the Perfect Resume
By Pat Criscito, CPRW
it . . . no matter how well your resume is written, if its
design is less than neat and easy to read or isn't a good
match for your industry, the chances are good that it won't
get read. Busy executives have little time to read the hundreds
of resumes they receive every month. In fact, the average
time a recruiter or hiring manager spends with a resume is
less than one minute. Something in that first minute must
entice him or her to continue reading. Here's how to make
your resume one of them.
the overall design of your resume must reflect the expectations
of your industry or occupation. For instance, if you are an
accountant, banker, financial analyst, or senior manager,
then your resume should be conservative, like the sample in
Figure 1. Avoid decorative fonts and the use of creative layouts.
Your industry expects you to be more traditional and conservative,
more organized and analytical. This is reflected in a crisp,
clean resume appearance with few "bells and whistles".
the other hand, if you are an artist or graphic designer,
you want your resume to reflect your creativity. Why not scan
one of your paintings and make it a watermark in the background
of your resume, like the one in Figure 2. A cartoonist could
scan a drawing and make it a part of the design of the resume.
Get creative. It is this ingenuity that is your strongest
selling point. You have the license to use fun paper colors
and designs and to lay out your resume in unusual ways.
occupations fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
You have some license to be creative, but only some. For instance,
you can use graphic lines in unusual ways to make different
sections of your resume stand out, like the sample in Figure
3. This resume reflects a more dynamic personality and would
be good for sales and marketing jobs. You can choose a font
that is more contemporary, but continue to keep readability
in mind. No matter how creative you choose to be with the
design of your resume, you still want the reader to be able
to read your words.
that you have your reader's attention, force him or her to
read all the way to the bottom. One of the tricks of the advertising
trade--and your resume really is an ad--is to use white space
and balance to force the reader's eyes to begin in the upper
left-hand corner and continue until they hit the bottom right-hand
accomplish this, use smaller amounts of white space to divide
items within sections and more white space (or graphic lines)
between sections. Just make sure you use exactly the same
amount of white space between each major section or within
sections. This consistency makes the page easy on the eye
and therefore easier to read.
graphic lines or sufficient white space after your name and
address in order to draw your reader's eyes directly to your
qualifications. Using a larger, bolder typeface for your name
is another way to set it apart from the text of your resume.
Think about it . . . your name is really the brand name of
the "product" you are selling, and all good ads
are designed in such a way that the name of the product is
more prominent than the description of the product.
first section the reader should see is a brief description
of who you are. A qualifications or profile section gives
your reader a "quick and dirty" look at your background
and abilities (see Figure 3). Keep it short. It should be
an appetizer that makes the reader hungry to read the rest.
goes next, your education or your experience? Well, it depends.
How long have you been out of school? What kind of experience
do you have? Is your experience your strongest qualification
for the job? Then put it first. Are you a recent graduate
with little experience? Then put your education first. Eventually,
your education will drift toward the bottom of your resume
as you gain more and more relevant experience.
goes first, your degree or your college? Well, it depends--everything
in the resume business "depends"! Look at the difference
in emphasis between these two examples:
Master of Business Administration
OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
Little Known College, Backwoods, Colorado
you attended a well-known college that will enhance your primary
job qualifications, then list it on the first line. If your
degree is more important than the college, put the degree
first. Whatever you do, be consistent. If you choose to put
the college first, then do it every time. This helps your
reader find information more quickly.
same goes for your experience. If you were an Assistant Export
Coordinator for IBM Corporation, then put the company first.
You also put the company name first if your job titles are
not relevant to your current job search, no matter where you
were employed. As a general rule, however, it is better to
put your job title on the first line and the company name
on the second, especially when you can show a good progression
a section at the bottom of your resume for personal information.
Most employers would rather not know your marital status,
sex, health, etc., since they could be accused of discrimination.
That little line that states "references available upon
request" is a waste of valuable white space. It is assumed
that you will provide references if asked.
about designing your resume for scannability? That's a subject
for an entire article, but suffice it to say that you don't
want to get creative with a scannable resume. It must have
traditional fonts, few italics, no underlines, and light-colored
paper with no designs in the background. My Barron's book,
e-Resumes, has three chapters devoted to scannable resumes
in case you want a more thorough description of the subject.
1980, I have written and designed more than 10,000 resumes,
and in that experience, I have discovered that the design
of your resume is just as important as the words you use.
If the design of your resume doesn't grab the recruiter's
attention long enough to get read, then your words have little
meaning. However, once you have your reader's attention, the
words need to keep it. Don't neglect your content. Make the
sentences of your resume clear and powerful. Potential employers
want to know what you can do for them, which means they want
to know what you have achieved before.
Use numbers when you can. If you are in sales, then it is
easy to say you exceeded your sales quota by 150% every month.
Other careers are not as easy to quantify, but you have surely
accomplished something that went beyond the call of duty.
List accomplishments, skills, qualifications and not just
you have a resume that will grab the reader's attention and
keep it, increasing your chances of getting an interview,
which is the purpose of a good resume. Happy job hunting!