Professional Resume technology for customizable resumes

 

professional resume

Learn how to create a professional resume that will check all of the boxes, and go one step further by incorporating some extra special moves.

Our automated Resume Builder will help you create a customized resume for each different position you apply for. We’ve built technology that takes the thoughtful approach that a recruiter or a hiring manager would when writing their own resume. Why? Well, because I am a professional recruiter! We know this information because we have worked in many HR departments across a variety of industries and have recruited and hired literally thousands of employees.

Throw out everything you think you know or learned about professional resume writing. Our bet is that the person who provided you with these resume writing tips doesn’t have the relevant experience. They may have the title of a career counselor or resume coach, but did they actually hire hundreds of employees and decline thousands more? Was their experience gained in the era of technology and the internet?

The Most Important Section of your Resume

The most important section of your resume is the top third of the first page. This is the first section of your resume that will appear on the reader’s monitor or laptop screen so it needs to pack a punch to separate you from the chaff. We want to effectively convey as much relevant information as we can in as little time as possible. This information must be relevant to the job description. This is the top 1/2 of your first page.  Career Tracker explains step by step how to maximize not just the top half of the first page but your entire document.

Key Takeaway: The top 1/2 of the first page of your resume is critical.

Designations

If you have an advanced degree or designation that is relevant to the desired job, list it after your name at the top of your professional resume. Masters, Doctorate, CPA, CPCU, MCSE, will all identify you as a qualifier within the first-millisecond of looking at your resume. This is especially true when your designation is a preferred or required qualification.

If your designation is not related to the position you are applying for, list your designation in the Education section. For example, if you are applying for a position working on computers, do not list your CPA at the top of the resume. The two are not aligned and the CPA designation will actually just dilute your computer knowledge brand.

If we are applying for an entry-level position, do not list your Ph.D. The hiring manager will assume we are over-qualified.

Key Takeaway: Designations can immediately put the reader in the right frame of mind, or they can turn them off towards the rest of the document.

Email

This should be a contemporary email service provider. Gmail is preferred. In fact, just create a Gmail account for your job hunt. You don’t have to share it with your network. Yahoo, AOL, Comcast or anything that was cool in the late 90s indicates that you are not current.  Your college email address is acceptable for recent graduates and current students.

Links to create engagement

Show off your accomplishments, side projects, and code samples by linking your LinkedIn, GitHub, or personal website. You want to make it as easy as possible for the reader to become more engaged with you. Seeing your picture, your code, and your work will create a higher level of engagement, assuming your background is related to the position of interest. Here, we break down professionalizing your LinkedIn URL.  

Key Takeaway: Links are the new contact information. Include them and ditch the physical address.

Summary Statement vs. Objective Statement

Here at Career Tracker, we study resumes. When you see hundreds of resumes coming across your desk every day, you start to see some trends. Let’s be serious, you don’t need to be a data scientist to pick this stuff out. Your resume is going to receive between 2 and 5 seconds in front of a recruiter – we want to maximize every second.

Many resumes, especially those for entry to mid-level positions lead their qualifications with an Objective Statement. These statements read something like:

“I am (1) looking for a position where I can use my skills and background in XYZ to (2) grow my career.”

The Objective Statement is then concluded with a description of the candidate’s character.

“I am a (3) hard worker that functions well on teams and as an individual contributor.”

So the finished product looks something like:

“I am (1) looking for a position where I can use my skills and background in XYZ where (2) I can grow my career. I am a (3) hard worker that functions well on teams and as an individual contributor.”

This format puts the recruiter into a very specific frame of mind towards the candidate.

  1. You are (1) “Looking for”, which implies that you are “not already” a qualified candidate. It is a subtle difference, but remember, this is the first sentence that is being read because it is at the top of your resume.  We are trying to build momentum! We can improve this sentence by writing it as an “I am a. . . ” vs. “I am looking for. . . ”  When we start the Summary statement with “I am”, there is less of an implication that the company doesn’t have to spend their time and resources training you up as long or as in-depth.
  2. This candidate isn’t really offering services. These statements are all about the candidate. This candidate is stating what is in it for them. “Where I can grow my career” is a selfish statement which doesn’t prove to the hiring company why the candidate is desirable from the company’s perspective.
  3. Anything that describes the candidate as a “hard worker”, “responsible”, “team player” is an opinion from the candidate, about the candidate. This is a conclusion the hiring manager should make, because the manager may have a very different version of “hard worker”. We don’t want to put the manager into a situation where they are thinking. . . “You think you are a hard worker? I have folks on the team working 70 hours a week!” or, “You think you are a team player? I have NCAA champions working in this department. Those are literally team players!”

