How to Format a Resume That Gets You Hired

Many people believe that their resume is going to be reviewed by prospective employers with painstaking detail. After all, we put so much work into our resumes that we would like to think that it is going to be read by employers.

The harsh reality is that studies show that resumes only get reviewed for six seconds.  These six seconds are crucial because they represent whether or not the candidate will get a chance to get the job.  Truthfully, I can tell you the sad reality is many resumes do not even get seen by human eyes.

The good news is that there is a right way to format your resume to maximize those six seconds of scrutiny.  Before I get into that, I do want to be clear that even with a well-formatted resume, you want to make every effort to get your resume in the hands of a human being to read it.

The most important key to a well-formatted resume is to make it easy to read.  The more your resume can be easily scanned in just a few seconds, the more likely it is to going to showcase what you offer.  Ultimately, it comes down whether or not it will do its job of getting you an interview, which ideally then gets you hired.

Basics

A well-formatted, easy to scan resume can make the difference of whether you get an interview or not.

A well-formatted, easy to scan resume can make the difference of whether you get an interview or not.

These days resumes are most often submitted electronically, so I don’t recommend spending a lot of time worrying the type of paper.

The days of keeping your resume to just one page long are over, and it is perfectly acceptable to have a two page resume.    More than two pages are okay, but try not to make it too fluffy by adding in unnecessary and unrelated information.

Use a professional looking, easy to read font like Calibri, Georgia, Arial, or Times New Roman.  Typically, it is easiest to read between 10-13 point font.

The actual look of the format can be a personal choice, and here are some key sections that belong in your resume and some tips to make them work for you.

Sections to Put in Your Resume

These are the major sections I recommend are in your resume.

  • Contact Information
  • Professional Summary (or Career Highlights)
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Skills and Certification

Contact Information

Towards the top, include your name, address, phone number, and email address.  You can make your name larger and bolder than the rest of the font in your resume.  Just don’t go crazy with this to avoid looking arrogant or cocky.

Career Highlights/Professional Summary

The top of the resume just under your contact information is prime real estate on the resume because it is one of the first places the eye is drawn.  Far too often this space is wasted on an Objective session.  Objective sections tend to be bland and generic and focus too much on what the candidate wants and not on whether or not selling why the candidate would be the right fit for the job.

The better way to use this area is to have a Career Highlights or Professional Summary section.  This could be two to three sentences to briefly describe your career and what you have accomplished.  Basically write out what you really want the reviewer to understand when they look at the rest of your resume.

It also looks nice when there are bullets that specifically list some career accomplishments especially if they include numbers (i.e. increased sales or lowered costs).

Experience

This is your chance to showcase the jobs you have held over the last 7-15 years (no need to go deep into the 80’s).

List your jobs out chronologically starting with your present (or most recent) employer.  It is best to start with your company and job title and include your dates of employment (month and year) along with the location of the job.

When you are describing each of your jobs, make sure to use bullet points instead of paragraphs as it makes it much easier to read.

Paragraphs are less likely to be read at all by employers than bullet points.  In all honesty, I have thrown away resumes that may have been great because the paragraphs seemed too long.  It doesn’t do any good to go through the effort of writing a perfectly crafted essay about each job if no one reads it.

Here are some helpful hints when listing out your employment.

  • Start each bullet point off with an action verb
  • Keep the bullet points concise
  • Avoid using the same action verb to start more than one bullet (especially in the same job)
  • Focus more on major responsibilities, projects, and accomplishments than simply listing tasks
  • Use numbers to tell the story where appropriate
  • “Responsible for” is not an action verb, and it is assumed since we are listing responsibilities

Education

List out your education.  After your first job, it is doubtful that you will be asked for your GPA.  You can typically leave it off.  However, be honest if you attended or graduated.  Some jobs (like engineering) will require the completion of a degree, but a lot of jobs it won’t really matter.

Lately, I have seen a lot of resumes that are leaving off the dates when they were enrolled in school.  To be honest, I am okay with this, and in most cases, having the dates might actually do more harm than good.  Really the dates would only really be needed if it is to justify gaps in employment (like taking two years off work to complete a career related graduate school program or finish up a degree), or if you are a fairly recent graduate.

Skills

In this area include relevant skills that make you stand out.  This might include industry certifications, training seminars, or licenses.  Don’t include skills that are of no relation to the job you are applying for.

True story here, I was hiring a marketing position, and someone put a lot of information on their resume about his phlebotomy skills (as in drawing blood).  Maybe he was really proud of this, but unless he was applying for a job as a marketing representative for a blood bank, this didn’t belong.

Also, avoid padding the resume with too many “skills” that are expected.  In this day and age, it is expected someone knows how to use Internet Explorer (and other web browsers) and Windows.  Focus more on computer skills for industry related software.

 

Sample Resume Format

 

John Sample
555 W Main St
Lubbock, TX 75243
(806) 555-6411
John.sample@emailprovider.com

 

Professional Summary

Experienced marketing and operations manager with five years experience in developing online and offline marketing channels for small to large sized businesses.  My career has been built on finding ways to drive sales while saving costs to acquire new customers.  Highlights include:

  • Developed new campaigns using paid search and social media channels
  • Grew new leads from trade show attendees by over 34%
  • Increased retention of accounts over five years old by over 12%
  • Decreased cost per acquisition of new accounts by 27%

Experience

XYZ Inc                                                                  Marketing Manager
June 2009 – Present                                        Lubbock, TX

  • Procured trade show sponsorships resulting in an increase of new lead by over 34%
  • Developed new retention programs to decrease churn of older accounts
  • Implemented cost saving measures to reduce new account cost per acquisition
  • Created developed companies first campaigns using paid search and social media channels
  • Led a team of two marketing coordinators and one administrative assistant
  • Represented marketing department in company budget meetings
  • Chosen to receive the company’s Honor Circle Award in 2011

Main Street Café                                                     Assistant Restaurant Manger
January 2006-June 2009                                Dallas, TX

  • Partnered with Chef to develop new menu offerings
  • Redesigned menu that resulted in 15% increase in appetizer sales
  • Trained service staff on techniques to increase bar sales

Education

Texas Tech University, Bachelor of Science in Restaurant and Hotel Management

Skills

Proficient in MS Word, Google Analytics, and Salesforce.com

 

 

Bottom Line

By using this type of format, you can maximize those six seconds your resume gets to plead your case to recruiters.  The more time you spend targeting the content of your resume to the overall job, the more your resume will appeal to the recruiter.

The more appealing and easier to scan your resume is, the more likely you will get an interview.  Plain and simple, that is the resume’s job.  Once it does its job of getting you the interview, the rest is up to you.

 

Last updated : July 10 2014