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5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Writing Your Resume

In today’s professional environment, the resume has been revamped as a uniquely customized marketing pitch that sells you as a candidate to potential employers. The resume must be innovative and optimized to not only catch the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, but it must also withstand the (Applicant Tracking System) ATS-test. A resume should showcase and brand You, highlighting your skills and achievements in the best light. Writing a resume can be a daunting tasks, however, asking these five questions should help you write, or at the very least understand what a resume needs in order to stand out.

1. How long should my resume be?

You would be surprised at how many puzzled candidates with more than 10 years of experience come through my door stating that someone has told them or that they absolutely must have a one-page resume. Then there are people that come in with 25-35 years of experience and just do not want to let go of that entry-level data entry job from 1985.

While there is no official rule of thumb when it comes to the length of a resume, a hiring manager doesn’t have time to read a seven-page document nor does a highly experienced professional need to limit themselves to one page. It is recommended that one-page resumes be used for candidates just out of school or for those with five or less years of experience. For candidates with 10-25 years of experience, we advise limiting the resume to two pages. A three-page resume is generally only acceptable for executive-level candidates.

If you are struggling to limit your resume, take out anything that is more than 20 years old. It is even safe to limit your employment background to 15 years as most employers will feel anything older is less relevant. Tighten your resume to try and fit in as much as possible in the least amount of space. Remove information that’s not relevant but be sure that your resume doesn’t end at a half a page. The resume should be at least one full page in length.

2. What kind of position am I seeking?

Writing a resume today is more like creating a marketing flyer to advertise yourself for each position you apply to. Years ago, candidates would generally have one resume with an objective statement and the same resume could be used to apply to any job. That is no longer the case in today’s job market. Your resume will need to contain different content depending upon whether you are looking to change careers or move ahead in your established career. If you have more than one possible career path, for example, accounting and human resources, you may very well need two resumes to capture the right keywords for the ATS systems. Once you identify the kind of job you are seeking, personalize your resume.

3. What does the employer want to see?

One challenge with writing a resume lies in removing unsuitable information and keeping necessary information, mainly items that showcase your success and achievements. Remember that numbers stand out. If you have any job duties or achievements that can be quantified, doing so will help your resume garner attention. Edit the resume keeping in mind the job posting. Most job postings list the desired qualifications so ensure you have highlighted those items in your summary or within your experience section.

4. Have I provided the employer will all the information they want?

It is essential to pay close attention to the keywords in your target job postings when writing a resume. Although soft skills are often mentioned, your resume needs to highlight and corroborate your evidence-based achievements.

An employer would much rather see that you sold $1.2M in sales in FY17 rather than reading about what a great communicator and negotiator you are. A targeted resume will secure more interviews than one that you send out every time you hear of a job opening.

5. What sets me apart from the competition?

It is imperative that each of your roles highlight relevant data supporting why you are the ideal candidate for the job you are applying to. Be sure to incorporate extras that will set you apart from competition. You could add a “Professional Development” section under your education to list any courses or training you are currently taking or any certifications in progress.

When writing a resume, don’t be afraid to add a little pizazz with some different colored font or shading. Resumes no longer need to be strictly black and white. Use bullet points and/or bolding to highlight achievements. Always customize your resume for every submission and be sure to use an ideal font size between 10 point and 12 point while allowing for liberal white space. Finally, ensure your resume is free of grammatical errors and typos.