Companies want to hire candidates that can jump in and contribute as quickly as possible. We know that companies are going to have to train a candidate, but let’s not state the obvious.

Supply and Demand

At this point in our job search we need to take into consideration supply and demand. There are more candidates than there are job openings, so we aren’t in a position to declare “What is in it for us and our long-term career.”

We like Summary Statements over Objective Statements. They can convey the same message, without negotiating against ourselves. Summary Statements simply explain who we are. An Objective is something we are striving for. At this stage in the hiring process, we need to show what is in it for the hiring company, and not for us as the candidate. Hiring managers want to hire productivity ASAP. After the hiring manager has the opportunity to get to know you, then we can add data around our aspirations.

The following example is for a candidate with no actual job experience. This candidate is looking for an internship following their junior year. So even with little or no experience, we can make a statement about WHO we are vs. WHAT we want to become:

“I am a junior at the University of Washington studying computer science through the Paul G. Allen School. I am proficient in Java and have recently become fascinated with data structures and parallelism. I have experience with C, Git version control, and Linux command line.”

Who vs. What

This states who the candidate is. It doesn’t betray a lack of qualifications by stating what the candidate wants to become.

The “what” version of the above statement would probably read:

“I am a junior at the University of Washington studying computer science through the Paul G. Allen School. (1) I hope to find a position that will allow me to apply my technical abilities and (2) to supplement my coursework with hands-on experience. (4) I am proficient in Java and (3) have recently taken a course on data structures and parallelism. I also have experience with C, Git version control, and Linux command line. (4) I am a hard worker.

The above:

1) Makes a statement that the candidate “isn’t there yet”. They are “trying to be a developer” vs. “They are a developer”.

2) Mentions supplementing coursework and implies we have no real “hands-on experience”

3) Makes it obvious to a recruiter that this person only has a single class on these topics so they are not an expert and will need to be trained. (The hiring manager knows we are not an expert, we are looking for an intern after all. But this doesn’t mean we need to make it obvious!)

4) It provides an opinion. This is not our call; this is the manager’s call.

At the end of the day, this candidate would not be called in for an interview. The candidate put the recruiter into a skeptical frame of mind. As an aside, we’re certainly not telling you to embellish or fib your resume, but you need to position yourself properly so you have the opportunity to explain any perceived shortcomings during an interview. You have to swing to get on base!

Key Takeaway: Anything you can do to make a statement vs. hint at our objective is a good thing.

The Skills Section: Do’s and don’ts

Resumes are very rarely read line-by-line on the first viewing. In fact, resumes are never read line-by-line…ever. Remember, your resume only receives a few seconds of eyeball time before a decision is made to recycle, or to give it a second glance (phone call). So, we want to make sure that the skills we list have the most impact possible. Our tip: limit the number of skillsets listed at the top of a resume.

Sadly, in recent years some artists have tried to mix country music and hip-hop together at the detriment of both genres. (Although we do like Kid Rock and his working man’s attitude and work ethic! Guy knows how to play like five instruments.) In this instance, combining hip-hop and country actually just made a confusing mess. It’s the same thing with your Skills section bullets. Use your hip hop bullets for the hip-hop job and the country music bullets for the country job. And if you happen to like hip hop and country together, helping you is unfortunately outside the scope of our mission.

Instead of trying to cover as many bases as you can with your resume, you want to focus on, and cover the specific bases that the job description is asking for. Most resumes try to cover everything. This is why we see resumes listing 10 – 15 skillsets. It’s tempting, we know. But as impressive as it is, the hiring manager will not care if you are a Salesforce expert if you’re applying for a middle school math teacher job.

Below are skillsets we have taken from a resume for someone with 7-10 years of experience in marketing.

“Go to Market Strategy, Social Media Implementation, Customer Service, Campaign and Brand Development, Market Research, Lead Gen, Sales Enablement, Relationship Management, Presentations, Case Studies, Data Analytics, Event Planning, Product Development, Advertising, Client Communications.”

