How long should my resume be?

resumelengthI get this question a lot, usually from students and entry-level job seekers. The answer? It depends, but always strive for concision.

Regardless of your experience level, if you can keep your resume to one page while also telling enough of your career story to entice hiring managers to call you, kudos! But if you can’t, don’t automatically resort to deleting valuable information. Depending on your background and current career aspirations, a multi-page resume may be completely appropriate.

The length of your resume should be driven by the amount of content you need to relay to your next employer in order to get the interview. As you put your resume together, weigh every bit of information carefully and ask yourself, “Will this help me get hired?” Most new grads and inexperienced professionals won’t struggle to keep their documents to a single page, though some may have plenty of worthwhile information to warrant a two-page resume (impressive school projects, internships, and awards, for example). Executives might be able to fit the basics (summary paragraph, key skills, employment history, education, etc.) within two pages, but require a third to include professional and community memberships, speaking engagements, publications, or other supplemental yet potentially impactful details.

We’ve all heard that hiring managers spend mere seconds initially reviewing a resume. In my opinion, this doesn’t mean your resume has to be one page; it means that what you have in your document’s prime real estate matters the most—more on that here—regardless of how many pages your resume is.

If you’re satisfied with the content in your resume but it’s falling just barely onto a second (or third) page, check out the tips from my previous post, I need a one-page resume!

Master the Telegraphic Writing Style

telegraphThe Key to a Concise, Skimmable, and Impactful Resume

Many professional resume writers, including those on the iHire team, use a telegraphic writing style. Broadly defined, telegraphic writing (originating with the age of the telegraph), is a clipped form of composing a message that allows you to say as much as possible with the fewest possible number of words.

In the resume world, being concise and to the point is essential. Hiring managers aren’t interested in reading multiple-page documents, but at the same time, you don’t want to leave out vital details that may help you land in the “yes” pile. Telegraphic writing is a great solution for this dilemma.

In the resumes I write, I use a telegraphic approach that eliminates pronouns (I, me, my, our, etc.) and filler words (a, an, the, etc.) wherever possible. Want to see the telegraphic style in action? Check out the examples below.

EXAMPLE SUMMARY SECTION

Traditional Style:

I am a highly compassionate, perceptive, and client-centered professional with demonstrated skills in case management, trauma-informed assessment, and treatment planning. I am a recent MSW graduate eager to utilize and expand upon my competencies in clinical social work for clients of all ages and wide-ranging needs and diagnoses. I am an outstanding writer and interpersonal communicator, creative problem solver, and valued member of interdisciplinary teams with a positive and collaborative attitude.

Telegraphic Style:

Highly compassionate, perceptive, and client-centered professional with demonstrated skills in case management, trauma-informed assessment, and treatment planning. Recent MSW graduate eager to utilize and expand upon competencies in clinical social work for clients of all ages and wide-ranging needs and diagnoses. Outstanding writer and interpersonal communicator, creative problem solver, and valued member of interdisciplinary teams with positive and collaborative attitude.

EXAMPLE JOB DUTY & ACHIEVEMENT SECTION

Traditional Style:

I participated in the day-to-day management of a multimillion-dollar portfolio in the construction loan department. I reviewed/verified the accuracy and completeness of documents, disseminated files for processing, and continually monitored our system data for correctness. I produced files in adherence to federal examiner regulations. I resolved customer issues, answered billing, payment, and exception questions, and gathered necessary information.

  • I aided with decreasing our departmental loan exception rates from ~80% to less than 10%.
  • From 2010–2011, I took on an expanded role at my supervisor’s request to fulfill additional duties of generating and recording loan documents such as notes and deeds via bank software.

Telegraphic Style:

Participated in day-to-day management of multimillion-dollar portfolio in construction loan department. Reviewed/verified accuracy and completeness of documents, disseminated files for processing, and continually monitored system data for correctness. Produced files in adherence to federal examiner regulations. Resolved customer issues, answered billing, payment, and exception questions, and gathered necessary information.

