By Kibet Tobias
You may have heard it before, but it’s no less true now: Most recruiters only spend an average of six seconds scanning a resume on their first look. This means any obvious mistakes or red flags could easily keep you from landing a job. You need to know exactly what to avoid if you don’t want your resume immediately discarded.
Below you’ll find a list of the five elements your resume absolutely needs if it’s to be given a chance by those with the power to get you hired.
1. A flawless introduction
Your grade school teachers were telling the truth. An excellent opening sentence should be a top priority for any writer, and yes, that applies to writing resumes. Though there’s no knowing for sure which part of the page will grab a recruiter’s eye, there’s a good chance it’ll be naturally drawn to the top. It can only help to make doubly sure your header and objective (or personal summary) are free of typos.
It’s just as important to not forget any essential information from your header. Any resume that leaves out a contact email or phone number is sure to at least raise an eyebrow, if not disqualify you completely. If any included email addresses or work-related URLs read as being unprofessional (if it contains crude innuendo, a curse word, etc.), that’ll be even less conducive to success.
2. Cleanliness and stylistic consistency
No matter how sterling your qualifications, if a hiring manager spots a typo or obvious mistake on your resume, its odds of ending up in the trash instantly skyrocket. The same is true for inconsistent formatting elements like spacing and the size and style of fonts. If an applicant flaunts their carelessness during this moment meant for first impressions, it can only help spell rejection.
Expanding on this, if the structure of your resume is confusing or obviously unintuitive, that can be a red flag to an eagle-eyed recruiter. Even if the reader is only skimming the document, when something like an award is listed where a job responsibility should be (or even worse, vice versa), that might say some rather negative things about your organizational skills. In general, if you’re using a common resume format and premade template, stick with the font and organizational choices already made for you.
3. A timeline free of red flags
Obvious omissions in a resume’s timeline can be just as troublesome as the above-mentioned flubs. Given the emphasis put on work history by most resume formats, it’s not unlikely a recruiter’s eyes will immediately snap to your list of previously held jobs. If its gaps are too wide to conceal, you may want to consider another style of resume.
A functional resume format lets job seekers de-emphasize specific dates and employer names in exchange for extra focus on skills and ultra-relevant job responsibilities. A hybrid format is a hybrid of the functional and traditional chronological styles. Either of these alternate formats may be useful to pull attention away from any unsightly spots in your work history.
The less vague-sounding your qualifications, the happier you’ll make hiring managers. Do your best to quantify your accomplishments as much as possible. When a recruiter skims a resume, they’re more excited to spot “led marketing push that resulted in 25% increase in quarterly revenue” than “led marketing push that resulted in increased revenue.” Sell yourself as a potential asset by showing exactly how much you helped your previous employers.
Using active verbs in lieu of passive phrasing can similarly help sell past accomplishments. Detailing how you “manage” your current team versus how you are “responsible for overseeing” them is more to the point and exudes professional confidence.
5. Keep it short, unless you’re an executive
It’s tempting to pack every last career detail into your resume, but doing so is rarely helpful. Recruiters only want to see details relevant to the position they’re trying to fill, and even then, redundancies that push a resume past one page are almost always overkill.
You might be able to get away with multiple pages if you’re applying for a highly senior-level position.
If you stick with the above tips, your CV is more likely to survive a hiring manager’s initial six-second pass over your qualifications. Making strategic use of different resume formats, keeping things brief and having the most heavily scanned sections be airtight are the best measures one can take to make it to the second round of recruiting.
If you’d like additional guidance on all things resume, let our CV writing experts help. Use our CV writing page for guidance on how to format yours.
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