By Donna Svei
As an executive résumé writer and a former retained search consultant, I see some interesting (and at times cringeworthy) résumés. Interestingly, almost every job seeker makes the biggest mistake, and hardly anyone talks about one particular idea around résumé success.
To elaborate, most people start writing their résumé by looking for a template to use.
Google gets 450,000 searches per month on the term “résumé template,” 50,000 more for “résumé format,” and hundreds of thousands more for similar keywords.
Sadly, letting format drive your résumé almost guarantees you a dull, annoying result that gets tossed onto the reject pile. This is because starting with a template emphasizes form over function, which works against your reader.
START WITH READER EXPERIENCE AND CONTENT
Rather than starting with form, which most people do, let’s consider your reader’s experience, or the motivations and feelings elicited when a hiring manager goes through your résumé.
Because I recruited for 25-plus years and have been writing résumés professionally for 10-plus years, I want to speak to you from my experience helping clients hired at desirable companies.
When I write a résumé, I put distinct emphasis on prioritizing the reader’s experience.
So, how do you do this for yourself?
First, I look for my client’s story. Before I start writing, I take time to contemplate a few questions, including, What is my client’s storyline? What’s the thread that ties everything in their career together? Are there any plot twists?
And finally I ask, What will make their résumé the most compelling?
By “compelling,” I mean, “What will motivate the right recruiters and hiring managers to want to meet my client?
Once I have a storyline, I think about which elements of my client’s background I want to feature in their résumé. Because we have already determined what they want to do next, and carefully analyzed a few target job postings, this step goes quickly.
From there, I prioritize my client’s high-impact experience and accomplishments I know our readers will find relevant to their opportunities and challenges.
I know nothing excites recruiters and hiring managers more than finding candidates with relevant experience and a record of performance (industry insiders call this a “no learning curve”). When a résumé makes the case, the reader has a great experience and wants to meet my client.
LET THE EXPERIENCE DRIVE FORMAT
After I define content, I think about how to structure and format my client’s résumé. But I don’t do it by Googling “résumé template.” Instead, I envision how simply and elegantly I can tell my client’s story.
I DON’T DO IT BY GOOGLING “RÉSUMÉ TEMPLATE.” INSTEAD, I ENVISION HOW SIMPLY AND ELEGANTLY I CAN TELL MY CLIENT’S STORY.
I want a résume format that invites my reader’s mind and eye because the content is comparatively easier to read and understand. And out of a group of otherwise cluttered résumés, you can guess which résumé gets read first.
So again, reader experience, it’s the only formatting standard that matters. Think “decision memo” over “graphic design contest.” Recruiters don’t want something that is strictly pretty—they want something that is easy.
TIPS TO OPTIMIZE READER EXPERIENCE
However, it’s one thing to lure a reader with the promise of an easy read and another to deliver it. To leave them feeling happy and motivated to meet you, learn these rules:
- Use a clear visual hierarchy that makes it easy for readers to find the information they want. Eliminate columns and graphs. They muck up the hierarchy.
- Separate your job responsibilities from your accomplishments. I like a narrative scope paragraph followed by a bulleted list of high-impact, reader-relevant achievements.
- Lift words from target job postings. A 2018 Stanford study found that applicants who demonstrated “linguistic fit” significantly increased their likelihood of being hired.
- Eliminate dense blocks of text. They exhaust readers’ eyes and minds. Implement a two to four-line limit.
- Provide white space. Visual gaps let people digest what they’ve just read. They also message your confidence and ability to distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant.
- Check readability on a mobile phone. It’s the smallest device anyone will use to read your résumé. If your résumé works there, it will also work on notebooks, laptops, and desktops.
So, in order to let your content precede form, follow these rules. Doing so will differentiate your resume from the 250 others in the stack, create a great reader experience, and get you more interviews.
This article was named a Top Job Search Blog Post for 2020 by JobMob.co.il. The original article can be found here.
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.
Are you interested in 1:1 coaching, interview coaching, advice about networking more effectively, how to negotiate your offer or leadership coaching? Schedule a discovery call at my website, www.TheBigGameHunter.us
Quick question? Get it answered with a 3-5 minute video at https://thebiggamehunter.us/videoanswer. Want to do it live? https://thebiggamehunter.us/live
Learn to interview like a pro. “The Ultimate Job Interview Framework” www.TheBigGameHunter.us/interviews Kindle and print versions are available on Amazon.
Classes On Skillshare https://thebiggamehunter.us/Skillshare
Become a freelancer or hire one on fiverr.com. I use it and I may wind up hiring you!
Join Career Angles on Facebook and receive support, ideas and advice in your current career and job.
Connect with me on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/thebiggamehunter Mention you listen to the podcast or watch my YouTube channel.
Job Search Going Nowhere? “Diagnosing Your Job Search Problems” for Kindle on Amazon and receive free Kindle versions of “No BS Resume Advice” and “Interview Preparation.”
If you are starting your search, order, “Get Ready for the Job Jungle.”
Watch my videos on YouTube at JobSearchTV.com, the Job Search TV app for Roku, fireTV or a firestick or Bingenetworks.tv for Apple TV, and 90+ smart tv’s.
Subscribe And Give This Video A Thumbs Up If You Found It Helpful.
Jeff Altman owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of No BS Job Search Advice Radio podcast, Job Search Radio Podcast, The No BS Coaching Advice podcast, JobSearchTV.com ,and other content with all rights reserved, as well as his right of publicity.