Building a better resume

Yesterday at the Financial Careers forum on Reddit, a user named /u/unfoldcareers posted some useful advice for job-seekers. “I've reviewed and screened thousands of resumes,” /u/unfoldcareers writes, “and I'm sharing my preferred resume format…along with my best resume advice.”

The poster notes that “bad resume format” leads most folks to get little or nor response to their job applications. To help current job hunters, /u/unfoldcareers created a free resume template that can be downloaded via Google Docs.

Ideal Resume Format

The Reddit post itself contains a number of useful tips. To craft a better resume, you should:

  • Be precise. Don't speak in general terms, but include specific numbers and metrics. Instead of saying, “Was top salesperson at my company,” note how many people were on the sales team, how much better you performed than everybody else, and for how long.
  • Emphasize impact. According to /u/unfoldcareers, too many people focus on their achievements when they should really emphasize the impact they had on their company or team.
  • Stick to one page — unless you really do have decades of experience.
  • Make it scannable. “A hiring manager will review your resume for approximately 10 seconds or less,” writes /u/unfoldcareers. Be sure that they'll be able to scan all of the important info quickly.
  • Explain gaps. Don't leave a mystery. If you took time off to be a stay-at-home parent, say so.
  • Remove the “objective” line. It's irrelevant. (I did a very little hiring for our family's box factory. I never did understand why people put an objective on their resume.)
  • Remove references. It's fine to create a separate document that contains your references so that you can provide them if asked, but don't include them on the resume itself.

The full post on Reddit includes more info, of course, along with the reasoning behind some of the recommendations.

From my experience, most people forget is that a resume isn't really about you. That might sound strange, but the truth is that a resume is about how well your skills and experience match an employer's job requirements. Because of this, the best resumes are individually tailored to specific jobs.

Sure, you might create a “base” or “default” resume that serves as a framework when applying for work. But you'll have greater success with your job hunt if you take the time to make subtle tweaks to this default each time you apply for a different job.

Also: I believe strongly that, whenever possible, you should hand-deliver your resume.

Obviously, this doesn't work for online-only applications or for positions outside your local area. But I know that when we hired at the box factory, we paid more attention to folks who had come by in person than those who simply mailed their resume. (And from watching Kim go through a couple of job searches now, I'd say that one of the reasons she has such success is that she literally goes door to door, dropping her resume off at different dental offices.)

(Note: As commenters have noted, hand-delivering resumes only really works for smaller firms. For larger firms, or for job notices that have specific directions, hand-delivering resumes is a bad idea.)

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Jenn
Jenn
2 years ago

I’m responsible for hiring for a large construction company ($500 million this year) and I concur that the Reddit post resume format is by far the best. I would love it if every candidate used that format! I very strongly disagree with your advice for delivering your resume in person, though 🙂 Sounds like it’s working in a small, congenial place like a dental office where they likely don’t have lots of positions open, but it will absolutely not work in many other situations, like mine. First, we have five offices, plus job sites — if someone delivered their resume… Read more »

Jo
Jo
2 years ago
Reply to  Jenn

I totally agree–I work in university administration and someone trying to hand-deliver their resume would be seen as absolutely bonkers. I know it’s frustrating for job-seekers to get contradictory advice, but I’d say that hand-delivered resumes should be considered a hard no in large organizations.

FoxTesla
FoxTesla
2 years ago

Interesting, although I’m curious how many jobs use automated systems vs a person handling paper copies of resumes these days. Personally, all of my post-graduation jobs (four) and the internships during college (two) came from “online, cram as many keywords to get past the filters and remove bullets because they don’t upload well” systems, and never from having a spiffy-looking document to catch a managers/recruiters eye.

