Seeing the Trees for the Forest By Jena L. Pitman-Leung, PhD., Career Consultant, Propel Careers
In the past few years, we at Propel have seen tens of thousands of resumes from job seekers who are senior level, mid-career and entry-level professionals. Reviewing these has provided our team with a wealth of insight about what makes a "good" resume considering the structure, format, and content. Often, we advise candidates on how to improve their resumes. This blog is written to highlight the importance of the details (trees) in the forest that is your resume.
A common pitfall that we encounter in the "resumes that need improvement" is a lack of attention to detail. It is important to remember that the average HR representative initially spends ~15 seconds looking at a resume. When they are scanning hundreds of resumes for a particular job posting, a nicely put together, properly formatted, resume with no obvious missing details can make the difference between your resume making it to the "follow up with" pile instead of the "not relevant " pile.
What are some of the most common missing details that we spot? Believe it or not, we have seen resumes submitted through our online portal, or to us personally, that are missing contact information, have an inactive phone number, or have a non-current email address (i.e. their prior institution's email address is no longer valid since they left their role). Just recently, we found a candidate within our resume database who had a strong background for a role we were working on, but without contact information on the resume and an inactive LinkedIn profile we could not contact this person to discuss this opportunity. We also see resumes that are missing dates, company names, location information (at a minimum, add city and state to denote relative location), or that list these details for one position but not another (inconsistent). On the formatting side, we see resumes where the type is too small to read, or the margins are too small, making the resume look extremely busy. On the other hand are the resumes with inches of empty space, requiring the reviewer to scroll through 6+ pages of content that could be condensed into 2. For those with an eye for detail, seemingly minor things like inconsistent bolding or use of italics, misaligned bullet points, or mixed fonts can stick out like a sore thumb!
Many people are diligent about crafting their resumes.... at first. But like anything, once you have compiled everything, and tweaked it, and added and subtracted from it a dozen times, you run the risk of losing track of the "trees". This can be avoided by enlisting a trusted friend or family member, and asking them to *simply* focus on the formatting details. Avoid choosing a colleague that is familiar with your work, since they can become distracted by the content. Your resume is an incredibly important document that says a lot about you, and is your "first impression" at the company that you are hoping will hire you. It is your Brand.
Make your first impression count by presenting yourself and your experiences in a clear, thoughtful way, with consistent formatting, and allow the HR professional to focus on your experience, rather than your misaligned bullet point.