PSA: Sarah’s Tips to Applying for Jobs – The Resumé

Applying for jobs. Writing resumes. Having interviews. We’ve all done it. We’ve all written one. We’ve all sat through those.

As a hiring manager, I’ve posted jobs. Read resumes. Conducted interviews.

I’ve seen some good. I’ve seen some great. I’ve also seen some bad and some REALLY bad.

I’m currently hiring and have spent the last week of my work life combing through resumes, scheduling interviews and doing phone screens. Throughout this process I’ve noted in my head pet peeves and irritations I have. Things that I see a lot of. I got to thinking, why do people do that?! Don’t they know hiring managers hate it? Don’t they see how it makes them look bad? Then I realized they probably don’t know that we hate it! So I decided to compile my list of irritants and share it with the world.

Keep in mind these are all solely my opinion and there could be others who would disagree with me. But I’d bet large sums of money that a majority of managers would back me up on most of these. So if you’re thinking about putting yourself out there and looking for something new, take a gander at these tips. They might just help you avoid a potential hiring landmine!

For this post I’ll focus on the resume only. In subsequent posts I’ll dive in to interviews and working with hiring agencies.

Resume Do’s and Dont’s

Don’t write a novel. Keep it to 1 page front and back. I don’t need your entire work history. I honestly only care about the last 10 years or so and I don’t have time to read page after page after page. Anything older than that is irrelevant now. When I am reading resumes, I only read the first 2 pages. If I don’t see what I need in those 2 pages, I won’t see it in anything after. Visa versa, if I see strong experience up front, I don’t need to read 4 more pages to confirm it. Do everyone and the planet a favor and keep it condensed (yes I print them out. More on that later).

Do list out your responsibilities at each job. I noticed this time around that there seems to be a new trend of resumes which list companies and projects only without saying what a person did on that project. That’s great that you were part of a team that enhanced the client digital experience! What an accomplishment for the team! But – what did you do on that team? I don’t care if your title says “Project Manager”. That can mean a million things to a million people. Tell me the specifics of that job. Did you organize and lead the work? Did you make decisions on the scope? Did you have people manager responsibilities? Did you bring everyone coffee and snacks? Did you order take out? I need to see details of your individual achievements and work responsibilities. Not down to the gnat’s ass but the relevant and good stuff. If I don’t know what you did, I can’t hire you.

Don’t copy and paste someone else’s resume and change the details. I can tell when a “cookie cutter” resume comes across my desk because it looks like 5 other resumes that I already have, with very generic tasks (“Communicated status”) and a lot of buzz words (“Led JAD sessions”). That’s an immediate no. Sometimes hiring agencies reformat your resume in to their template which can be a disservice to you if their template sucks (and because all their other clients have the same one). You end up blending in and you want to stand out. More on hiring agencies in a later post.

Also, Don’t use buzz words. Just don’t.

Do provide examples of how specific actions you took (see #2) led to a win for the company. Not just any win (i.e. “saved the company money” or “came in on time and under budget” <— buzz word alert!) but specific wins. Maybe by adjusting your meeting cadence you were able to free up time for resources and therefore exceed your stakeholders expectations for delivery. Cool! I want to know that!

Don’t inflate your title. I don’t really care or believe that you are the Sr. Executive Vice President of Business Analysis. Likely that role doesn’t even exist. Yes some companies (*cough* banks *cough*) hand out fancy titles like it’s National Donut Day but when it comes to your resume, just list out what you really are and what you really do. If you really ARE the Sr. Executive VP of Business Analysis and you’re applying for a regular old BA job, what does that say? Are you stepping down? Are you not good at the executive level you’re at? If I hire you, will you act like you’re better than everyone else? It raises a lot of questions of doubt that you don’t want a hiring manager thinking. Don’t plant the seed.

Do proofread. And than do it again. And then have a friend do it. And then have your really annoying and OCD friend who always corrects everyone elses grammar, use of terms and spelling do it. You know the one that replies to your Facebook post with comments like “it’s ‘to’, not ‘too'”. Nothing turns me off of a resume faster then one filled with avoidable mistakes. One or 2 I can maybe overlook if everything else is really good. Although in the age of technology, even that is pushing it. But beyond a couple, sorry your out. If you can’t even make sure you’re resume is quality, how can I trust that your work will be? [bonus points if you can find all the grammatical errors I made in the above paragraph. Did it drive you crazy to read it? Yeah, me too.]

Don’t use serif fonts. OK this might be my own personal pet peeve that doesn’t bother anyone else and it’s likely my graphic design background coming in to play. If you don’t know, serif fonts are the ones with the small lines at the end of the characters. To me, it looks dated and messy. Humor me. Look at the example below with the same sentence typed using Times New Roman (first one) and then Arial. Doesn’t Arial, the sans-serif font, look so much cleaner and easier to read? That’s what you want – to make it easy for someone to read how great you are. Keeping the font type clean will go a long way toward that.


Do provide guidance on how to pronounce your name, if it’s warranted. This will help if you make it to the interview stage (more on that in the next post). You don’t have to phonetically type out your name if it’s ‘Sarah’ or ‘Bob’ or ‘Susan’. I got those figured out. But if it’s ‘Porzia’, I might need help. Do I say it like the car (“Pour-sh-a”) or as it’s written (“Pour-zee-a”). If I don’t know, it could make things really awkward.

That’s it. That’s my main list. See – nothing too outrageous. Notice I didn’t suggest you videotape your resume or send in a box of candy with accomplishments taped to each piece. While that would be memorable (and yummy!), it’s not necessary. Simple is good. Less is more (unless you’re applying for a job with a movie production company or candy store).

Here’s a sneak peak in to my resume review process:

Typically I get a bunch of resumes coming in at once. I will print them all out. I know, I know. Killing trees. Maybe I’m old school but I like to write on them. I will jot down notes with questions that I might want to remember for an interview or note concerns I have. I also highlight key words that jump out at me because they’re skills I’m looking for. As stated before, I generally only read the first 2 pages due to time constraints (and a short attention span). Once I make a decision, I’ll denote “Yes” or “No” on the top. If it’s a no, I’ll write down a few reasons why so that I can give feedback to the candidate or hiring agency.

But before I do any of that, I cover up the name. This is something I’ve just recently started doing and found it very effective. Why do I block out the name you ask? Because I don’t want to be biased by it. I don’t want someone’s gender or ethnicity to influence my decision. Admittedly, I might give a woman more of a chance than a dude. Power to the chicks! But this would be wrong and unfair. So if I don’t know who it is then it puts everyone on equal ground.

So now you know what my pet peeves are for resumes, as well as what could make yours stand out. Again, these are all my own opinion, culled from years of reviewing hundreds of resumes. I hope they are helpful or at least got you thinking.

Now. You followed my tips and lo and behold got an interview! Congrats! But what bugs me in interviews? Click here to find out!

One thought on “PSA: Sarah’s Tips to Applying for Jobs – The Resumé

  1. Pingback: PSA: Sarah’s Tips for Applying for Jobs – The Interview | Team Trader Mom

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