the position – if they have one do not wait more than a day or two to get this.
What you should know about the company:
• Company specifics – legal name and locations
• Industry/SIC code
• Mission statement and company philosophy
• Company’s primary products/services
• Whether the company is publicly traded or privately held
• The stock symbol and current trading price
• Six month record of stock price
• Number of employees
• Structure: S-Corp, CEO, Board of Directors, etc.
• Annual revenue (when available)
• Subsidiaries or divisions
• Name of CEO/President
• Department heads (when available)
• Employee retention rates
• Average employee education
• Recent news/PR
• Company outlook
• Work culture
• BBB rating
• Promotions policy (are internal or external candidates favored?)
• Salary information
• Benefits information
• Interview process
• Drug testing/background check requirements
• Resume requirements
How to Make a Resume Feel Right to the Employer You are Sending it to
Copyright 2010 Resume Dictionary
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