Three Simple Resume Tips

The resume is a ubiquitous job search tool. It's used at job fairs, interviews, networking events and in applying to jobs. It's formatted to be a plain paper document, designed to be a creative statement, or translated to LinkedIn and other websites for online networking. And because of the resume's omnipresence in our job searches, it's essential to get it right.

Here are three very simple resume tips to help you maximize the impact of this all-important document.

1) Be the first resume an employer receives. If you're searching for jobs online, use notification tools to be instantly notified when a new job that matches your interests is posted. Recruiters generally stop looking for candidates when they find what they need, so if you aren't one of the first applicants, your chances of being selected drop dramatically.

Most job search websites offer email or text message alerts when new jobs are posted which match your criteria. And some even offer Twitter feeds for all their new job listings, so there are several options to learn about jobs quickly, and therefore apply first. The early bird often does get the worm -- or at least a job interview which gets them closer to the worm.

2) Format your resume so a computer can read it. If you have a fancy, creative, unique-looking resume, by all means, mail it into the company and hand it out at job fairs. Even post it on your website for people to download.

But if you're applying to one of the many cumbersome applicant tracking systems (ATS) used by companies large and small, use a simple resume to apply. Here are some simple formatting tips:

  • Avoid graphics and special characters. Applicant tracking systems analyze your information and sort it into different categories, and it simply doesn't understand fancy formatting.
  • Choose web-safe fonts like Arial, Georgia, Impact, and Tahoma.
  • Make your skills section as comprehensive as possible. Employers search for specific technical or specialized skills. Spell out skills and also include industry-specific abbreviations or acronyms.

3) Don't lie. Even a little bit. You might not even realize you're lying, if you haven't updated your resume since you first created it way back when. Most people who embellish their resume do so very early on in their careers, but once the lie is in place, they find it very hard to eliminate.

For example, Marilee Jones, former Dean of Admissions for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), listed both a bachelor's AND master's degrees on her resume despite never having earned either. Jones was let go from MIT after a 28-year career because of her falsified resume. Said Jones, "I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to MIT 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my résumé when I applied for my current job or at any time since."

By following these three tips, you'll be sure to land on the top of the resume pile, with a resume that is easily read and understood by computer and human alike, without having to worry about keeping up any unnecessary fibs over the course of your career.