As a professional recruiter, I have seen thousands of resumes and I am absolutely certain that more than once I’ve missed out on a great candidate because of a resume that was not formatted thoughtfully (I blame myself but I am only human). In fact, not understanding the power of formatting is one of the most common mistakes I see people make on their resumes. The reason is because most people think it’s a matter of aesthetics or personal preference and that whoever they send their resume to is actually going to read it in detail. THE REALITY IS MOST HIRING MANAGERS AND RECRUITERS DON’T READ RESUMES unless they get their attention during the initial 5-10 second scan,SO A VISUALLY ACCESSIBLE FORMAT CAN BE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GETTING A JOB VERSUS NOT EVEN GETTING AN INTERVIEW.
HOW MOST PEOPLE APPROACH THE ISSUE OF FORMATTING
Most people look at formatting a resume as a way to make it appear nice and neat and have some kind of structure and flow to it. Those things are definitely part of it, and an important part. You certainly can’t present a resume that is visually difficult to follow and appears that the author took no effort in thinking about it from the reader’s perspective.
So resume authors make nice sections and bold the names of their employers, italicize titles, and underline the headings of each section (Professional Experience, Education, Summary, etc.). And that is the extent of their thinking on the matter. It makes for a nice and neat presentation, and it is absolutely essential, but does it get the attention of the hiring manager or internal recruiter who doesn’t have a firm grasp on the job or who the ideal candidate is? Remember, whoever is screening resumes is probably dealing with an overwhelmingly large volume and after looking at three resumes in a row their eyes glaze over. The possibility of an all-star candidate falling through the cracks is very real.
HOW EVERYONE SHOULD APPROACH THE ISSUE OF FORMATTING
Let me propose an alternative approach. Keep the clean lines and easily distinguishable sections that make your resume inviting, but use bold, italics, all caps, or underlined words or phrases to DRAW THE READER’S ATTENTION TO THE KEY THINGS ON YOUR RESUME THAT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR PER THE JOB DESCRIPTION. Use these tools to walk the reader through your resume after you’ve caught their attention at the top of the first page. If they’re looking for a Master’s Degree in Accounting and 5 years of experience with a public company, list that as the headline of your resume in your Summary or Professional Profile section and bold those words so they see it immediately. Is there a specific experience requirement that a viable candidate must possess that you just happen to have? Highlight it. Did you get promoted faster than your peers or have an accomplishment that you’re proud of that may give you the edge over another candidate? Underline it. Did you work for a company that is relatively unknown but by doing so means you would be a logical choice for the job you’re going after because of its size, industry, or award-winning reputation for leadership development? List it in all capital letters. Or whatever. Find a way to make it stand out while also looking uniform and nice.
YOUR GOAL IS TO WALK THE READER THROUGH YOUR RESUME SO HE OR SHE CLEARLY SEES THAT YOUR SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE MATCH WHAT THEY THEMSELVES HAVE SAID THEY VALUE PER THE JOB DESCRIPTION.
If you take the time to tailor your resume to the job description of the job you are targeting (assuming you can do so truthfully) and you use this formatting trick, you will not only get more interviews but you will also make a strong first impression on the hiring manager or recruiter, which will give you momentum throughout the entire hiring process.
About The CSP Group
Based in St. Louis with offices in San Diego and searches performed nationwide for companies of all sizes and industries, the CSP Group prides itself on uncovering the very best candidates for the most well defined positions, drawing upon their own personal experience as senior level Finance and Accounting professionals to uncover and convert passive potential hires into excited, motivated candidates. We represent our clients with commitment and integrity while also building and placing great value on our reputation amongst the strongest and most upwardly mobile candidates in every market segment and geographic region we serve.