Resumes are not a thing of the past. They still have a significant purpose in the hiring process. In short, your resume is your personal marketing piece. It, like any wrapper, label, or advertisement for products and services, should be attractive and provide clear communication for the sole purpose of getting the attention and approval of the consumer (in this case the consumer is the recruiter or hiring manager). Depending on how you want to “pitch” yourself, you can opt for a generic resume that prompts little enthusiasm, or you can draft a resume that grabs the viewer’s attention.
We’ve probably looked at millions of resumes over the many decades of combined experience of our team. We have outlined the typical core elements below including the purpose of each in today’s hiring process.
Many believe the objective section of a resume no longer serves a purpose and does not need to be on your resume. Too often, the objective is nothing more than generic, boilerplate copy that says little to the recruiter and/or hiring manager.
While I’m also not a big fan of objectives, it can be an important element to a resume. What we’ve learned is that many hiring managers rely heavily on what is printed in black & white. So, if you say the wrong thing, despite having all the relevant experience, your objective could do more harm than good. The more specific and detailed the objective the greater the odds that the hiring manager could put your resume in the wrong pile.
Having said that, if you know exactly what you want to do and are inflexible when it comes to your professional pursuits then being put in the wrong pile of resumes isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We are pretty certain that almost nobody wants to interview for a position they don’t want.
We advise that the objective should encompass two or three sentences leaving sufficient room for the meatier elements of your resume. I’ll end with saying that a resume objective is not a requirement, but it can still serve a purpose in certain situations. If you prefer to leave it off so you have more room to highlight your experience, that is not frowned upon.
It should go without saying that job duties still have a resume purpose. Recruiters and hiring managers want to know the tasks you’ve performed. However, many resumes we have reviewed focus heavily on a simplified list of duties. These are important for demonstrating a basic level of knowledge, skills, abilities, and perhaps scope of experience.
The truth is, most people over-emphasize their tactical duties, leaving little room for accomplishments. While it is important to communicate your basic duties, we’ve learned that what really gets the attention of the hiring manager is not what you do, but the impact you make. For that reason, we recommend a resume that is centered around accomplishments.
Accomplishments (or Achievements)
Honestly, listing your accomplishments has the biggest impact on recruiters and hiring managers when it comes to resume purpose. They are the meat to any good resume.
Having said that, if you don’t measure your performance and activities, you will likely find it hard to communicate how you have made an impact. Accomplishments are a sort of cause and effect. As an example, if improving margin, increasing customer satisfaction, decreasing turnover, or improving product quality (as examples) are your objective, then you’ll need to be able to talk about how you moved the needle.
Accomplishments are best communicated objectively with numbers (dollars, percentages). If decreasing cost is a goal, then you have the option of communicating this as an actual dollar figure, or a percentage. We advise that you choose the more attractive of the two. As an example, if your cost was two dollars and you decreased that by one dollar, then it would make more sense to communicate a 100% cost reduction. Saving a single dollar is not an impressive achievement.
If you don’t measure your performance against goals and objectives, we would encourage you to start so that you have plenty of examples to share on the resume. Often used to get attention are words like streamlined, improved, optimized, enhanced, etc. These words underscore your ability to identify opportunities for continuous improvement. A good best practice is to tell a story about the problem or issue, then what you did specifically to address the issue. Then you finish by communicating the measured improvement in either a number or percentage.
If you want to get someone’s attention, then accomplishments are the best way to get your resume in the right stack!
The Resume as a Whole
As stated earlier, the resume is really your personal marketing piece. Its primary purpose is to get your resume in the right stack, thus improving your chances of an interview. Given the advancement of technology, hiring managers are now tasked with reviewing an abundance of resumes. Reviewing hundreds of applications leads to mental fatigue. Fatigue leads to errors which could land your resume in the wrong stack if you are not careful. If your resume doesn’t get the viewer’s attention, or is formatted with dizzying fonts, font sizes, bolded letters, underlines, and italics then it will likely not improve your odds of getting that interview you want.
While getting an interview is the primary resume purpose, we would argue that the attitude of the hiring manager when entering the interview is equally (if not more) important. Let’s say your resume is good enough to get you an interview but isn’t good enough to convince the hiring manager you are a perfect fit. Candidates with resumes that don’t excite the hiring manager but provide enough information to warrant an interview typically lead to an interview-to-offer ratio that is low. Nobody wants to enter the interview process with a headwind or defensive position. If you do, then you’ll likely spend the first interview trying to overcome faulty assumptions and objections from your recruiter or hiring manager.
While the purpose of the resume is to get you an interview, the best resumes will do one better. They will firmly leave the impression with the hiring manager that you are an ideal candidate for the position. A less skeptical hiring manager removes the avoidable headwinds as you begin the interview process. Removing skepticism improves your chances of a positive first interview and will likely lead to the next step in the process.
In summary, if you want to avoid interviewing from a defensive position then make sure your resume focuses primarily on accomplishments and achievements. Make sure you use numbers and percentages that measure the improvements and impact you have made. Use bullet points and indentions to make the information easier for the hiring manager to consume, but also optimizes the space available on the page. If your resume is beyond two pages you may want to pare it down. We are in the information age, so one-page resumes are likely insufficient for demonstrating all of your wonderful achievements. Having said that, be cognizant of the fact that the hiring manager is likely looking at many resumes so the easier you make their job, the better.
For More Information
If you are an employer looking to utilize an agency to fill an open position in heavy equipment, IT, accounting or civil engineering, contact us at [email protected] or (210) 798-5888.
Job seekers can find open positions in these industries on our All Jobs page.