Land Your Dream Job With These Key Resume Tips From Alise Saunders

Land Your Dream Job With These Key Resume Tips From Alise Saunders

VENTEUR spoke with Alise Saunders, former human resource director and controller for Hilton Hotel Corp, and Regional Director of Revenue Management, about what makes a resume stand out. Saunders is now the owner of Alise Saunders Financial Services. She is a bookkeeper, business coach, blogger, and digital nomad, traveling and working virtually from around the world. 

Good Resumes

What can job seekers do to craft resumes that help them stand out from the crowd, and why?

Make your resume stand out by putting your contact details in one or more colored boxes or with a simple design. 

For example, you can put your name in a colored box on the left, your contact details in a smaller font, and a different colored box on the right. 

A colored box with a white font helps your name fly off the paper in a sea of white and black resumes. 

Perhaps a design around your name and contact information would be just as eye-catching. Don't use fancy fonts that aren't readable. 

Make sure your resume is aesthetically pleasing and easy to read.

Most people don't stand out on a resume in this section because they feel boastful talking about themselves.

This is not the time to be shy! 

Talented people never mention their best qualities and skills on a resume because they think it's boastful. 

This is THE moment to talk about how truly unique you are, articulately and intelligently. For example, instead of saying, "I work with lots of departments to create a plan of action," you can say, "I create strategic alignment across all departments."

This subtle change in wording can make your resume stand out from others, which will appear simplistic in comparison.

If you have had several promotions, list the company in bold, with the dates you have worked for the entire company. 

Then underneath that company heading, list the positions, property, location, and dates of that job, starting with the most recent on top. 

This will help the hiring manager see that you're not a job hopper. You're drawing their attention instead to how loyal and valuable you are. I've seen hiring managers decline resumes because it looked like the person was changing jobs too often.

In reality, the candidate didn't correctly showcase their many promotions within the same company. 

Make your resume clear to read by separating the resume into sections such as executive summary, areas of expertise, professional experience, awards/nominations, etc. The sections should be bolded, indented, or centered on separating them from other sections. 

How important is it to include achievements using numbers, metrics, dollars, and quantities wherever possible, and why?

Suppose you were in charge of a renovation project. In that case, it's best to say a multi-million dollar renovation project or give the exact figure. However, you don't want to quantify every item on the resume. So instead, select your notable achievements, or those related directly to critical skills, in the job description and add metrics to those items. 

How targeted should resumes be to the job for which a candidate is applying, and why?

I recommend you speak to each job in the resume because the hiring manager will quickly see their keywords. 

For example, if they are looking for someone with attention to detail and it says that in the job description, include those words on your resume. If the hiring manager sees enough of the specific skills they are looking for mentioned in your resume, then psychologically, they will feel that you are a potential candidate, as long as there aren't any concerns in your resume they can't overcome like lots of jobs with little employment time at each one. 

Many people add that they are "results-driven" on their resumes. But does this help candidates when being evaluated?

It depends. 

The person reading the resume is a person too, so it's hard to know if they need things spelled out like saying "results-driven." 

Either way, you must showcase the results you've achieved. 

For example, an awards section on the resume shows that you've achieved results or you wouldn't have been awarded. In addition, promotions within the same company, financial stats such as savings to budget or income over budget, or other statistics of key attributes or skills can showcase how you are results-driven. 

LinkedIn is often overlooked. 

It's never a good look when the LinkedIn profile is outdated. 

Having people validate skills on LinkedIn can provide proof of skill demonstration. 

Applicant tracking systems are often used to streamline the hiring process. How can job seekers position their resumes for the best chances of success when such systems are being used by the companies they are applying to? 

Tailor your resume to the keywords in the job posting. For example, use headings on your resume like Work Experience, Awards, etc. 

Use standard fonts and only use consistent text formatting in your resume, avoiding charts or images. 

Is holding an executive position for a long time or demonstrating a solid progression and career over time more important, and why?

Moving from one company to another, otherwise known as job hopping, will cause your resume to be declined. However, demonstrating career progression over time shows that your skills are fresh, current with the latest methods and technology, and you achieve results. Being in the same position for a decade or more could lead the hiring manager to think that you're comfortable, passive, and lacking the ability to adapt to change unless recognition and proof are in the resume to show otherwise. 

How important are specific keywords in resumes, what do these keywords look like, how should they be used, and why?

Keywords will help get past AI resume readers and tracker systems. 

When you use keywords from the job description in your resume, the hiring manager will look for those keywords. 

Even unconsciously, when they spot them, they are more likely to feel that you are a solid fit, as long as there are no red flags in your resume to overpower that connection. 

How should resumes be designed, and why?

Make your resume stand out by putting your contact details in one or more colored boxes or with a simple design. 

For example, you can put your name in a colored box on the left, your contact details in a smaller font, and a different colored box on the right. 

A colored box with a white font helps your name fly off the paper in a sea of white and black resumes. Perhaps a design around your name and contact information would be just as eye-catching. Use standard fonts. Make sure your resume is aesthetically pleasing and easy to read. 

Create an executive summary section at the top of the resume comprising only two sentences. This should summarize your experience, such as years in the industry, your area of skill, and top accomplishments.

