Resume Hints

Hint #1: Build a resume using specific dates

Many resumes list experience by the year, i.e. Company X, 2000-2005. This can be harmful if a hiring authority is looking for a specific amount of experience in a role. It’s always better to use a month/year format to show transitions. Otherwise it could be thought that a candidate is trying to cover up a gap in employment, or lacks the required amount of experience to apply for the position. A candidate that states employment of 1/2000 – 12/2005 could have up to two more years of experience than the candidate that states 2000 – 2005!

Hint # 2: Avoid generic phrases that cannot be easily measured

Candidates often feel compelled to sell themselves on paper by providing a self-description of outstanding personal attributes. This leads to the inevitable use of phrases such as “team-player”, “strong interpersonal skills”, “outstanding relationship builder”, “strong analytical skills” and the list goes on. These types of phrases are overused, trite and add no value to a candidate’s qualifications. Remember that a resume is simply what gets a candidate in the door for an initial interview. The time for selling intangible skills comes once the interview starts.

Hint # 3: Write an Objective statement specific to the position applied for.

If it is not clear what to put in the objective section, or if there is more than one position applied for at the same company, then just leave it out all together. It is not uncommon to find resumes without an objective statement.

Hint # 4: Tailor a resume specific to each opportunity

There are nuances to each position that make it unique, and a smart candidate will do their best to appropriately highlight the relevant experience on the resume. For instance, if a position requires experience with a key client or account, the candidate should make sure that their relevant experience with that account is found at the beginning of the resume with a sufficient description. Or if a candidate has experience in therapeutic areas that are relevant to the company’s product line or pipeline, find a way to make that stand out on the resume.

Hint # 5: Use formatting appropriately

Formatting a resume with italics, bold, font, and size is necessary to bring focus to important areas of a resume. Areas where it is acceptable to use formatting are on name, Company, Job Title, and Date. Any formatting in the body of a resume is inappropriate, apart from using bullets to list accomplishments or awards. Do not use different colors, sizes, unusual fonts, italics, or highlighting to make specific things stand out within the body of the resume. A resume is a formal document and rules of formal writing apply. Improper use of formatting is an indicator of poor writing and organization of a resume.

Hint # 6: Provide a balance of both responsibilities and achievements.

A resume that is filled with nothing but “in this position I was responsible for . . .” leaves the reader with no idea about what kind of impact you had at that position. This could be the crucial difference between getting called in for an interview or sitting by the phone. We always tell candidates that achievements are what differentiate them in the eyes of a hiring manager. If a hiring manager is looking at 10 resumes of candidates with very similar backgrounds, he or she will narrow the field by selecting the candidates that display the highest level of performance.

Conversely, if a hiring manager is looking at a resume that is filled with achievements, and lacks a good description of responsibilities, he/she may think that the scope of the position was not that demanding and/or that the candidate is overstating their impact in that role.

Hint # 7: Clarify achievements and awards

The following are some examples of vague impact statements and suggestions on how to make them more meaningful.

Ex 1: Received Presidents Club award in 2004 and 2006
Awards vary from company to company, and almost always represent something different. An award should read like this: Received Presidents Club award in 2004 and 2006, recognizing the top 10 reps out of 500 across the country.

Ex 2: Revised internal reporting forms to enhance productivity and efficiency
This kind of statement is commonly found on resumes. It is a meaningless statement though, because it does not reveal what kind of impact these revisions brought. It should read: Revised internal reporting forms, saving the company six hours of processing time each week. (or X amount of dollars)

Ex 3: Increased annual sales by 57% from prior fiscal year
This could be good, but a keen hiring manager will ask how everyone else did. If the average rep increased sales by 55%, then it’s not saying much. But if the average rep increased sales by only 22%, then suddenly this is a fantastic achievement. A better statement would read: Increased annual sales by 57%; average annual increase across 763 reps company wide was 22%.

Hint # 8: Proofread

Have a friend, colleague or recruiter that you trust review your resume for spelling and grammatical errors. The slightest error may jump out and send the wrong message to a hiring manager, eliminating your chances of getting an interview.