Recruiting for the right talent is no easy feat. If you’re in the business of hiring you know that sorting through hundreds of resumes can be time consuming and overwhelming. As a candidate, it’s no picnic either. With digital making us all have the attention spans of a goldfish or less, candidates need to make every effort to stand out from the sea of paper. However, there gets to a point where candidates are taking artistic license too far. Last week, I saw a resume for a buying position that was pink and lavender with at least four different infographics and fonts. I joked that it looked like a Valentine’s Day card, but in all seriousness, it inspired this post. It’s time to set the record straight on appropriate and preferred resume styles, so I decided to ask the experts, the recruiters, who do this for a living.
Ginger Puglia is the CEO of Ginger Finds, a “talent lab” in New York City. Ginger lives by the 11-second rule.
Early in my talent acquisition career, some wise person told me that the average hiring authority has 11-seconds to make a determination on whether a resume stays or goes. I have no idea if this is factual, but what is a fact is that I operate with this standard. If a candidate cannot synthesize what’s important and say it on the front page, they’ve lost me,” states Puglia.
11-seconds dear friends: That’s not a lot of time to prove your worth. So how do you make your resume stand out without overdoing it? For starters, Puglia recommends not listing attributes like hard working, strong leader, risk taker, insightful, creative, multitasker, people-person.
They are extraneous and meaningless. Your career trajectory should speak to any attributes,” says Puglia.
Zachary Peikon, Principal of Korn Ferry recommends including accomplishments with impactful data.
Tailor your resume for each role you apply for. Make sure you focus on the critical areas of the role and demonstrate how you would add value to the organization,” says Peikon. Using color depends on the company and culture. If it’s a creative company doing something that catches the reader’s eye could demonstrate your creative spirit and help you stand out, but if it’s a more traditional organization stick to the basic colors.”
Ginger Puglia shares a similar sentiment.
I’m driven by visuals, as is most of our society. In my creative recruiting practice I expect designers or artists to have a slight, unique twist to their resume. But everything has its place. Gray or Navy are aesthetically acceptable and can speak to a strong taste level. Resumes are best when a candidate leaves a bit of white space; it reads that the person is comfortable, and doesn’t have the need to overpower.”
Tania Idjadi, Senior Director of Executive Search at Janou Pakter believes that your resume should speak to how your efforts elevated the business and implemented positive changes.
Your resume is your brand, and it should include enough content to cover important career information and highlights, but ideally, it should not exceed two pages,” says Idjadi.
Be succinct in describing your role and accomplishments – a resume is not a job description! Include ALL positions and dates – you don’t need detail under the earlier roles, but a hiring manager wants to see your entire background – not only what you have done since you became a VP or Director. We have a standard format for presenting resumes to clients. Every candidate resume will be redone in our format which is typical for large executive search firms,” says Logan.
Maxine Martens, CEO of Martens & Heads! believes that you can tell how smart someone is by “whether they paint verbal pictures in your mind” with their conversation. The same is true for written resumes.
The idea is to demonstrate career and skills growth with each role. What I dislike, is receiving a long dissertation on someone’s career and self-described wonderfulness. Offering references to verify your leadership is much more convincing,” says Martens.
Martens believes that candidates should be brief, direct and straightforward about why they want to speak or meet. As an example, “While I had high hopes when I joined this top ten global fashion brand, it is not a fit for me. I have been most productive and happy when I was part of a small team, and we were united in building a business.”
While interviewing thousands of people, only a few dozen have actually been able to say, “I was let go or terminated.” When you can say it out loud, you save the interviewer the effort to figure out what is wrong with you or why you didn’t fit, and then they can focus on whether you are interesting, they like you and whether you are a ‘fit’ for their needs,” says Martens.
No matter what though, all our experts agree that paying attention to spelling and grammar is of the utmost importance. Also, consistent formatting is non-negotiable.
More top tips for writing your resume from the experts:
- “Your resume should start with a summary which describes your assets, strengths and objectives.”- Tania Idjahi
- “Clarity is vital. Specifically, state what you are looking for. Simplicity speaks volumes. Don’t say “BAH BAH” if you can say “BAH.” -Ginger Finds
- Use bullet points versus a long narrative and include proper and intelligent sounding business language. Competency graphs and infographics do not inspire or mean anything.” -Maxine Martens
- “Share your resume with a few trusted advisors to get their thoughts and suggestions. They will have an objective and fresh perspective.” – Zachary Peikon
- “The body of the email is essentially the cover letter. Do not send a separate cover letter as an attachment unless specifically required. The email should be brief and more of an “elevator pitch” – a one-paragraph overview of who you are, your general area of expertise and why you are contacting the company/individual.” – Tricia Logan
- “Most hiring managers look for growth in a role and the length of time you spend with employers. Your commitment and loyalty to a brand are very attractive to a potential employer. Put months and years on your resume, not just years. We also prefer chronological vs. functional resumes. Including a photo is not common in the U.S. and it can be distracting.”- Tania Idjahi