  • Aided with decreasing departmental loan exception rates from ~80% to less than 10%.
  • From 2010–2011, took on expanded role at supervisor’s request to fulfill additional duties of generating and recording loan documents such as notes and deeds via bank software.

Consider Using a Ranked Skills Section on Your Resume

rankLast month, I provided a few tips for working critical key skills/qualifications that you don’t have (yet) into your resume to increase your chances of making it past an ATS screen. Now suppose you’re reviewing a job ad and have the desired skills, but aren’t necessarily an expert in all of them. Is it misleading to list certain items on a resume, even if your understanding of them is rudimentary?

A great way to put your best foot forward and appease the ATS without feeling like you’re stretching the truth is to categorize the core competencies in your resume. Clearly ranking and visually separating skills can be advantageous for a variety of job seekers, including:

  • Career changers with entry-level experience in their target industry backed by expertise in other areas
  • New graduates with classroom AND relevant on-the-job experience
  • IT pros with varying degrees of proficiency in a large number of programs, systems, languages, etc.

Simple classifications could include Expert, Proficient, and Basic, though feel free to use synonyms that you’re more comfortable with or utilize more levels.

How should you set up a ranked skills section on your resume? Here’s an example for an administrative professional:

KEY SKILLS

Expert: Scheduling, Customer Service, Data Entry, Expense Reporting, Purchasing, MS Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)

Proficient: Bookkeeping, Payroll Processing, Market Research, New Hire Onboarding, QuickBooks, MS Project

Basic: Database Design, Website Content Management, Adobe CS

How to Keyword Optimize Your Resume (Even If You Aren’t a Perfect Match)

emptyboxIf you’re looking for a job these days, chances are you’re spending the majority of your efforts online. And if you’re applying to openings online, your resume must be keyword rich. Those keywords have to correspond with the specific skills listed in a job ad in order to appease an applicant tracking system (ATS), if that potential employer is using one. But what can a job seeker do if they don’t have all the qualifications listed in the ad?

First, let’s discuss the “don’ts.” Don’t throw skills into your resume willy-nilly just to trick the ATS. A human will read your resume eventually, and if you land an interview, you’ll have to back up your claims. Don’t try the old hidden or white text trick, either. A simple click of the “Show/Hide” button or CTRL+A can expose your lame attempt. Finally, if you don’t have at least some of the qualifications listed in the job ad, consider applying to another opportunity that’s more appropriate for your background.

So, are there any “honest” ways to add skills to your resume that you don’t have? Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a section titled “Areas of Interest” or something similar. Make sure these are highly specific and relevant to the job you’re applying to (not to be confused with hobbies). Or, mix skills you have with skills you’d like to have in a “Skills & Interests” section.
  • Add a line to your summary paragraph that states, “Eager to expand proficiencies in [missing skill 1], [missing skill 2], and [missing skill 3].”
  • Take a class (perhaps even a free MOOC) with the missing keyword in the title, and list the course title on your resume in your “Education & Professional Development” section.

Note that none of the steps above are better than actually obtaining the desired ability. Simply working the right words into your resume won’t guarantee you an interview or equal ranking among candidates who DO have the preferred qualifications, but it should at least increase your chances.

Make Your Resume Shine with the Top Skills of 2015

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) published the results of their Job Outlook 2015 survey a few months ago that identified the top skills employers are looking for on a candidate’s resume:

NACEJobOutlook2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have all of these skills? Great! Now all you have to do is work these into your resume summary and core competencies section and wait for the phone to ring, right?

Almost. What separates a strong resume from one that’s clearly packing in all the keywords it can is proof. Real-world instances of how the job seeker used these skills to make an impact. Consider this concrete example of how to display leadership in action:

Rallied 5-person team together to meet top client’s demands, including mid-project changes in scope, schedule, and resources; completed assignment on time and above client expectations, resulting in $50K in additional business.

