I don’t consider myself to be an expert in many things, but resumes happen to be my cup of tea. I’ve spent too many years in school learning about recruitment and selection, including theories of reducing error rates, false-positive hires, and applicant tracking systems (ATS).
I also have the unique combination of experience on both sides of a resume: I’ve worked in staffing across industries and roles, as well as written dozens upon dozens of resumes (which is a fantastic side-gig if you can join a writers’ network). Typically, I just send snarky screenshots of strange things I see on resumes to my friends. But in the spirit of sharing, I’d like to highlight some things to help improve your resume.
Here are some of my best resume tips for millennials:
1. Don’t list your hobbies and interests.
I’m not sure who decided your resume was a good place to include that you like reading novels about murder, or that you’ve won a Mario Kart tournament for the past five years (both things I’ve encountered), but I’m here to correct that. Your resume is a place to showcase how you best fit the role in question. Unless you’re applying to work for a bike shop, including your typical bike route isn’t relevant. This list is also a prime place to invite discrimination. Recruiters are not supposed to let extraneous information color their views of applications, but we’re all human. Leave out your love of 80s horror movies and use that space to quantify your latest process improvement.
2. Lose the “unique” email addresses.
It just doesn’t come across as professional to apply for jobs under an address like SoccerDude69@hotmail.com. Get a simple, professional email address. It’s free.
3. No social media handles, unless they are actually applicable.
Unless you’re applying for a job in the field and you have a professional social media account, please don’t include your Snapchat, Instagram, or Twitter handles. Employers really don’t want to, or need to, see your Saturday night bar shots, or the amount of cat memes you share. However, including your LinkedIn address is a great way to include additional career history, as well as endorsements from your connections.
4. Align keywords with job postings.
Almost all organizations now use applicant-tracking systems — programs that store resumes and match candidates based on Boolean searches. If you list your skills and abilities, edit these with every job application to match those requested in the job posting. This will increase your match rate with the job you are applying for, as well as other potential opportunities. This is the place to include buzzwords like “continuous improvement,” “cross-functional team leadership,” and “agile project management.” Avoid using up valuable space with vague terms like “filing,” “typing,” “motivated,” “organized,” or any other things the hiring manager would assume you’re able to do.
5. Use a combination of paragraphs and bullets.
Visually, people are doing interesting things with resumes. I’ve found the most effective (and ATS compatible) way of formatting is to summarize your daily tasks (e.g. “Providing administrative support to the sales team in the delivery of customer demos”) in a paragraph, and then to list out 5-7 key accomplishments underneath. This allows recruiters to understand what “Sales Support” means in your work experience, as well as get a sense of what you’ve achieved in the position.
6. Quantify everything.
Whatever you can quantify, quantify. If you have implemented a new process, how much time did it save? What costs did it reduce? By how much? Did you design a training that was delivered to clients? How many? Did you have a successful sales year? How much did you sell?
7. Rename your meaningless job titles.
If there is anything in human resources that doesn’t make sense, it’s job titles. Organizations have their own naming conventions, which don’t always translate to the outside professional world. So you’re a “Coordinator II” in your current organization? I don’t know what that means. It’s worth editing your job title to reflect industry standards, or at least be more descriptive. “Sales Coordinator” at least hints that your job involves sales.
8. Don’t use amateur graphic design elements.
Another interesting trend I’ve been coming across a lot lately is the use of graphic design elements in resumes. Not only do these really not translate to ATS, but they also tend to make you look underqualified. For example, listing 10-15 skills with how many stars out of five you believe reflects your performance. If you think your Python abilities are only one out of five stars, why list it? Instead, just include a list of your top skills as related to the job posting.
9. Boast about your accomplishments.
The piece of advice I give out the most to people is to brag about their performance. No one is going to advocate for you when you’re applying for jobs. Take this time to really highlight all that you’ve done. Did you move a printer from one desk to another, so you didn’t have to walk around the office every time you printed something? Great! You’ve implemented a process improvement to reduce waste and improve efficiency.
10. Don’t explain gaps in employment.
If you have a gap in employment, you can address is in a cover letter or interview. Including on your resume that you were fired (really, I can’t count how many times I’ve seen this), laid off, became a mother or moved to follow a spouse is irrelevant and can invite unwanted (and illegal) discrimination. If you are seriously concerned about employment gaps, instead of including the years you were at a role (e.g., 2014 – 2017), instead quantify how many years it was (e.g., three years).
Remember: your resume should work for you.
As you can see, the resume screening process is not free from discrimination, illegal and otherwise. Do what you can to remove any possible information that might cause someone to “pass” on your resume. And please, please proofread your resume before hitting “send.”
Kelsea is a reality TV junkie and recovering overachiever from Canada with an affinity for knitting. You can follow her plight to save struggling plant parents on Instagram by following @kelseaknits.
Image via Unsplash