The #1 Question Job Candidates Should–But Almost Never–Ask About Their Resume

The #1 Question Job Candidates Should–But Almost Never–Ask About Their Resume

When it comes to finessing a resume, candidates typically try to answer key questions posed by (or implied by) the job description itself. Obviously, that’s part of the process. But there’s another question that they should be asking, but in my experience almost never do: based on my resume, would I call myself for an interview?

It’s the kind of question that, at first glance, seems either rhetorical–or just pointless! But candidates who take a step back and objectively analyze their resume may come to the surprising conclusion that they wouldn’t actually call themselves for an interview. And it’s not because they lack the skills, experience, or personality suitability factors for a coveted job. It’s because their resume isn’t pulling its weight and fully working on their behalf.

Fortunately, this problem is 100% correctable. In my experience over the years, there are five core areas of a resume that typically need the most improvement:

1. Format

Candidates need to pay close attention to font type and font size. I recommend Calibri 11pt, which has the added benefit of being a Sans Serif font (these are easier to read on screens vs. Serif fonts like Times New Roman). Suitable spacing is also an important factor, as the best way to get on a hiring manager’s worst side is to subject them to dreaded “text walls.”

Also, hiring managers have told me over the years that they don’t think highly of resumes that take a “laundry list” approach–i.e., experience and projects in one clump, followed by dates of employment, title, and employer. This approach doesn’t allow hiring managers to understand what a candidate has accomplished, when, in what environment, and how his or her skills have grown progressively throughout their career.

2. Size

Contrary to what many candidates believe, it’s fine to submit a resume longer than one page, provided that it’s not an attempt to fluff up a resume with bullet point after bullet point. Candidates with more than 15 years of experience should aim for two to four pages. Hiring managers are not allergic to longer resumes, and reject far more candidates for not providing enough information vs. those that provided too much.

3. Content

Far too many candidates–including extremely talented ones who would be an asset to any organization–load up their resume with responsibilities, but fail to focus on the thing that hiring managers need to see more than anything else: accomplishments. THIS IS A BIG MISTAKE! Candidates who look at their resume and see that it leans primarily (or exclusively) towards what they’ve been tasked with vs. what they’ve actually achieved should see this as a wake-up call.

4. Context

Many candidates incorrectly assume that hiring managers are familiar with the organizations they’ve worked for. To be safe, it’s wise to add a sentence describing these companies (e.g., purpose, size, locations, etc.). Obviously, this content shouldn’t steal focus. But rather than seeing it as extraneous or irrelevant, most hiring managers will appreciate it, as it gives them added context about a candidate’s background.

5. Writing

Last but not least: many candidates assume that professional resume writers will magically turn their resume into an interview-generating machine. This simply doesn’t happen. Yes, it’s fine to work with a qualified resume writer. But the writer cannot and will not develop the content–i.e., the “guts” of the resume that make it substantial. That information has to come from the candidate.

The Bottom Line

Candidates who objectively evaluate their resume in light of the above factors, and make necessary changes on their own or with expert help, won’t think twice when asking themselves “based on my resume, would I call myself for an interview?” They’ll confidently answer yes–and so will more impressed and interested hiring managers!

6 Tips for Resumes That Rock

6 Tips for Resumes That Rock

If you want to keep your resume out of the notorious slush pile, think like a hiring manager. Hiring managers want solid evidence of what you’ll bring to the company, and they have less than a minute to decide if your resume makes you a candidate worth pursuing.

How can you move your resume to the top? Prove your experience and skills, don’t just claim them, says Scott Bennett, author of The Elements of Resume Style: Essential Rules for Writing Resumes and Cover Letters That Work and the blog WriteResumesRight.

Use words that show your experience, do not tailor your resume for each position, and show your real story, says Bennett, and you will come across as capable. “Don’t just use the words,” he says, “show it. Lots of candidates will write the words, but they aren’t backed up by any evidence.”

1. Be Specific

Because nursing positions might have similar titles but use vastly different skills, Bennett advises being very specific in each description. Were you an ER nurse in a rural hospital or a city hospital? “Those are very different jobs,” says Bennett, so consider all the nuances of where you practiced – the setting, the demand, the staffing, the cultural relationships. Even settings within a single hospital can be different, so be on-target.

2. Show It

Emphasize the concrete evidence of the skills you can bring to bear,” says Bennett. Did you produce a follow-up care book that goes home with 15,000 patients a year? Did you train your unit on how to use a new app to help coordinate staffing for 30? Were you on a committee to introduce new diabetes care workshops? Say that. Use strong action words to describe duties. Bennett’s book gives examples like avoiding “was responsible for office management” and using “managed office” instead.

3. Avoid Keyword Overload

People just throw keywords around and jam them in their resumes, says Bennett. The hope is that it makes them look on top of the industry, but the result is a resume that reads poorly. “Show your real story,” says Bennett, “and your keywords will show up already.”

4. Focus on the Position

Decide what you want to do and then focus in on that position like a laser beam, says Bennett. Your natural enthusiasm will come through as a job candidate. If the position you want is on a cardiac unit, describe your care for patients in a similar unit or list your specialty certification in cardiac-vascular nursing.

5. Don’t Just Send a Resume In

Lots of candidates respond to advertisements,” says Bennett. “The unsung hero of the job search is the inquiry letter.” So don’t just send your resume in to job openings – send it to the places where you’d like to work. “Who cares if they’re hiring?” says Bennett. “Jobs are being created all the time.”

6. Tell Your Story Succinctly

Once you have your resume format and words carefully chosen, go back and make it even shorter. A resume should be as long as you need to tell your story, but should clearly show you tried to make it short. “Be the candidate in the stack that respects the reader’s time,” says Bennett. You have seconds to make an impression, so make the clear impression that you took the time to make your resume as concise as possible.

By focusing your resume and honing in on what you did, not just what you can do, your resume is bound to get the attention it deserves.