Some of these attributes are more difficult to demonstrate on paper than others, especially soft or subjective ones like “friendly,” “tactful,” or “risk-taker”. It’ll take some creativity, but it isn’t impossible. Let’s take a stab at “friendly”:

Earned reputation as go-to customer service associate for handling escalated client calls; maintained positivity and professionalism in all communications and consistently upheld 5/5 scores on post-call surveys.

Oddly enough, many of these skills also show up on the “never use these words on your resume”-type lists making the rounds on career advice websites and social media. Do hiring managers want to see these skills or not? To be fair, many of these articles go on to explain that employers want to see how you put these “cliché” skills into action, not just bullet after bullet of empty language. So in addition to including these highly desired traits in your resume, remember to back it up!

Resume Writing Guide for Physician Assistants

healthcareQuick & Easy Resume Tips for the #1 Job in America

On Tuesday, Glassdoor posted its list of the 25 Best Jobs in America for 2015. Congratulations to Physician Assistants, ranking #1 based on earning potential/average annual base salary, career opportunities, and number of job openings. Software Engineers grabbed the #2 spot with Business Development Managers landing at #3.

Other posts on this blog go into detail for the individual sections of a resume, such as the summary, key skills, professional experience, education, etc., so I’ll keep this post brief and focused on specific strategies for PAs.

Summary

Write a brief, 3 to 5 sentence introduction covering your unique qualifications. For example:

Summary: Highly compassionate, resourceful, and versatile Physician Assistant with 10 years of experience providing top-quality care to patients within hospital and post-acute care settings. Adaptable professional who excels in independent, leadership, and team member roles, readily learns new processes and procedures, and successfully manages heavy workloads. Outstanding communicator able to establish strong rapport with patients and family members and collaborate effectively with interdisciplinary medical teams.

Keywords

Create a core list based on your areas of expertise, but don’t forget to review job postings for other ideas as well:

Patient & Family Education

Histories & Physical Exams

Care Planning & Coordination

Charting/Documentation

Quality Assurance

Workflow Control

Process Improvement

Medication Management

Staff Training & Leadership

Patient Advocacy

Regulatory Compliance

Admission & Discharge Planning

Professional Experience & Achievements

Think beyond “I cared for patients.” Describe the work environment, daily caseload/patient volume, and specific patient populations. Include any highly specialized procedures or challenging cases. List team members you supervise, if applicable. If you’re a new grad, populate your “Experience” section with details on your clinical rotations and focus areas.

Now on to the tough part – accomplishments. It can be a struggle to come up with concrete, quantifiable achievements in patient care, but consider the following examples:

  • Receiving formal recognition/awards for outstanding patient care.
  • Contributing to key projects such as new EMR implementations, green or safety improvement programs, and compliance efforts.
  • Bringing a new area of expertise that enables your office to expand its offered services.
  • Heading up a committee or taskforce.
  • Writing/rewriting protocols.
  • Training new personnel or mentoring PA students.

Professional Credentials

Include national certifications, state licenses, and professional memberships (such as AAPA). Don’t forget the basics like ACLS or BLS – these may be keywords an employer’s ATS is looking for.

Education

List all degrees obtained, the college/university name and location, and any honors or extracurricular activities. Training can be included as well, but don’t mention every CEU you’ve ever completed. Focus on specialized professional development, high-level workshops, etc. that will increase your marketability.

10 Year-End Reflections to Improve Your Resume

2015So, how was your 2014?

Before marching into 2015 and leaving this year in the dust, I would encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your top achievements and “wow” moments. None of us had a perfect year, and being mindful of where we fell short is important too. Fortunately though, we get to pick what we do (and don’t) highlight on our resumes to market ourselves in the best possible light.

Whether you are actively looking for a job or not, reflecting on the past year’s successes will reenergize you for the year to come. Plus, your future self will thank you for taking the time to gather these essential details should the need for an up-to-date resume arise unexpectedly.