The above skills list, while commendable, is overkill. A recruiter will not be able to easily pick out the skillsets they are looking for in the two seconds an average resume receives. We would be better served to look at the job description and find the 3-5 skillsets the hiring manager is really looking for. If you have skills that are close or match them exactly, list them! Write them on your resume in the exact same words that they are listed in the job description. Again, make it as easy on the recruiter as possible.

So, the Career Tracker best practices resume would only list 3-4 primary skillsets that are pulled directly from the top bullets in the job description:

“Social Media – Market Research – Case Studies – Lead Gen”

The above now matches the job description’s preferred skillsets and makes it easy for the recruiter to digest, get excited and stay tuned in to your resume. Congrats, you just bought yourself 10 more seconds in the resume engagement game!

If we have a targeted Summary Statement reinforced by just a few skills, we present ourselves as a candidate that is a perfect fit, vs. a jack-of-all-trades that may be able to do the job, but not as well as the other candidate who has the exact skills. You will also come across as passionate and focused on a few skill sets vs. someone who would “do the job not because I want to, but because I have to”.

Key Takeaway: Present yourself as the perfect fit vs. a jack-of-all-trades. Don’t dilute your brand with irrelevant or sub-optimal skillsets.

The Experience Section: Explain why your experience is relevant

Most resumes relate how the candidate’s experience is relevant to the job description. One way to strengthen your position is to list how the company we worked for is relevant to the job description and the hiring company. Yes, we’ve summarized our experience from prior jobs with specific bulleted accomplishments. That’s a good start. But we also have an opportunity to explain how the company is related to the job of interest.

If our prior experience was with Acme Consulting, the reader will have no idea what kind of company Acme Consulting is outside of “Consulting”. You want to include a one or two sentence description of how your prior company is related to the job of interest because the reader may not be familiar with Acme Consulting.  The goal is two-fold:

  1. Provide background and perspective on our prior employer because the reader may not be familiar with Acme Consulting (small boutique in a different state).
  2. Relate the experience we had with Acme Consulting to the job we are applying for. What industry? How large? Where are the clients located? How many employees? A private company or public company? We want to highlight the qualities that our prior company and our company of interest have in common.

An average company experience section may look like:

Consultant

Acme Consulting                                                                               June 2015 – August 2018

  • An accomplishment that matches job description 1
  • An accomplishment that matches job description 2
  • An accomplishment that matches job description 3

This is fine, but adding a description can provide more context:

Consultant

Acme Consulting                                                                               June 2015 – August 2018

Acme Consulting is a 100 person consultancy that specializes in technology database engagements. With clients all over the United States and Canada, Acme Consulting is a leader in its field with a reputation for meeting deadlines and superior customer service.

  • An accomplishment that matches job description 1
  • An accomplishment that matches job description 2
  • An accomplishment that matches job description 3

If you worked in a big Fortune 100 company, then include a description of the product, service or department where you worked. Explaining that I worked at Amazon doesn’t mean much. Saying I worked with Amazon’s Alexa group and a few relevant facts about specific Alexa properties will put your experience into perspective.

Key Takeaway: Make it easy on the recruiter to understand not only how your experience is relevant but why the company you worked with is also relevant. You can do this by adding a short description below each company, tailored specifically to the role you’re applying for.

Work Experience: How to demonstrate career progression

We want to maximize what the hiring manager is going to see when they pull our experience up on their screen. We also want to show that we have continuously advanced our career. This gives the indication we are constant learners and adding value over time. Hiring managers don’t want to hire employees that remain stagnant.

One way we can show career progression is to focus on the experience that is most recent and therefore probably more relevant. In addition, we minimize the emphasis on older and most likely less relevant work experience. If we have had a 10-year career, we are going to be hired for our most recent experience rather than the title and job responsibilities we had our first few years. Even if we only have 3-5 years of experience, what we did 5 years ago is probably to junior to meet the qualifications for the current position.

Caveat: If you don’t have that much experience (e.g., you’re only a few years out of school, or you’ve only had 2-3 jobs) don’t feel pressure to unnecessarily compress your experience section, which could actually hurt you. You’re better off listing all of your experience because, 1) it’s easy to fit it on a one-page resume, and 2) your biggest obstacle is probably demonstrating you have enough years of experience.

