Crafting a focused, concise, and relevant resume is serious business. And, yes, developing a resume is a craft—perhaps even an artform—that requires patience and diligence with the goal of making it ridiculously easy for recruiters (and applicant tracking systems) to understand why your resume deserves more than a casual glance. If you have submitted dozens of resumes that have received a rejection or no response at all, then there is a reasonable chance that your resume is conveying mixed signals. Consider whether your resume fits any of these possibilities.
- Does your resume reflect the job for which you are applying? As insultingly simple as this question seems, it needs to be asked. If your experience and skills do not obviously match those called for in the job description, then you need to clearly explain—from the beginning of your resume—how, exactly, you are qualified for this job. Are you changing careers or job reaching but have transferrable skills that are well-suited for this job? Then state so (in neon lights) at the start by demonstrating how the skills and experience you do have are applicable to this new position, even if you haven’t previously held this exact position. Recruiters understand that job searching is hard work and, at times, all-consuming. However, that’s not a reason to dial back your effort in tailoring your resume for each application you submit. Take the time to focus your resume and match keywords in the job description to keywords in your resume to maximize your resume’s visibility in resume databases.
- Do you have a gap in employment without explanation? Have you taken time off to care for family or yourself, pursue a creative passion, volunteer, or further your education? Is your employment gap due to circumstances beyond your control such as a layoff or downsizing? If you spent part of the gap time volunteering and/or pursuing more education/training, then add that to your resume. Depending on how long the gap was and when it occurred, you may not need to identify it if you list your employment by year spans instead of month/year spans. For example, Job A was April 2014-January 2017 and Job B was October 2017-present, then you can list them as Job A 2014-2017 and Job B as 2017-present. Another thing to consider is whether listing all former positions is relevant in terms of your experience. Think about limiting your years of experience to 15 when seeking managerial and professional positions and to 10 for other positions. In all circumstances, be prepared to clearly articulate the experience and value gained during the gap as you may be asked to explain the gap during an interview.
- Have you changed jobs frequently? Have you been a freelancer or contractor for the past several years and are now looking for a permanent position? Were you impacted by the recession a few years back and survived by piecing together several temporary gigs? Or, in your youth, did you naively chase shiny, new objects, bouncing from one-job-to-the-next? Whatever the reason(s), there are approaches to creating a coherent, value-added narrative around your work history. If the short-term jobs are relevant to the job for which you’re applying in terms of the target industry, position title, and/or the goods and services being offered, then you can demonstrate how your consistent experience in those areas (through multiple short-term jobs) are of value to this new position. On the flip side, former jobs that lasted maybe a few months and aren’t really relevant to the one for which you’re applying could be potentially left off the resume. However, be prepared to include them in a formal application and discuss them during an interview as an employment background check can reveal every formal job you’ve ever had. When in doubt, include all formal employment.
Finally, keep in mind this simple resume-writing mantra: recruiters won’t remember anything if you try to present them with everything.