What I Learned From Reading 1,000 Resumes
By Stephanie Lynch
Chances are if you’re working right now, it’s safe to say you had to more than likely send out a resume in order to get hired. Even if you didn’t, there could come that time in the future where you may have to. Regardless of if you’re planning on applying for a new job, it’s always great to have some resume tips in the back of your head for future reference.
To let you know a bit about myself, I worked in human resources for a pretty large company for close to 10 years. Thankfully, I was able to escape the rat race and start a side project while enjoying my family. While the corporate atmosphere wasn’t too bad, I wanted to share with everyone what you can do to make your resume stand out above the rest because you’d be amazed at how much garbage (I’m saying that nicely) we’d get. In fact, it wouldn’t be uncommon to get 500 resumes within 48 hours for ONE job position. Out of those, however, we would maybe like 20.
To put yours at the top of the pile, potentially leading to at least a phone interview, here’s what I learned from reading over 1,000 resumes:
#1 Make sure you’re qualified
Ugh! I couldn’t tell you how many times I would receive a resume for a position where the individual wasn’t even qualified. Let me give you an example. Let’s say the job was for an administrative assistant. Well, do you think a former plumber, who couldn’t type faster than 25 wpm would be qualified? Well, he sure did. Sometimes, I really wonder if people just send out resumes to every job posting in hopes for a callback. While you don’t have to meet all 100% of the expectations, meet at least 80%.
#2 Don’t seem too needy
If I feel you meet the qualifications, I promise you will at least receive a phone call. If you’re going to harass me three times a day for a week, you can count on me throwing your resume to the bottom of the pile, regardless of how qualified you are. The key here is to be patient. While it’s okay to follow up once, don’t seem needy. I always tell people to treat resume writing and job hunting like dating. Would you like someone to do this to you?
#3 Be simple and to the point
There’s no need for fancy graphs, colorful charts and odd fonts. Something as simple as a Word document is more than fine. Try to break it up into the basic sections (summary, experience and skills), and be as precise as possible. Yes, you want to sell yourself, but always make sure you do it in less than one page.
#4 Be specific with the job posting
This kind of touches on point one. Don’t send the same resume out to 100 companies because this isn’t going to work. Every time you apply for a job, make sure your resume caters to that job. So if you’re applying for that administrative job at ABC Corporation, talk about the administrative position and ABC Corporation in both your cover letter and resume summary. This will show me you actually read the description and know who you’re applying to. Believe it not, but I actually once had called a qualified candidate, and he didn’t even know the company I was from or remember the position he applied to!
#5 Be yourself
If you’re lucky enough to make the interview process, congratulations! This is a great feat. Now, while it’s okay to research the company’s history, the job and so forth, don’t sound like a robot during your interview. It will be very obvious when I ask “What is your weakness?” and it sounds as if you’re reading from a cue card. Be yourself because we really want to see who you are.
#6 Don’t lie
Whatever you do, there’s one thing you should NEVER do, and that’s lie. If you lie, we will catch it, trust me. With today’s technology, I can see your traffic tickets, your previous employers and even your addresses. Yes, we can also confirm you have a college degree. While it may tempting to pad your experience or criminal background, just don’t do it. It’s going to be way worse if you were to be hired and they found out later down the road you were lying.
#7 Play it safe with kids
While I didn’t do this, I knew of some companies who would avoid new hires who had kids. They believed those with kids would have no time to work overtime and may have to bail work early for soccer practice. While an employer can’t ask you about kids, they can hint at it. For example, they could ask, “What do you like to do on weekends?” If you say something that revolves around kids, it may work against your advantage. Again, we didn’t discriminate, but to play it safe, try to keep the kids on the down low.
#8 Use a professional e-mail
I don’t know how many times I would receive an email from something such as firstname.lastname@example.org. If you can, try your best to use a professional e-mail because the HR department does pay attention to this. Also, when sending in your resume, don’t just name it “resume.doc.” Instead, name it something such as “firstname_lastname_resume.doc.” You want it to be as specific as possible, so if we do need to reference, we can find it fast.
Most HR departments work in their own ways and have its own policies, but for the most part, if you follow the rules mentioned above, you should be able to bring your resume to the top. If you have any tips, I would love to hear them as well! To those applying for a job, I hope this helps you, and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!
Stephanie Lynch is a freelance writer who used to work in HR for more than 10 years. Eventually escaping the rat race, she now works alongside her husband on the Internet’s largest cost-helping database, http://www.howmuchisit.org.
If you are currently working you dream job, then maybe this won’t connect… RIGHT NOW. But if you are a mom looking to get back into the workforce, or if you are a woman in the workforce looking to change jobs or careers, I hope this advice is helpful. I would also like to touch on the ‘kids’ part – I think we need to make it clear that we are equally committed to parenting and our kids. I think honesty is the right policy, meaning, saying you can come in on an odd weekend to help if necessary, but weekends are reserved for recharging and family, so you can give you 150% all week.