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.

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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.

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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!

Kay Linder
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