The first rule in writing is to know your audience. If you know your audience, you know what they want to read, how they read things, and what is important to them. Look at Tom Clancy for example. He knows his audience is typically conservative American males with interest in politics and world affairs who know a great deal about military and intelligence subjects. Tom Clancy’s audience is not the same as Nora Roberts’ audience. Occasionally, you will find a writer who can bring two audiences with one piece of work. The best example of that type of work is Theodore Geisel’s book “Oh the Places You’ll Go” – a book written at both child and adult level.
Resume writing is no different. It is imperative that you know your audience – who will be reading the resume – and what that audience wants, needs, and expects. Once you understand these factors, you can strategically construct a resume that will address everything the audience wants from the resume. When a resume gives the audience what it wants and needs, the resume will garner interviews.
So, what DOES the hiring manager (the audience) want, need and expect from a resume? Let’s look at a few factors:
Brevity – The resume reader does not have time or the inclination to read a resume that is 4 or more pages in length. Lack of brevity and succinctness can be deadly to a resume. Only detail the past ten years of experience, even if you have thirty years of work behind you. Stick to the most important parts and leave out description that does not add to your value as a candidate. An example of this would be “Attended weekly staff meetings.” There is no point in having such low-level detail in a resume.
Stay away from stringing modifiers (adjectives and adverbs) together in long, flowery strings. This is fluff writing and rather than adding power to the resume, it weakens it. For example, the following is an example of fluff writing: “A creative, detail-oriented, ethical project manager with skills in…versatile and adept at learning new things.” Does this tell the reader anything other than the person is a project manager? No!
Hard Facts – Hiring managers are looking for a few key items when they first scan a resume: focus of the resume (what type of job you are probably seeking), job titles (to see what you have done in the past), depth of experience (have you done what they need you to do before), industry experience (do you have experience in this type work/industry) and specific skills (example: C++ programming). Education is a secondary consideration. It is secondary because good experience tends to trump education. When you construct a resume with these top level needs in mind, the resume will be more effective.
Good formatting – A resume that is disorganized, jumpy, and does not follow logical, acceptable patterns is disliked by hiring managers. Poor formatting such as tiny font, use of Times New Roman or other serif font styles, lack of division of the sections of the resume can sink a resume. Make a resume appealing and easy to read.