How to smack people in the face with your resume

It’s hiring time again here at Anchor1 and that means we’ve been sifting resumes. Lots of them.

We’d like to offer some advice. There’s no shortage of advice on what to put in a resume, how to format it, and how to highlight the most salient terms. All that still applies, but our advice is not about that.

You don’t have much time to make an impression with your resume. Let’s make the seconds count by cutting the cruft from your resume and focusing on what matters.

Short is good, shorter is better. We think this also applies to resumes:
Keep your resume to 1 page. But, you might say, my career history is far too extensive to keep to a single page. That’s a nice problem to have, but all the interesting and relevant information fits on a single page.

“This person’s resume is too short”, said no hiring manager ever. We kid you not, we’ve received 20-page monsters from applicants before! Your resume is your foot in the door, it only needs to get you to an interview. Stick to 1 page, hiring managers everywhere will love you.

If you’re serious about your resume then you’ve put a good deal of effort into producing a good looking and easy-to-read document. Don’t shortchange yourself at this stage of the game: Send your resume as a PDF.

PDF files render the same regardless of who’s viewing it, so if it looks good on your screen then it’ll look good to your potential employer. Some job sites and recruiters insist on submissions in MS Word format. You should run a mile from them, there’s a good chance that your carefully arranged document will look terrible for the intended recipient.

So, a short resume in PDF format. Because you’re keeping it all to one page, you only can only afford to include the information that will help you get an interview, and hopefully land the job. Your resume should be a vehicle for your accomplishments.

Skills are useful, but achievements are better. Highlight your accomplishments for the roles listed on your resume. Many other candidates have the same skillset as you, but the accomplishments are yours and yours alone. Here’s what you want the hiring manager to think to themselves:

“Wow, I can see this person’s done good work in the past, I wonder if they can do good work for me, too? I’ve got to interview them!”

The best way to understand what we mean by accomplishments is through an example. Even for a relatively mundane role you can focus on your contributions and achievements.

Sep 2011 – present    Service Assistant, Woolworths Ltd

  Include a brief paragraph describing the job's responsibilities; cash
  handling, restocking, answering customer enquiries, etc.

  * Multiple bullet points, each of which identifies an accomplishment.

  * If you can make each of them one line, that's fantastic, but two
    full lines is OK too.

  * A bullet point that takes two lines but has only a word or two on
    the second line isn't cool - take out a word or pick a shorter one.

  * An ideal accomplishment is quantified and explained.  The form
    "[past tense verb] [noun] by [quantity] by [doing something]" is
    best, but not everything will suit this format. Examples:

  * Delivered checkout throughput 20% above average by focusing on fast
    and accurate scanning and cash handling.

  * Answered 95%+ of customer enquiries satisfactorily by focusing on
    ensuring the customer's real problem was solved.

  * Had zero lost-time-injuries, by always following manual-handling

  * Produced a balanced till on 100% of shifts by always
    double-counting the tendered amount and returned change.

In case we haven’t made it clear, your accomplishments should constitute the bulk of your resume. This is what you’re smacking them in the face with.

If you’re writing your resume right now then you’ll have it a bit tough, but it’s a good habit to keep a little file of achievements. Maybe once a week, note down something you achieved that you’re proud of. Tom Limoncelli calls these “feathers in your cap”, and that’s really what they are. When you need resume material it’s all there ready for you to use.

Pick the best ones that are relevant to the role you’re applying for and use them. If it’s a customer service role, highlight your expertise in dealing with tough customers. Similarly if you’re going for something requiring a high degree of accuracy (like a bookkeeper or something involving cash handling), accomplishments that showed you were conscientious with attention-to-detail would be good.

If you’re disciplined and do this regularly what you’re actually doing in the longer term is building a Career Management Document, which we might talk about a bit more in future. It sounds fluffy, but it’s basically a resume that’s ready to go the moment you find something worth applying for. You distil it down to the roles that are worth mentioning and send it off with a suitable cover letter. That’s a lot of confidence right there, with very little effort required to maintain it.

Now hurry up and apply!

1. It’s always hiring time at Anchor, you should get in touch. 🙂