In my eight years as a recruiter at an investment bank, I reviewed thousands of resumes. I’ve seen and learned a lot, from the importance of proofreading to the art of formatting. It’s enough to know that there isn’t one acceptable format or approach to creating an awesome resume.
There are, however, a few key strategies that can make your resume more effectively do what you intend it to: Catch someone’s eye, clearly communicate your qualifications, and help move you on to the next stage of the hiring process. You’re selling yourself and the value you can bring to an organization. Here are my top tips for using your resume as a marketing tool that will help you catch a recruiter’s eye.
1. Follow the one-page rule
You’ve likely heard this one before, and for good reason: It’s real! Recruiters review very large numbers of resumes and will likely make an initial determination about your fit for a role based on a quick scan. If locating the relevant information about your background requires turning the page, we very well might miss it and move on.
Note: There are a few exceptions. If you hold a PhD and need to cite relevant work (like published papers), for example, there may be an argument for a second page. No matter what, though, strive to keep your résumé short, clean, and relevant to the position for which you’re applying.
2. Play with formatting
If the one-page rule is proving challenging, start by making some simple formatting changes. Narrow your margins, restructure your header to span fewer lines, and reduce the indentations of any bullet points. Speaking of which, to make sure your key skills and experiences jump off the page, organize your content into brief, bulleted sentences or phrases instead of paragraphs.
While you’re at it, proofread and proofread again. Ask yourself: Are all fonts and font sizes uniform? Are all dates abbreviated the same way? Do titles and positions line up properly? Your résumé is a sample of your work product and your attention to detail. Be certain that you are representing yourself well.
3. Curate your content
Often, the biggest challenge is deciding what to actually include on your resume. Use the job description of the position you’re applying for to guide you, and don’t be afraid to make tweaks for each application. Your résumé should highlight your relevant education, skills you’ve learned on the job, and the value you’d bring to the target organization. For each role you include, highlight projects in which you demonstrated leadership or accomplished something significant, being as specific and quantitative as possible. Did you lead an initiative that resulted in a 10 percent reduction in annual marketing spend? Or develop a program that led to 2X growth in membership to an employee resource group?
Most importantly, do not exaggerate. Anything on your résumé is fair game for an interviewer to grill you about and to ask your references to back up. The quickest way to end your chances of getting a job is to give a recruiter a reason to question your integrity.
4. Show off your personality
Beyond your education and professional experience, personal interests can help your résumé stand out. For one, organizations want to work with interesting, passionate people, so whether you’re an avid soccer player, mountain climber, Eagles fan, or trombonist, don’t be afraid to show some personality. If you’re involved with any organizations, highlight those experiences as well, noting any relevant leadership positions. Interests can also help you connect with interviews on a personal level – which matters!
Finally, interests can serve as real estate for you to demonstrate those often harder-to-gauge qualities companies may be looking for. Curate your list wisely, and if you think you don’t have room to include hobbies and interests, take a closer look at the other skills and attributes you’ve chosen to highlight. While hard skills like Advanced C++, SQL, and fluency in a foreign language are crucial, soft skills like being “hardworking” and “a team player” don’t add much value. Revert back to the golden “show, don’t tell” rule and swap out those adjectives in favor of experiences and commitments that help tell the story of who you are and what you bring to the boardroom table.
Nadia Abouzaid works in talent management at Jopwell and was previously a vice president and head of banking analyst recruiting at Barclays Investment Bank in New York City. She holds a B.S.B.A in Human Resources and Marketing from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.S. in Human Resources Management from New York University.