“Can you take a look at my résumé and see what you think?” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked this in the past year, I wouldn’t be rich, but I would have some extra dough.
It’s true. Since I write about jobs and careers, it’s not surprising that I’ve been fielding calls from friends and colleagues, who want me to take a look at their résumé to see what’s missing, give some pointers.
I try to help. They agonize over the details. They’re frustrated beyond belief. They shoot their résumés off in a flick of a button when they hear about a job opening, and then silence-no response.
I offer my two cents. (For more strategies to land a job when you’re over 55, read my post here.) But to get some deeper insight, I asked Tony Beshara, author of Unbeatable Résumés (Amacom, 2011), a Dallas-based recruiting and job placement powerhouse and president of Babich & Associates to share his secrets.
KH: Why are people so obsessed with their résumé?
TB: The primary reason people spend so much time, money, and effort in writing a résumé is that this is the one activity within the job search that they can control. Instead of picking up the phone and calling a prospective employer to ask for a face-to-face interview-risking potential rejection-people agonize over their résumés.
Here’s the truth–it is rare to get hired by simply submitting a résumé –the purpose of the résumé is to help get you an interview. And at the interview, remember that 40 percent of a hiring decision is based on personality. You’ve got to get the interview and sell your pitutee off.
KH: What makes an unbeatable résumé?
TB: It has to be simple. No more than two pages. The average résumé gets read in 10 seconds. Be sure the content is on a level any high school senior could understand. In other words, the person looking at your résumé should be able to easily understand exactly who you have worked for and what that company does. Just because you know the company or it’s a big name like IBM, Boeing Corp, or Ford Motor Co, doesn’t mean everyone is familiar with what your specific division does.
- Avoid the fancy-schmancy layout, font, and other special effects. Stick to traditional font of Times New Roman, 9 to 12 point size, and black type against a white paper. You might try a different type size for your name and the companies you have worked for, perhaps your title. But try to be consistent. Go easy on boldface type, italics, and underlining.
- Prepare it in a simple Word format that can easily be viewed on most computers. Not a table format or template.
- Use a reverse chronological order. List your present, or most recent job, first, and then work backwards. You state the complete name of the company you work for, or have worked for, and what they do, how long you were there–month and year. Then list the position you held and your accomplishments. You don’t have to use full sentences. Begin with verbs. “Managed company tax reporting, finance, invoicing, purchasing,” for example.
- Get rid of objectives and summary and all that silly stuff. It’s all fluff. An employer doesn’t care about your objective. He cares about his.
- Skip personal information such as married with three kids. Sounds stable to you. But to a hiring authority looking for someone to travel, it may keep you from being interviewed.
- Stories sell. Numbers, statistics, percentages get attention if you put in bold type. Increased profit by this 28%. Came under budget by 30%. If you were born and raised on chicken farm, note it on your résumé.
- Fuzzy key words and phrases should be avoided. These include customer-oriented, excellent communications skills, and creative. These words lack meaning and do absolutely nothing to help you get an interview.
- Use words that refer to titles- customer service, controller, manager, accountant,
- Get the photos off your résumé. You are looking for a job, not a date.
KH: Does “age” stop people over 50 from landing a job? - Read the answer and complete Forbes article