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The Perfect Resume by Bruce Hurwitz

05 Sep 2023 9:13 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

The Perfect Resume

Before you get excited, there is no such thing as a perfect resume. Anyone who tells you that the resume they will prepare for you will get you a job is either (a) a liar, (b) naive, or (c) does not know either the purpose of a resume or how it is read. Let’s discuss point c:

Purpose of the Resume

Regular readers of my articles know what I am about to write: The purpose of the cover letter is to get the recipient to look at the resume. The purpose of the resume is to get the interview. And, just to finish the trilogy, the purpose of the interview is to get the job offer.

How a Resume is Read (By a Human)

If it is a human who is reading the resume, it won’t (initially) be read. Who has the time? The recipient is looking for specific people, i.e., those who meet certain qualifications. They may have scores of resumes to review. By the time they get to yours they will be tired, so, at best, they willskim scan your resume (and they’ll skim it even if they are not tired because they don’t want to waste time with applicants who apply for every job they see in their industry regardless of their qualifications). You do not want tiredness, laziness, or eye-fatigue, to cost you an interview. So provide the recipient with the information they want in such a way that they cannot help but to find it.

First, they want to know where you live. All they need to see, at the top of the first page of your resume, is your city and state of residence, not your address. You don’t know the type of person who will be looking at the resume, so don’t tell them where you live. (And, sorry that I have to write this, include your full name, phone number and email address. Your LinkedIn profile URL is also not a bad idea to include, but continue reading.)

Second, they want to know if you can keep a job. Clearly show the dates (see below) of your employment per employer, not just position. So, for example, if you had five jobs, each for two years, but all for the same employer, show the dates for the employer in bold and the dates for each position in regular type. That way the recipient of the resume will know you can keep a job and that you were so good that you were promoted multiple times. You don’t want them to think that you had five jobs/employers in 10 years!

Third, initially, they dont want to know your responsibilities but your accomplishments. In other words, focusing on what you did for previous employers will tell them what you can do for them. So begin the resume with “Selected Accomplishments” – a list of bullet points (see below) which succinctly list your major achievements.

Fourth, have a section on your education clearly showing the degrees you actually earned. If you did not earn the degree, make that clear. If they need someone with an undergraduate degree, and you listed “Studied,” they may think you earned the degree. When they find out you didn’t, you’ll be out of a job. You can also note the expected date of graduation. Of course, if the degree is a requirement for the job, and you don’t have it, you are probably wasting your time. Applying for jobs for which you are not qualified will eventually lead to increased frustration, stress and lack of sleep.

Fifth, list any certifications/licenses you have, indicating the issuer, date you were awarded, and, if applicable, the Number and expiration date.

That is all a recipient will initially look at. If you are not actually qualified for the position, why should they bother reading the entire resume? The only thing that might save you is the list of Selected Accomplishments. If you saved your last employer millions of dollars, but are not a CPA, maybe they will make an exception if being a CPA is a qualification. Or, maybe, and more likely, they will consider you for something else.

You might also list any volunteer activities with which you have been involved. You never know what will appeal to an employer. Also, to show that other people think you are great, list your speaking engagements, media citations, and publications. For academics, showing your Google Scholar URL is encouraged.

So much for humans. Large companies initially have resumes scanned into Applicant Tracking Systems. In other words, they are first “read” by a computer. Think of the ATS as the gatekeeper, the assistant, once known as a “secretary,” who only lets certain people talk to the boss. Back in the day, you had to learn how to get past her (it was almost always a woman). Now you have to learn how to get past the ATS. Here’s how:

How a Resume is Read (By a Computer – ATS)

You have to assume that the company is using a “bad” ATS system. A “good” ATS should be able to “read” any resume. But let’s assume the ATS is bad. Here is what to remember:

  • Don’t worry about keywords. If your resume is honest and accurate, all the keywords will be there. If, for example, the job description says something about Yardi (software for property management), and you include “Yardi” in your resume, but have never used it, you’ll look foolish when being interviewed, won’t get the job offer, and will simply have wasted everyone’s time, including your own.
  • No hyperlinks (for your email address, LinkedIn profile, or anything else for that matter).
  • Don’t use a font smaller than 11 and use Calibri.
  • Don’t have any graphics, logos, pictures, boxes, or shadings (black background, white font), or use italics. Bold is alright. In any case, infographics are just silly. The recipient may look at it in a way not intended by the applicant. The best is to use words; that’s why Dr. Samuel Johnson invented them! Ecplain what your would have wanated to recipient to learn had you included infographics. Of course, if you are applying for a graphic designer position, including graphics may be to your advantage (as long as the company does not use an ATS.)
  • Don’t have any headers or footers. They won’t be “read.” Manually insert pages numbers, which brings me to my next point…
  • Keep the resume to no more than three pages. Apparently, some ATS systems don’t like to read alot!
  • Bullets should be a simple round black dot, as used here.
  • Submit your resume as a Word document as some ATSs don’t like PDFs or Google Docs, even if the online application accepts them (which makes no sense to me but I’m following the advice of the so-called “experts”).
  • For the record, ATSs apparently like to search for accomplishments, so my initial advice, which I have been giving since before there were ATSs, should be followed.
  • Dates of employment should be formatted as two-digit month slash four-digit year. If you are still employed, “- Present” is perfectly acceptable in lieu of a final date.

Keep in mind that a resume is a summary. Under each job, don’t list all of your responsibilities. That’s a sign you can’t prioritize. Think of the resume as a teaser for the main event, the interview. It’s the commercial for the movie the producers want you to see. By all means have a “Skills” section. That can enable you to include keywords associated with some of your (previous) less important respsonsibilities.

Good luck with your job search, and Have a happy Labor Day!

The Perfect Resume | Employment Edification (

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