In all my years of writing about resumes, I never wrote a blog that answers the basic questions, “What is a resume?” and “Why is a resume important?”
I haven’t directly addressed these questions in a post because they seem a bit obvious.
But after reading the top Google search results for these questions, I thought I would take a minute to correct some of the misinformation out there.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty, the most important thing to remember about your resume is that it must tell your career story in a way that makes it easy for a hiring manager to want to interview you.
It seems simple enough, but if you’ve ever sat down to write a resume from scratch, you know it’s not that easy.
Resumes are notoriously hard to write because it’s challenging to decide which work experiences and accomplishments to put on paper.
There’s a lot to consider, but believe it or not, there is a formula.
What is a resume?
Simply put, your resume is a marketing document that helps you sell yourself to a hiring manager.
Many people think of a resume as a piece of paper that lists their duties and responsibilities from when they entered the workforce until now.
So, they spend hours thinking through and documenting every job they’ve had, every task they completed, and every duty they were assigned.
Eventually, they end up with pages and pages of information that don’t have a clear focus.
Instead of thinking about your resume as a history of your career, consider it as a highlights reel of your most relevant experience and accomplishments.
Your resume should detail the responsibilities you’ve had in your previous roles.
It also must detail the results you achieved for each significant responsibility.
It’s not enough to say you can do something.
You have to show how well you can do it.
Most people don’t include results, so most people are not picked for interviews.
Including your results on your resume will set you apart from the many job seekers applying for the same position you want.
That’s what resume writers and career coaches mean when they say you must “communicate your value to a hiring manager.”
Use your resume to show the hiring manager why they should hire you by giving them results that delivered business value.
Where did resumes come from?
I did some googling about the origins of resumes, and I found that none other than Leonardo da Vinci is credited with creating the very first resume.
That guy did everything.
According to wikipedia.com, old Leo decided to write a letter to a potential employer as a way to help him get the job.
No word on if he got the job or not, but who cares.
He invented what would eventually be the bane of every job seeker’s existence—the resume.
Of course, what he included in his letter and what you should have on your resume are entirely different.
The modern resume has evolved quite a bit over the last 450 years.
Job seekers used to put their weight, height, and marital status on their resumes at one point in history.
Can you imagine? The horror.
Why is a resume important?
Your resume only has one purpose, and that is to get you an interview.
Notice I said an interview.
Not a job.
A resume is important because it is the first step in getting your foot in the door at a company.
Because of that, everything on your resume should closely align with what’s asked for in the job description.
When you use the exact keywords and phrases from the job description on your resume, you make it very easy for the hiring manager to see that your skills match their needs.
And you make it very easy for the hiring manager to request an interview with you.
When you include information not relevant to the position you’re applying for, it almost guarantees you will not get an interview.
This is where job seekers get hung up most of the time.
They use the same resume to apply for every position.
When you do that, you include information from your work experience in the past that the hiring manager doesn’t need from you in this current position.
Adding all that old information makes it very hard to skim for the skills and experience they need you for now.
Increase your chances of getting picked for an interview by keeping the information brief and impactful.
Once you have an interview, then you need to perfect your interviewing skills.
But you must start with a great resume before getting that interview.
Who needs a resume?
Every job seeker with any level of experience should have a professionally written resume.
That includes current students, working professionals, and those re-entering the workforce after taking time away.
And, of course, anyone looking to advance their career should have a professional resume.
Studies show that recruiters and hiring managers only spend about six seconds reviewing a resume before deciding whether to extend an interview request.
A great resume is your ticket to passing that initial review and getting more interviews faster.
What makes a great resume?
I’m hitting this point hard in this post, but it’s important for job seekers to understand.
Great resumes show great results.
That means you must show quantitative results for your performance in your previous positions or experience.
A hiring manager will not pick your resume out of a stack of 200 if it does not show your skills, experience, and accomplishments relevant to the position they’re hiring for.
The keyword in that last sentence is relevant.
I see resumes with information that has nothing to do with the position the person is applying for.
Hobbies, volunteer activities, kid’s names, dog’s names, favorite travel places…all bad.
Do not include this stuff. Ever.
Only include what the hiring manager for this one position is asking for.
Yes, that means you have to submit a unique resume for every single position you apply for.
Also, your resume has to be one page.
To maximize what little time you have in that first review by the hiring manager, you need to be able to tell your story clearly and succinctly.
That means cutting down the content and making it fit on one page, regardless of your years of experience.
So many people with more than 15 years of experience question me on this because they come from the school of thought where more is better.
I’m telling you, it’s not.
Less is More
Think about your own experience with reading content online.
You want it short and to the point.
Hiring managers are people just like you.
They don’t want the long read. Trust me.
Finally, your resume has to be visually appealing.
It should have a clean and modern design to grab the attention of recruiters and hiring managers.
They need to be able to scan it quickly and find all the information they need to move you forward.
This does not mean that it should look like an infographic.
It absolutely should not.
And it shouldn’t have your picture on it.
And it shouldn’t use more than one accent color.
For these reasons, you should NEVER buy a resume template or use hideous resume builders.
Both make you look bad.
Don’t waste your money.
Get a Professional Resume Review
If you can perfect the art of telling your unique value story, you’ll have a great resume that puts you ahead of the competition.
Great resumes are the difference between staying trapped in your dead-end, abusive, or boring job and moving on to something better.
It’s hard to write about yourself, and it’s really hard to know what is important information to hiring managers and what is garbage.
That’s why most job seekers have difficulty getting interviews and get beaten down by the job search process.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
If you’d like a professional resume review from a hiring manager, you can get one from me here.