Resume Tips 101: Presenting Your Skills on a Silver Platter

By Susan Varty, Managing Partner


Throughout my whole career as a writer, and now as a hiring manager, people have asked me for my resume tips.

So to continue helping out my network, here’s my opinion (and everyone has opinions).

Generally, bad advice is easy to find when it comes to resumes. If you are taking advice from someone who has never hired anyone, go with YOUR GUT. Then ask a hiring manager in a different industry to review your resume – and that’s a great tip for job networking too!

Before we start, keep in mind the following:

  • Hiring managers have a specific role to fill OR a role that is on their mind. If you don’t mention a specific role anywhere, such as Director of Marketing, they will not know where you would fit at their company and you will go back into the pile (until they figure it out).
  • They may not say so, but hiring managers want everything about you delivered in one glance. It’s important to put everything about your skill set on a “silver platter” on the first page so they don’t have to go back and find it. This means bullets, keywords, a clean layout, and avoiding blocks of texts.
  • Do not hide the dates or location of your education. Hiding information makes hiring managers (and recruiters) wonder what else you are hiding! Ageism and other biases are real but is not a good enough reason to avoid showing a clear progression of your career to recruiters, HR and ultimately, hiring managers. Omissions that are discovered make you lose credibility and trust.
  • Not adding your home address or at least the city you live in could result in a longer job search. Just as YOU want to know where the work location is, the hiring manager wants to know your situation. Where you live is part of that. Add “willing to relocate” if you are worried they will not take your application seriously based on where you live.

Okay…the official tips:

  1. You are writing for humans first, then robots. Ensure that both are satisfied to get on the radar. Add a summary, or “About You” section that is not full of buzzwords. How can you tell? If you think of a friend in the same industry and they could put their name on it, then the information is too general and could be about anyone. Describe your unique capabilities and the role you are looking for. Write this in the 3rd person so you sound less like a student and more like a speaker.
  2. Make sure you have multiple lists of technical skills and other domain/industry-related skills, as well as interpersonal skills. These bullets create the bulk of the keywords you need to be selected by robots and scanned quickly by humans.
  3. Don’t hide your career accomplishments under your previous roles or current role. Create a section with a few bullets on the first page called “Career Achievements”. What are you the most proud of? If you do this, then a hiring manager doesn’t have to read the all the details in your work experience. BTW – by now a hiring manager decides whether or not to keep reading…
  4. Do not use large blocks of text when describing the details of your work experience. Bullets are preferred. People truly scan unless you can make them keen to read more.
  5. If you can, add a line about what the company you worked for does so someone not familiar with that brand or company has a sense of where you worked.
  6. Align all dates and be consistent in your format. This will focus the reader’s eye to deliver a clear picture of your career progression. If you have gaps, be up front and remove months, stick to years. BTW a recruiter usually starts at the end of your resume and looks for a history of your career progression to gauge your reliability and truthfulness. If you have hidden dates, they may move to the next candidate because, ultimately, it’s their reputation on the line if they refer you for an interview.
  7. Unless you are a designer, applying for a design role, avoid creative designs and layouts and anything that is image-based. Impact in design makes the eye stop and think – such as design in great advertising. This is the time to do the REVERSE. It is important to be utilitarian and clean in style, sending a word doc when possible to help the reader (and the robots) absorb information quickly.
  8. Rather than hobbies, list your own efforts taking courses or things you have done to showcase your own professional development. Being a life-long learner helps the hiring manager know that you are interested in self-improvement, which brings enormous benefits to the company as well.
  9. If you have credentials, list them in your education/certification or under your career accomplishments. Credentials right next to your name (and, unfortunately, some actual names as well) can create instant biases when the reader sees them first when you may want to be known for something else. For example, when I see CPA, in my mind I ask: are you an accountant? This may not work in your favour when you want people to read more of your resume.

Photo by Kate Townsend on Unsplash

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