VENTEUR spoke with Andrew Fennell, who has a decade of experience in global recruitment for some of the world's largest brands, such as Barclays, Deloitte, EasyJet, and Mercedes, about creating a winning resume. Fennell works closely with recruiters and HRs to keep up with industry trends. He now leads StandOut CV, where he helps people secure their next step on the career ladder with resume writing, careers, and recruitment advice.
What can job seekers do to craft resumes that help them stand out from the crowd, and why?
Candidates that stand out have created a personalized resume that is hyper-relevant to the role. Job seekers should review job descriptions in depth, looking for minute details such as the specific everyday activities referenced in their resumes.
Ultimately, resumes that don't have relevant experience, skills, and keywords won't appear suitable to a recruiter and will likely be ignored.
It's better to apply to fewer jobs with personalized resumes than to more jobs with standardized resumes.
How important is it to include achievements using numbers, metrics, dollars, and quantities wherever possible, and why?
It's essential to refer to achievements in terms of metrics and quantities. This could make the difference between your resume being deleted or being the key to an interview. However, you should ensure that the metrics effectively highlight your positive impact and why you should be the number one choice.
It's not enough to say that you're a good salesperson. You should back up such a claim with metrics, such as your quarterly figures. Employers want to see what kind of ROI they will get from candidates, so it's best to prove this with clear facts and figures.
How targeted should resumes be to the job for which a candidate is applying, and why?
A candidate would ideally create a new resume specific to each job application. Ultimately, if other candidates put forward personalized resumes and you don't, you're immediately in a weaker position.
To ensure resumes are targeted, the skills you reference should be the same as requested in the job description. If they've asked for specific qualifications, ensure they are visible in the resume and any skills with particular technology (think Adobe Suite for designers).
Many people add that they are "results-driven" on their resumes. But does this help candidates when being evaluated?
Results-driven is one of the top ten terms I advise candidates to avoid including in their resumes (team player and hardworking being a couple more examples). They're overused cliches that indicate a lack of thought on the candidate's part.
It's far better to use action verbs, emphasizing how you 'outperformed' targets or KPIs or 'beat records' in your region or company. Make it clear that you've achieved outstanding results because of your professional drive and commitment.
It should be easy to identify results-driven candidates, as they're the ones who include supporting numbers and statistics that show how many times they've got results in their past jobs.
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?
First of all, you should be sure to check the file type requested in the job description. While some may prefer to receive resumes in the .doc format, PDFs might also be expected. This is a surefire way to get your resume ignored.
The standard resume format will be the best choice for most applications, with traditional fonts used for a reader-friendly experience. Creative designs and lettering should generally be avoided for such reasons. Resumes should also be free of page footers, tables, and excessive formatting.
Is holding an executive position for a long time or demonstrating a solid progression and career over time more important, and why?
Evidence of extended career progression is likely better as it shows that you're committed and will stay with a company over the long term. Such evidence may also indicate your ambition, refusal to stagnate, willingness to learn, and other desirable traits. Commitment to a job and business is another way to show you are ambitious and driven without saying so.
How important are specific keywords in resumes, what do these keywords look like, how should they be used, and why?
You can and should repeat skills/attributes that are asked for in the job description. For example, you could mention that you're an "experienced accountant of over five years," where they have asked for as many years. Or you could say you are proficient with a sales software they have requested candidates to be comfortable with. This is particularly important as filters may well be set up to exclude those without specific experience.
That's not to say you should overthink the process and write for robots, though. On the contrary, prospective recruiters may see over-optimized writing as a red flag and a reflection of poor communication skills from the candidate.
How should resumes be designed, and why?
Each resume should be limited to two pages, with the following elements being included:
- Name, title, and location (if relevant)
- Professional profile
- Core skills
- Career summary (chronological)
- Education and qualifications
- Additional information (software if not covered in core skills, for example) and any relevant hobbies (think activism for a social justice role)
Easily-readable fonts such as Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, and Cambria are great choices. The body text should be kept to 10pt-14pt, with headers made a bit bigger for scanning (while not taking up too much resume real estate).
Your resume should have a streamlined appearance, with white space being used to good effect to improve readability. In addition, 1-inch page margins are recommended to give you enough space to write and recruiters to read.
Visual interest could be created by including muted grays, blues, and blacks. However, it would be best if you didn't go wild with color unless you're applying for a creative role and want to show your design capabilities.
What personal information should be on a job seeker's resume, and why?
It is illegal for employers to ask for things like your social security number, sexual orientation, beliefs, or marital status, so leave these out of the resume. Instead, you should put your name, location (this can help if relocation is possible), and email. You can also put your cell number to encourage quicker communication.
How long should resumes be, and why?
Two pages should be enough to cover the relevant details but not bore the prospective recruiter. This could be extended slightly if you have a wealth of experience sure to be of interest. However, the aim should still be to condense, given that your resume is likely to be skim-read.
What are three common mistakes job seekers typically make when applying for jobs, and how can these mistakes be avoided?
We often see job seekers making these mistakes:
- Padding out their resumes with filler words that don't explain their experiences or previous roles
- Going overboard with design elements in the attempt to stand out (multiple colors, selfies, and logos are a big no)
- Naming their resume documents with generic titles such as "resume.docx" and not including their names for easy identification and search on the recruiter's end.
When do resume templates with excessive colors, graphics, and multiple columns start to work against job seekers, and why?
Generally speaking, the bigger the company being applied to, the more harm can be done by the excessive inclusion of colors, graphics, and multiple columns. Stylized resumes might catch the attention of start-ups, potentially leading to conversations with influential staff members. Still, they are riskier regardless of the employer.
Graphic elements might make the resume hard to read, with possible differences in appearance when the outlines are opened on multiple devices. And it's all too easy to assemble design mistakes if you don't come from a highly creative background.
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 toxic over extended periods?
Toxic is a powerful word, and candidates shouldn't think of themselves as so. Most recruiters understand things happen and life plans change. However, career breaks should be explained as best you can, going into as much detail as you are comfortable with.
At the moment, prospective recruiters will generally appreciate the pandemic's impacts with some consideration and leeway.