JoeHx
JoeHx
2 years ago

The “objective” line on resumes was a simple case of this-is-how-it’s-always-been-done and took far too long before people decided how redundant it was. Objective: to get a job at your awesome company to show off and enhance my skills. And make money, too boot. Same with references, although that was no longer a thing by the time I started writing resumes for myself in the late nineties and early 2000’s. Also “Stick to one page” and “Make it scannable” go hand-in-hand. If someone is going to spend barely 10 seconds looking at your resume, chances are they aren’t going to… Read more »

Katelyn
Katelyn
2 years ago
Reply to  JoeHx

Objective lines were in vogue when I graduated college, which was right about the time Monster.com and similar sites began popping up. If I recall correctly, in the beginning, you were able to upload just a resume as opposed to applying for jobs directly through the site. So the objective line was a bit like a pared down cover letter. Additionally, many students don’t have much if any experience, certainly not enough to limit the content of their resume to just what’s relevant to the job they’re applying for (unless they are comfortable submitting a resume that is 2/3 blank… Read more »

FoxTesla
FoxTesla
2 years ago
Reply to  JoeHx

I always had the objective line included, written as “to apply and interview for requistion/job #12345 with ABC Inc.” The intention behind this was to show the resume was explicitly tailored for the application, and not just shotgunned…whether it was ever received as such, I don’t know.

MH
MH
2 years ago

I agree with other posters here, I am a hiring exec at a small-ish startup and if you hand delivered a resume to me, I’d probably just discard it as the effort required to get it digitized and entered into the system would be entirely too cumbersome.

I also have hiring responsibility for a non-profit that’s only 2 employees and apply the same logic there. Online submission, or it didn’t happen.

WantNotToWantNot
WantNotToWantNot
2 years ago

For the past fifteen years, among other things, I have been working with undergrad and grad students to get their foot in the door with media jobs (yes, they do actually exist). Prior to being in education, I spent 25 years both as an sole entrepreneur as well as at institutions responsible for hires, so I’ve been on the hiring side too. After much experience and conversations with current recruiters, I advise job-seekers to INCLUDE references on their one-page resume (Name, Title, Institution, email address, cell phone#). List three. This flies against conventional wisdom. Here are the benefits from the… Read more »

S.G.
S.G.
2 years ago

I’ll agree, though my experience is more anecdotal. I am a secondary consumer of resumes, I am sent resumes to prepare for interviews but don’t contact references. More than once I’ve gotten a feel for someone based on references I know as well (though it can be both a good and bad effect depending on the reference).

Katelyn
Katelyn
2 years ago

I disagree about including references. First of all, many companies have policies against a current employee acting as a reference for previous a employee. All they can do is confirm that someone in fact worked at the company. Second, most often references are checked after the prospect has been vetted with both a phone and in-person interview. So including references on the resume saves no time since they were going to have to call you for an interview anyway. In fact, the only times an employer actually called my references were for the internships I held in college and my… Read more »

WantNotToWantNot
WantNotToWantNot
2 years ago
Reply to  Katelyn

All excellent points, Katelyn, and well-written. Each case is very individual, so a job-seeker has to assess whether the strategy of including references is a net positive. Costs and benefits come into every decision, right?

As I said in my post, “It may not be true for every case.” In my industry, and with the young job-seekers I advise, this is often an effective strategy.

Wrenne Taylor
Wrenne Taylor
2 years ago

Hey JD, I have some feedback on your website if you are interested. I’m sending this because I think your advice is spot on and very approachable. You have helped me a lot and I would like to help you. I’ve been following your money ways for about two years. I often recommend it to my friends and family. I wanted to find the beginner’s stuff (the mission worksheet and initial net worth work sheet) for my kids who are just starting on building wealth (well, who am I kidding, they are at the right age to start building wealth,… Read more »

Snazster
Snazster
2 years ago

Yep, taking them in person has been problematic for at least twenty years. Took one in to apply for a job at a large fancy place and the receptionist freely conveyed her annoyance that I hadn’t emailed it in. Never even got a call back, or a note, or anything. Was very annoying. The joke was on them though. I went to work for a much smaller place that lost their government contract to this big place about two years later. Suddenly the big place was wining and dining me and giving me a large signing bonus just to stay… Read more »

Katelyn
Katelyn
2 years ago

Hi WantNotToWantNot,

Since your recommendation “flies against conventional wisdom”, I thought I’d supply the conventional point of view 😉

This is honestly the first time I’ve heard someone recommend including references on a resume. It hadn’t occurred to me that some industries would see this as a benefit, so thank you for opening my eyes. Do you mind telling me what industry you’re in?

Thanks!!
Katelyn

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