An internet search for “reflection exercises” will mostly bring you tips for educators, but many (such as this 20-question list from Minds in Bloom) can be adapted for a professional’s retrospective. Find a quiet spot, ready your laptop or pen and pad, and reflect on the following (I would suggest a freewriting approach):

  1. What critical objectives did you meet/exceed and how?
  2. What are the top 3–5 projects you are the most proud of completing in 2014?
  3. What new skills did you learn this year? What existing skills did you strengthen?
  4. How were you recognized for your accomplishments? A promotion/new job title? A formal award?
  5. How have your day-to-day responsibilities changed/grown?
  6. What major changes/challenges occurred in your department, and how did you overcome them?
  7. How did you help others in the company shine?
  8. What new initiatives did you contribute to?
  9. How would your direct reports, colleagues, and/or supervisors describe your year?
  10. Have your career aspirations changed? If so, why?

If your employer completes annual performance reviews, you may have already documented a majority of these things and can further reflect on a more personal level. Either way, capturing your key accomplishments at the end of each year (or even better, as they happen) will make it far less overwhelming and time-consuming to update your resume in the future.

Including company descriptions in your resume

It may seem counterintuitive to write about anything but yourself in your resume, but in certain cases reserving a few lines to describe your employers can be a strategic move. It can help to define the size/scope of your responsibilities if you held a leadership role and show career diversity if you’ve worked for (and succeeded within) a variety of organizations. This is also an easy way to explain acquisitions, name changes, or closures.

Here are two ways to present employer information in your resume:

Beneath the company name and location and above your job title and job description paragraph:

ABC Company, Frederick, MD                       2008 to Present

Animation production studio with 15–25 employees and annual revenues of $8M–$10M.

Controller

Provide accounting expertise and human resources management. Report directly to CEO regarding strategic planning, business development, and company’s financial status. Oversee accounts receivable and payable, monthly and annual close, and cost management.

Worked into the first line of your job description paragraph:

ABC Company, Frederick, MD                       2008 to Present

Controller

Provide accounting expertise and human resources management for animation production studio with 15–25 employees and annual revenues of $8M–$10M. Report directly to CEO regarding strategic planning, business development, and company’s financial status. Oversee accounts receivable and payable, monthly and annual close, and cost management.

Regardless of the format you choose, remember to be brief and consistent. Give just enough information about your employers to set the scene for your unique contributions.

I need a one-page resume!

Tips on effectively limiting your resume to a single page

one pageThe general rule for entry-level job seekers is to limit your resume to one page (and rarely a challenge for this demographic), but experienced candidates may also find themselves with a resume that is just one or two lines onto a second page. Follow these tips to bring your resume within one page without cutting significant content or selling yourself short.

Adjust your margins. I recommend going no smaller than 0.5” all around to preserve readability and retain ample white space.

Edit for concision. “Developed and managed a training program that was used throughout the company” can be trimmed to “Developed/managed companywide training program.”

Edit for widows. Eliminate those pesky words that take up an entire line.

Avoid tables, columns, or other space-hogging design elements. These items have their place in certain formats, but take up more space than a standard paragraph or bulleted list.

List your job title on the same line as your employer name, location, and dates. For example:

Manager: ABC Company, Frederick, MD                     2007 to 2008

Combine sections. Do you have separate Education and Professional Training sections? How about separate Professional Memberships and Community Memberships sections? Consider merging them.

Last but not least, edit for relevancy (if you haven’t already). It can be tricky to decide what to cut, so as you review your resume, ask yourself this question: Who cares about this? If the answer is anyone but your future employer (including yourself), perhaps you should cut it. Also, requesting an outside opinion from a trusted colleague or mentor can be extremely helpful in the editing process.

While beliefs vary on how long a resume should be – and the appropriate resume length will change from job seeker to job seeker – it can be agreed upon that concision and clarity are essential. If you can fill two pages with stellar content, by all means, use a two-page resume. If you can tell your whole story in one page and compel the reader to interview you, even better.