Talent Acquisition

Mastering the Art of Résumé Writing: Take Control of Your Future

By

Tiffany McGowen

| May 6, 2014

With stiff competition at every corner, finding a job is a daunting process. To increase your chances of being selected, you should understand the hiring funnel. Here’s a quick breakdown of the typical online job posting:

  • 1,000 individuals will see a job post;
  • 200 will begin the application process;
  • 100 will complete the application process;
  • 75 of those 100 will be screened out by either the applicant tracking system (ATS) or a recruiter;
  • 25 résumés will be seen by a hiring manager;
  • four to six will be invited for an interview;
  • one to three of them will be invited back for a final interview;
  • one will be offered the job, and 80 percent of those receiving an offer will accept it.

With odds like these, how can anyone stand out? For starters, make sure you’ve reviewed your résumé. Eliminating common mistakes is the first viable step to getting noticed … and in a good way!

Common sumé Mistakes

The quickest way to put yourself out of the hiring funnel is having misspelled words on your résumé. While the interview will land you the job, the résumé gets you in the door. It’s your chance to make a first impression, so don’t screw it up with easy-to-correct errors. Proofread, proofread, proofread and for goodness’ sake, proofread!

Have someone else look over your résumé to catch any errors you might have missed. (Remember: Computer spell-check functions don’t catch everything.) For college students, utilize the career services center, as its staff members are there to help you. For everyone else, ask a friend, family member, mentor or colleague. Mistakes are a direct reflection of you and your personal brand. Don’t let your first impression also be your last.

With regards to formatting, the rule of the one-page résumé is gone. The important thing to consider is whether your skills are reflected accurately. That said, your résumé isn’t meant to be an essay, so don’t go over two pages. Be sure to use action words and sentences to best reflect your abilities, but if you think it’s not necessary, leave it off. Fluff equals clutter.

For certain individuals, the résumé has evolved into a more creative space. Formatting parameters are usually based on preference, but consider the job for which you are applying. A résumé for a graphic designer will look significantly different than one for an entry-level financial position.

Outside of misspellings and formatting errors, having an objective that doesn’t match the job for which you are applying could cause you to be filed under “undesirable.” Rather than including an objective, list your key expertise and skills. Remember that a résumé is a marketing tool to sell yourself, so be realistic about what you can do and showcase that in the most appropriate light.

A final rule: If you cannot recall the details of a particular situation, leave it off. Assume you will be asked, so if you have nothing to recall, not only would you look unprepared, but devalued. Further regarding details, be sure to quantify and qualify. For instance, rather than writing “Process Accounts Payable,” use “Responsible for $1M in payables monthly.” Your credibility increases simply by adding a measurable value.

Demand Attention

With an abundance of résumés floating around, yours is just another piece of paper to add to the stack, unless you can demand attention. During any given week, 427,000 résumés can be found on the popular job site Monster. In order to garner attention from a recruiter, you will have to find a game changer. Here are a couple tips and tricks to creating a more appealing résumé:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Accentuate your accomplishments.
  • Show progression.
  • Provide empirical data to support your successes.
  • Don’t just say you want to succeed; show how you will.

One strategy I have found to set candidates apart is having a personal website. This nontraditional method grabs attention, and is a creative way to showcase your abilities. Having a unique identifier can give you an edge over the competition, but in some instances, a website may not appropriate for the job.

What’s the Take on Cover Letters?

A good rule of thumb for cover letters is to determine if the company you’re applying at requires one. If it doesn’t, don’t. While some argue that a cover letter is an opportunity to frame your candidacy for the employer and expand upon your interest in the position, it may do more harm than good. Your résumé should reflect enough of your skill set to set you apart. Usually, a cover letter is more fluff than concrete information, and fluff doesn’t hold near as much value.

However, if you must submit a cover letter, it should tell why you are excited about the position. Indicate why you are best for the role, especially if it is not readily apparent from your past experiences. And above all, keep it short.

Writing a résumé is an art. Take these dos and don’ts, apply them and become the master of your fate. A few simple changes could mean the difference between simply being a candidate or becoming a new hire.

About the Author

Tiffany McGowen

Tiffany McGowen, Paycom’s national director of recruiting, is responsible for the oversight of staffing corporate headquarters and growing the nationwide sales force. She has more than 10 years of recruiting experience, ranging from executive-level talent to interns, with a specialty in sales professionals. Passionate about motivation, McGowen is constantly on a coast-to-coast hunt for the best and brightest talent in every market.

See more posts by Tiffany McGowen