One of the purposes of a resume is to minimize the risk of rejection. Of course you want to showcase yourself as the best possible candidate for any given position, but at the same time you want to make sure nothing about your resume prevents the reader from seeing you in that way. Since recruiters typically have tons of resumes to sift through, they look for any reason to whittle it down to a reasonable number. Here are 5 things to consider:
1. Use Microsoft Word
I know there are many other tools and distribution methods available right now, but Microsoft Word is still the most universally accepted. If you send your resume in another file format, you increase the risk that the reader can't open it. If they can't open it, they'll likely email you to ask for another format, but if they have lots of candidates to choose from, maybe they won't bother. Don't take the chance. The first step is to make sure it can be received and opened.
2. Include the necessary contact information
More and more often I see resumes that include only a phone number and email address. I understand the desire for confidentiality, but that's not enough for many applicant tracking systems. You don't need a full mailing address if you are concerned about that, but I recommend including the city, state/province, and zip/postal code at a minimum (in addition to phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile, of course). If you leave that out, you run the risk that your resume can't be added to an employer's database.
3. Make sure the most important information can be easily found
Recruiters and hiring managers will skim your resume very quickly looking for the information they desire. If they can't easily find it, they will move on to someone else (if you've got an inbox full of resumes, there's no motivation to try and "decipher" a confusing resume from someone who may turn out to not even be qualified). Primarily what they want to see first is the framework of your employment history and that means company names, job titles, and corresponding dates. Make sure they stand out. See this post for further details.
4. Avoid fancy elements
If you've followed my posts over the years, you know I don't believe "throwing your resume at every database imaginable" is the best method to find your ideal job. I am a firm believer in networking and relationship development. However, even though a networking strategy, your resume will eventually need to be parsed into an applicant tracking system, and that may not work if your resume contains graphics, text boxes, columns, or other elements that may interfere with that. Avoid those and you'll increase the likelihood that your resume can be added to their database.
5. Limit it to 1 to 2 pages
Some people need 3 or more pages to adequately describe their background, but for most people 2 pages should be enough. The reason you want to stick to 2 pages is because once you go beyond that, some readers will consider it to be too long. Not everyone, of course, but some will (and this post is all about minimizing the risk of rejection). See this post for more thoughts on resume length.
While there's never any guarantee that your resume will make it through the gauntlet known as the application process, hopefully these pointers will help get you there. I wish you all the best!
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