The next section is about areas of expertise—bullet points list your skills, projects, positions, areas of expertise, etc.

Most people don't add this to their resume. 

Hiring managers are busy. 

They want bullet point information because it's easy to read and can scan a resume.

This section provides keywords that the hiring manager may look for. 

For example, on my resume, I have positions that include Corporate, Regional, Central and Area Director, and Executive Committee Member, so if they are looking for these levels of experience, I've checked their box. In my resume, I list experience in the corporate, spa, urban, luxury, historic, group and transient focused, branded, and independent markets. Again, this can allow me to check several boxes. I would list these with commas on the same line and not bullet points each, as this would make the resume too long.

The next section, professional experience, is the most important.

Yet, many applicants overcomplicate their resumes, especially for promotions within the same company. Ideally, list the companies you've worked for, with the start and end dates (month and year only), your job title, and a bullet point list of your duties, responsibilities, and accomplishments. 

Believe it or not, the best way to stand out is to format it clearly and consistently. 

If an applicant didn't take the time to ensure these details were correct, why should I assume they would be detail oriented with the job I was hiring for? 

Here are a few areas of focus:

  1. Bold the company, dates, and job title.
  2. Have the company, dates, and job title be in a slightly larger font than the job duties and responsibilities.
  3. Make sure that for each new company, you add the same font size, bold, font name, and spacing.
  4. Spacing, indentations, bold, font name, and font size are essential. Make sure that these all match across the entire resume. Be consistent in your application of these elements.
  5. The job responsibility section should be short sentences because the hiring manager doesn't have time to read a novel. You want your most interesting details and facts to be presented concisely.

Suppose you have held job titles that have a lot of similarities. In the current job, list all aspects of your responsibilities and duties. However, in past jobs, focus on what made them different from the one you currently hold. 

For example, if in your current job you are responsible for generating revenue in five positions you've held with the same company, go into more detail in the most recent job. Still, in the previous titles, you could focus on strategies you used, how many people you managed, or projects you handled. 

This avoids saying the same thing repeatedly and allows you to highlight other aspects of your expertise.

Have an award, nomination, and recognition section, if applicable. Bullet points to any award, nomination, achievement, or recognition you receive for the work that you have earned in your career, with the most recent on top. If you have a long list, focus on the most current and impressive, and leave the rest to discuss in the interview.

What personal information should be on a job seeker's resume, and why?

The heading of the resume should include your name, address, phone number, and email address. The email address should be your name, for example, 

It would be unwise to have an email address: or 

It's essential to name your resume document after your full name. Hiring managers notice details like if your resume is called Smith Revised 2010 (when the year is 2022). This detail could make you stand out in a way that isn't ideal for landing the job. 

Make sure the email address is one that you monitor and that you can receive calls and voice messages at that phone number.

How long should resumes be, and why?

Gone are the days of a one-page resume for distinguished careers; however, the one-page rule applies to hourly candidates with minimal experience. What makes you stand out is a well-formatted, clear, and concise resume that uses keywords directly from the job description detailing how you are the best candidate for the job. 

If you are a highly skilled person in your industry with a lengthy career, it is impossible to show the breadth of your work on one page. However, no one will read paragraphs of information, so you must be to the point. 

The resume must be formatted consistently, including margins, punctuation, bold and non-bold sections, spelling, and grammar. 

Bad Resumes

What are three common mistakes job seekers typically make when applying for jobs, and how can these mistakes be avoided?

1. Repetitive Skills

If you've held several jobs, and the experience is similar, list all the job responsibilities in the most current job title, but focus on what made that job different from the past jobs so you can showcase as many of your talents and skills as possible. 

2. Inconsistent Formatting

I cannot express how many resumes I've reviewed where one heading was bold, indented, with a dash, but the next heading wasn't. The hiring manager will determine quickly that if you aren't detailed enough to match the formatting throughout your resume, you're not detail-oriented enough for the job. 

3. Listing Promotions Within the Same Company Separately

When hiring managers look through resumes, it's easy to think someone has moved companies and jobs a lot and decides that's not the consistent employment they are looking for. When you list the company with all the work dates, each job title with employment dates, followed by the corresponding skills and responsibilities, they will see the candidate as valuable, loyal, and skilled.

When do resume templates with excessive colors, graphics, and multiple columns start to work against job seekers, and why?

I recommend a splash of color at the top of the resume in the personal information section, avoiding charts, graphs, and multiple columns because AI resume trackers could flag this–it's no longer aesthetically pleasing. It distracts the reader, actually detracting from your skills and experience. It just comes off as trying too hard. 

Avoiding Toxicities

At what point do job seekers out of work become toxic in the eyes of recruiters, and how can they reduce their likelihood of becoming harmful over extended periods?

Applicants can be seen as toxic if they have been out of work for 6+ months. However, suppose the resume and skills are compelling enough. In that case, they might get a phone call and should expect to provide a reasonable answer for the employment gap. 

Suppose the response includes taking care of a sick family member. In that case, that can go one of two ways. It is seen as an understandable gap or a concern that it will happen again, and the manager will be hiring for the position soon. 

The answer explaining the gap should be well articulated, painting the best picture. 

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