The title pretty much says it all. In my quest to help both applicants and CEOs fill top seats in a hot market I'm often aghast at the volume of crap resumes I see in the wild. Anything from inappropriate photos to long-ass "Objective" and "Skills" sections to conspicuous typos on the very resumes where people are claiming "highest attention to detail." Seriously. This is a mess.
I have been incredibly successful with every resume that I've designed. YES, designed. No WORD template. No Googling the top template of 2018. All ME. My goal is to immediately stand out from the crowd by drawing attention to the content, not via a flashy design. I always get at least a phone screen, which tells me I'm clearly onto something. In my last 3 roles I've scored the job from a pile of over 500 applicants at each company. Each time recruiters have remarked about how well designed/well written my resume was. So, let's dive into your resume and make some critical edits to make it suck a lot less. (These are only suggestions based on what's worked for me for over a decade, so...)
Serif fonts are over...like the kale craze. Clean fonts and clean, minimal design are the new black. Also, as fonts get smaller, especially if you're trying to cram a novel into your 2-page max resume, you can typically cheat with an Arial narrow or other narrow, clean font to squeeze that extra word or two in per line, where you can't with a serif font. I'll address brevity later.
It looks hella thirsty. #realtalk And you're subjecting yourself to a scrutiny and discrimination you might not even be aware of. When I see a photo on a resume I automatically assume a number of things: 1. You're vain; 2. You're insecure; 3. You've deluded yourself into to thinking that you're one-upping your competition by doing extra; 4. You're sending a message to your prospective employer that you're definitely pretty/handsome enough to work at their company; 5. You're hiding or covering up something.
And since I'm known for telling it like it is, let's take both gloves off, shall we? There is still a healthy amount of racial and sexual bias in the recruiting ranks and the top C-suites in the world. My legal name is LaGerald Norman. A pretty ethnic name. I know for a fact that for years my resume never made it past Round One based on unconscious bias and assumptions when seeing that name. I became a professional singer with the stage name "Phoenix Normand." And when I returned to the working world I kept the name. As a result, I ended up landing phone screens and interviews by the handful with people often commenting, "Your name is so cool." Gee, thanks. Had I put my photo on my resume as LaGerald Norman or even as Phoenix Normand, I know far fewer calls would have come, especially from the top organizations for whom I wanted to work. Disagree all you want. I have the receipts...from many months of experimentation and coercing recruiters to admit to their hiring practice biases. Lose the photo. It's a distraction, not a help.
Can we please lose the 1974-ass "Objective" section on these resumes? Seriously. They read so lame! I think I've read only one or two relatively well-written objective sections on high-level resumes that made complete sense. Ever. The countless others instantaneously make my middle finger hover over the delete key. Poorly written. No imagination. No supporting metrics. And taking up vital real estate you should be using to talk about your wins vs. your aspirations. Objective sections are like serif fonts and kale. OVER.
I can't harp on this enough. We are all victims of attention deficit disorder. Just as they say you have 7 seconds of people's attention when you first meet (and pitch) them, the same holds true for your resume. I barely have time to pee each day, so rest assured I am not going to read an adjective laden, 3-page resume past, say, the first job you've listed. You've already lost me. By not clearly stating your wins at your current or previous companies in a nice, neat, bite-sized format from the jump, you're forcing me to dive into a narration that I simply don't have time for. Give ME what I'm looking for, not what YOU want to say. Get your perspective right. You're already in control. It's your resume! All I need to know QUICKLY is what makes you the right person for ME. What have you achieved, not just what you're good at. What can I expect from you the moment your ass hits the seat, not that you "create calm from chaos." Give me absolutes...metrics, facts and figures. Something I can match against our current metrics, facts and figures to determine how you could improve those. Your calendaring and travel arrangement prowess, or your 24/7/365 availability are low-key baseline expectations at this stage in the game and at this level. (If you're an Executive Assistant...) Here's a snapshot from my resume to help illustrate what I'm getting at.
Notice, I've split my experience at Flipagram into two sections: "Projects of Note" and "Core Responsibilities." This allows anyone reading my resume to see what I've done vs. what I do, the latter of which is a given considering the role I'm applying for. Show me what you're made of and how you can contribute to my organization FIRST. Then we can chat about the essentials you've mastered.
To me adjectives on a resume equal "lipstick on a pig." They're annoying and unnecessary. Your resume is about facts. Facts don't require colorful adjectives. Refer to the snapshot of my resume in the section above. Then enjoy this:
Actually, there is a ton of great information and experience here. But the serif font and the long-winded narrative here would capture about 3 seconds of my attention and really make me crave an alcoholic beverage. Keep in mind, this is only one experience block in a rather looooooong resume. Luckily, I was able to intervene and help her pair all of this down into something much more succinct and aligned with what's actually relevant to the reader vs. all of these wasted characters. (PS...notice those blue, dotted underlines? Don't ignore those. You're missing a hyphen, boo.)
You can have all of the experience in the world, but if I can't tell what you're passionate about outside of your daily responsibilities it will call into question whether or not you're actually human. Meaning, I want to know what types of extra-curricular activities catch your attention. From those, I'm judging you a little. I admit it. But if I see none, I'm judging you a A LOT. It either means that you have zero interest in the outside world or your life away from work (red flag) or that you aren't advocating for your full self by including a small glimpse into your life and passions. I'm interested in the full human, not just the person who does the work. Give me the opportunity to know you a little bit and ask you a few non-work questions at your interview by supplying me with an "Etc." section on your resume.
Instantaneous delete to anyone who saves their resume with a stupid file name. It's one of those low key first impressions that I look for. The filename for your resume should include: what it is_your name_and your (intended) role.
This allows the reader to quickly discern the type of file, who you are, and what role you're applying for. When someone's dealing with over 100 email resumes per day, the last thing they have time for is to pop open 40 vaguely labeled word docs to find the one resume they are looking to move forward. Do YOUR job. Make it easy for recruiters to do THEIR job.
I'd be a wealthy man if I got paid a dollar for all of the resumes I've received with truly inappropriate email handles or from netscape accounts.
email@example.com...NOT acceptable. If I saw your professional email coming from that address, I'm already looking over the top of my glasses judging you. If I see an email coming from a Netscape or Hotmail account, I'm already looking over the top of my glasses judging you. Let us not forget that every single component of applying for roles is being scrutinized. A Netscape account screams, "Hi, I'm still stuck in the 90s and I just learned how to work the Netflicks." Inappropriate email addresses scream, "Hi, I'm too unobservant to realize that the person I want to work for might think less of me getting an email from firstname.lastname@example.org." Life, especially in business, is about optics. Go over every single component of your brand with a fine-toothed comb before committing bonehead mistakes that will get you deleted before even opening your email.
Your resume is your most important opportunity to advocate for yourself and stand out from the crowd. However, make sure you're focused on providing the information about what makes you special or perfect for the role in a nice, neat, easily digestible format for the reader. Nix the zany colors, thirsty photos, and goofy 80's formatting. Keep it clean. Keep it simple. Keep it relevant. The descriptions brief. And keep it to 2 pages max. Make these few critical edits and you'll dramatically increase your chances of getting a callback vs. that obligatory "sorry, but..." email.
Good luck out there!
Phoenix is coaching and supporting American billionaires, CEOs and executive teams in tech, retail and banking for over 25 years. He also founded and created MEGA Assistant University, a revolutionary skills and mindset “boot camp” for top Executive and Personal Assistants who want to level up quickly and begin forging a mutually successful business partnership with their executives and teams. Phoenix holds a Bachelors of Arts in European Studies/Civilisation from Trinity College Dublin.