Many of us who have chosen to navigate the constantly variable — and often unpredictable — waters of human resources are familiar with the common components of the resume. Most applications ask for them, many demand them.
With all of the resources available for candidates to search and reference for resume preparation, there is really no excuse for the submission of a sub-standard presentation of their career snapshot. The action verbs that are trending, examples of job descriptions, requirements and templates galore are literally at the fingertips of those who sit in front of a search engine. Knowing that all of these tools are at the disposal of the applicant should imply that the resume quality would be somewhat less variable among the candidate pool. So, should we even spend time on the details of what was once the only passport to the next round of the process? In short, absolutely.
The candidate who leverages the components of the application process to tailor their resume to your posting should migrate toward the top of the pile, simply because they’ll waste less of your time. To help decipher those detail-oriented applicants, here are five ways to cut through the fancy verbiage and get to predictive results, section by section:
1. Objective: “To obtain a position in…” This section can provide insight to the candidate’s maturity in the job market — it should be obvious that they’re seeking a position, so restating that concept is a waste of space that could be used further outlining their qualifications. Assessment: Skip it.
2. Education: It’s always perplexed me when I see this section toward the top, as if the candidate believes that promoting the formal aspects of their training is worth making note of first. The degree displays the candidate’s ability to learn and demonstrate proficiency in a controlled environment. Where they went to school outlines their professional network and perhaps the “culture” of learning they experienced. If the position requires a bachelor’s degree, we shouldn’t see high school graduation information as it just takes up space. And, unless specifically called for within the posting or they’re applying for a scholarship, GPA isn’t as relevant as applicants would like it to be. Assessment: Skim it.
3. Experience: Review for merely a restating of the job description, but hope for a collection of results achieved. Working backward from their most recent position, candidates should describe their experiences in terms of what they actually accomplished, not what they were responsible for. For instance, seeing the bulleted phrase “Responsible for leading a team of 15 employees to success in plastics production,” sounds important. But, were they actually successful? If the candidate has the necessary experience but fails to make their results clear, either place them in limbo until all have been reviewed or advance and target results in the behavioral interview. Assessment: Review for results.
4. References: Candidates should be selecting references specifically pertaining to the job for which they are applying, and if your hiring process requires personal and professional references, they should be included the application. The removal of required references from the resume allows the candidate more space to describe their qualifications as opposed to someone else’s contact information. The astute candidate will avoid this repetition and optimize their space. Assessment: Skip it.
5. Skills and certifications: Given the increasingly standard requirement of the bachelor’s degree, this section will often generate the most relevant substance for candidate evaluation. Unfortunately, applicants will often focus most of their efforts into a robust description of experiences and minimize the skills categorization. A candidate’s ability to demonstrate enough self-awareness to define what tools are in their toolbox will provide the hiring manager with an insight into how they may align with the responsibilities of the position, regardless of their experiences.
The increasingly popular preferences for certifications such as the PHR, PMP, SHRM-CSP, display the higher emphasis on specialization and proven skills acquisition — all accompanied by a third-party validation. This is where candidates can draw on their previous organizational experience to promote the skills obtained as well as the formal and professional experience. For example, if I see a candidate list the “Texas FFA Association” anywhere on their resume, I should expect a skills section including advanced record keeping, public speaking and communication, efficient conduct of meetings, emotionally-intelligent leadership, etc. The intuitive candidate will highlight this degree of proficiency through maximizing the skills they bring to the table as they relate to the position. Assessment: Of crucial importance — read it.
The resume’s relevance can be determined by the organization’s desire to seek insight into the candidate’s attention to detail, coupled with the hiring managers’ understanding of the relationship between skill sets and results. Experience in one position of the same name doesn’t guarantee success in another, as the cultural aspect of an organization may be enough to force a new hire to draw a little deeper into their arsenal of resources. Their resume should describe those resources in enough detail to provide a baseline for the behavioral interview, at which point you will have enough to dig a little deeper into how they’ve applied the skills to achieve results.
Two minutes spent on the resume can lead to hours saved in unfulfilling interviews and disappointing hires. Skills coupled with past results are a definite predictor of future success, and the prepared candidates will make this understanding abundantly clear.