Six tips for a better resume

Sending a resume to a hiring manager is a lot like pitching a Hollywood screenplay. You’ve got a few seconds to tell your story and show the decision maker why you deserve a closer look.

Summarizing a career of accomplishments in a one or two page resume isn’t any easier than condensing a two hour movie into a few sentences, but with the right mindset and a little effort, you can send a powerful message that makes a hiring manager take notice.

Resume tip number 1 – Get clear on your next career move

It’s easier to create a resume targeted toward your ideal job when you know what that job looks like.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why am I looking for a new opportunity?
  • What do I want to do next? Take on more responsibility? Change industries? Change specialties?
  • What do I need from my job and my employer?
  • What are my long-term life and career goals?
  • What skills will I need and how do I showcase those skills on my resume?

How to link current skills to your future job:

Say you want to transition from financial analysis to internal audit. A simple internet search reveals that the audit profession values strong communication skills. In your current job, you work closely with finance professionals in other business units to gather explanations about month-end financial results, which you then summarize for senior management.

Resume bullet point:

Communicate with 12 business unit finance managers to gather and summarize monthly financial results for the CFO.

Advice from a hiring manager:

“Know what you’re looking for and don’t try to make yourself fit into a role that doesn’t match.”

Resume tip number 2 – Make your resume visually appealing

Today, we scan first and read later. Presenting a clean, organized resume increases your chances of standing out and making the first cut.

How to create an eye-catching resume:

  • Use a simple font like Arial or Times New Roman and double check that the font size is consistent throughout
  • Use consistent headings, indenting, and formatting
  • Manage white space – an empty line of space between jobs gives the eye a place to rest, but too much white space can be distracting
  • Manage the margins – if three lines of text spill onto a second page, slightly reduce the margins to fit those lines on the first page
  • Choose a template that’s easy to change and looks professional
  • Use bullet points to organize your resume, but refrain from using long, bulleted lists as your only formatting tool
  • Make sure bullets line up, are all the same size, and consistently include or exclude periods at the end
  • Keep resume length to two pages or less

Advice from a hiring manager:

“Your resume is your marketing document and the first impression [we have] of you. We all know how important first impressions are.”

Resume tip number 3 – Be clear and concise

Hiring managers are busy people. Get to the point and deliver a resume that’s easy to read. This allows the decision maker to focus on what you’ve accomplished instead of getting buried under big words and long-winded phrases.

How to increase readability:

  • Start with your current position and move backwards chronologically
  • Delete extra phrases like “I am responsible for ... ”
  • Begin your bullet points with action words like improved, managed, created, advised, led, and coached. Active phrases have more impact and energy
  • Use short words like “used” and “gathered” instead of longer words like “utilized” and “accumulated”
  • Skip general information that anyone can say about themselves such as “good attention to detail” and “great communication skills”
  • Keep your bullet points to one or two lines
  • Limit jargon, buzzwords, and company-specific acronyms
  • Summarize duties and separate out accomplishments
  • Read your resume out loud to catch grammatical errors, missing words, typos, and awkward phrases

Advice from a hiring manager:

“A resume that is well-prepared and organized with more of an action-based tone really helps distinguish candidates that are managing their career. It is much easier to maintain someone’s attention with a concise ‘highlight reel.’”

Resume tip number 4 – Focus on your achievements

Focus on your accomplishments and how those wins can make a difference for your future employer. Remember those action words from tip number 3? Here’s how to put them to good use:

Instead of this:
Worked on the annual operating plan for numerous manufacturing departments.
Say this:
Coordinated the annual operating plan for 80 manufacturing departments totaling over $100 million in expense.
Instead of this:
Saved the company money by lowering expenses.
Say this:
Initiated and led a cost reduction program that saved the division $2.4 million and decreased operating expenses by 32 percent.

Advice from a hiring manager:

“At 0–5 years, GPA is a very good indicator of future success and I look for progression. At 5+ years I’m looking for experience, progression and meaningful accomplishments.”

Resume tip number 5 – Provide relevant information

Yes, your resume is about you, but it’s a marketing piece about you. And the first rule of marketing is to always consider your audience. Give the hiring manager the information they need, not just the information you want to tell them.

How to write a relevant resume:

  • Review the job description and include skills and accomplishments that directly relate to the job requirements
  • Order your accomplishments from most to least relevant, then review the less important items and decide if you really need them
  • Remove outdated skills
  • Provide more detail on recent positions and less on positions held over 10 years ago
  • Keep it professional. Remove hobbies, high school activities, and personal attributes

Advice from a hiring manager:

“Tailor your resume to the job opportunity. One-size-fits-all resumes can often create confusion.”

Resume tip number 6 – Everything you communicate sends a message

Hiring managers can learn a lot about you based on your choice of words, tone of voice, grammar usage, and attention to detail. What do you want your resume to say about you?

How to manage your message:

  • Review for spelling errors – spell-check doesn’t catch errors like “manger” when you meant “manager” or “detail orientated” when you meant “detail oriented”
  • Eliminate excessive bragging – there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance
  • Change an unprofessional email address – if your email is something like ILoveCats@yahoo, it’s time to set up a new account
  • Offer a balance between technical skills and soft skills – both are equally important
  • Offer a balance between team and individual accomplishments – no one succeeds alone

It’s always a good idea to ask someone to proofread your resume. If you hope to land a six-figure job, consider hiring a professional resume writer.

Advice from a hiring manager:

“In accounting and finance, attention to detail is critical. A lack of attention to detail in the document is a huge red flag.”

For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly Search & Staffing recruiting specialists can help, contact our team.