To demonstrate career progression, use a simple, clear format like the following:

Most recent job (Manager)       2012 – present

  • Accomplishment 1
  • Accomplishment 2
  • Accomplishment 3
  • Accomplishment 4
  • Accomplishment 5
  • Accomplishment 6

Last Job (Asst. Manager)            2010 – 2012

  • Accomplishment 1
  • Accomplishment 2
  • Accomplishment 3
  • Accomplishment 4

Two Jobs Ago (Lead)                    2007 – 2010

  • Accomplishment 1
  • Accomplishment 2
  • Accomplishment 3

First Job (Entry-level)                  2006 – 2007

  • Accomplishment 1
  • Accomplishment 2

This format shows clear title improvements, and the number of accomplishments increases with each more recent position showing career progression.

Key Takeaway: List more accomplishments in your most recent experience and fewer accomplishments under your older experience to visually demonstrate career progression.

The Education Section: Where it should be and why

Candidates early in their careers commonly list their education towards the top of their professional resumes. We understand why this might happen, but we also know there is a better place to list your education – and here’s why.

Most of us don’t really know why we list our education at the top of our professional resume. Maybe it’s because a school counselor recommended we put our hard-earned education where everyone can see it. Maybe we saw a template online, or a friend had a nice looking resume and that’s how they did it.

Two questions: Have your friends reviewed thousands of resumes? Was your school career counselor a professional recruiter? They are all well-intentioned, but this advice is misinformed.

Education information should be listed at the bottom of the resume for a few of reasons:

  1. The first thing we want the hiring manager to see is that we are qualified for the job via accomplishment other than our education.
  2. We can assume that most of the other candidates applying to the role have similar education. If a college degree is required for a job, then all qualified candidates will have a degree and this won’t help us stand out. Relevant work experience will get the hiring manager excited  (assuming we have the required education).
  3. We can assume that most, if not all, hiring managers and recruiters will look towards the end of the resume to see what your education consists of. So don’t worry, it will be seen!

Most resumes list education last

The vast majority of candidates on job boards are listing their education at the end of their professional resume. This is because they have job experience that is senior to their education. Right after they graduated they landed a job using their education credentials. As soon as that happened the education took a back seat to job experience.

Because most candidates have experience, hiring managers and recruiters are conditioned to look for education at the end of the resume. If we know they are going to check the end of the document for the level of education, school, GPA, etc. then there is no use in wasting the most valuable real estate on the resume with anything other than relevant experience.

Remember, the job description said that a High School, Bachelors, Masters degree, or whatever the level, was required. For the most part, candidates are created equal when it comes to education.

Even if you went to an expensive private school or an Ivy League college, list it at the end of the document. The recruiter will look for the education. If it was a requirement in the job description they will look. We promise.

Key Takeaway: Move your education down to the bottom of your professional resume and use the prime real estate at the top of the document to qualify yourself for the position and increase the eyeball time on your document.

Personal Interests: Stand out from the crowd

If you haven’t listed your personal interests on your resume, you are missing out on a golden opportunity to set yourself apart.

Let’s say I am a hiring manager and I am looking for a candidate with 3-5 years of experience with a degree in marketing. I share the qualifications with the recruiter and the recruiter comes back with 4-6 candidates. We can be pretty sure that all of the candidates I receive from the recruiter are going to have between 3-5 years of experience with a marketing degree. There may be a dark horse with 2.5 years or 6 years of experience, but for the most part, all of these resumes look the same. So how do you stand out?

You may have guessed it considering the topic of this resource: Personal Interests! We can’t even count how many times we have had hiring managers ask about candidates and refer to them by where they are from or some obscure fact that was listed in their personal interests.

  • Hey, have you heard back from Arkansas?
  • Hey, where are we at with our Cross Country skier?
  • Did we make an offer to our former Seattle Seahawk mascot? (think about it, who wouldn’t want to work with Blitz?)

Can the hiring manager work with you? Do they want to work with you?

At the end of the day, the hiring manager wants to know that you can not only do the job (necessary but not sufficient) but that you are someone the hiring manager can work with. Ideally the candidate shares commonalities and has some personality. Unless you’re an auditor (just kidding!) The hiring manager is going to be spending 8+ hours a day with you. You can bet they want to see some personality.

If you want to stand out, list a few personal interests and include a strong descriptor like “passionate”, “avid”, or “fanatical”. Interests that show you are physically active are always good too – these demonstrate energy or the ability to energize others, which are two of the most important traits listed by managers and leaders. Personal interests that are related to your profession are also winners, probably needless to say!

Key Takeaway: Personal interests can separate you from a sea of virtually identical resumes. Include them and stand out!

 

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