Your resume is usually the first thing that a recruiter or hiring manager sees, and it may be the only information we have when selecting candidates to interview. Since it’s such an important document, it’s always wise to spend some extra time making sure your resume tells the story of why you’re a great candidate.
As a recruiter for Microsoft Retail Stores, I read lots of resumes for jobs ranging from sales associates to tech experts, inventory, trainers, community liaisons, and managers. (Check out our jobs at www.microsoftstorejobs.com!) I could go on for days about my personal preferences for resume formatting, and every recruiter is different. However, these four tips can be considered universally useful:
Tip #1: Read the job description carefully. Are you sure this is the right job for you? Be sure you understand what the company is looking for and confirm that you have relevant experience for this position. If you have a variety of past experiences, emphasize relevant experiences and accomplishments on the page so the recruiter can easily assess your qualifications. If you don’t have experience in the exact role or industry, include similar responsibilities or achievements and demonstrate on how those skills might translate. For example, list any technical certifications if you’re not currently in an IT role, or describe fundraising or volunteering experience if your retail sales background is light.
Tip #2: Be specific…but don’t get lost in the details. It can be difficult to find the balance between providing enough information and going overboard. Your resume should tell us where you’ve worked, what you did in each position, and how you made an impact. You don’t need to include every detail, but if you were promoted, won a sales award, or created an awesome, budget-saving process, tell us about it! Same goes for a cover letter (which, for me, is optional): Do introduce yourself and note your interest in Microsoft, don’t recap your entire resume.
Tip #3: Think like a recruiter. I spend a lot of time reading resumes, and the ones that make the best first impression for me are easy to read and tell me your story. What does that look like?
A. Easy to read: The most important part of your resume is the content, of course, but out-of-the-box formatting can make it difficult to follow your career history. It can also distract the reader from the content itself. It’s one thing if you’re applying for a design-related position where presentation is super important, but for most positions you’ll be fine with commonly used fonts (anything like Calibri, Segoe, or old-school Times New Roman is nice), standard formatting (do you really need an infographic?), and minimal use of color.
B. Tell the story: I like to see a chronological list of your previous jobs including your start and end dates (month and year are fine, no need to pinpoint the day) including any promotions. This helps me understand the expertise you built in each role and think about your transitions from one role to the next. How far back you go depends on how much experience you have: for a business resume, one page or maybe two is great. If listing every position takes three pages or more, maybe list only the past 10 years, or the positions you’ve had since becoming a manager. (Academic CVs are a different story!) I was asked whether education or employment is more important, and that depends: if you’re in school or a recent grad, definitely include school info. If you’ve been out of school for several years, still include it (especially if you temporarily left work to complete your degree) but specific information about clubs and courses is unnecessary.
Tip #4: Proofread, proofread, proofread! Before you submit your resume, ask yourself these questions:
A. Does my resume include my full name, email address, and phone number, and am I using a business-appropriate email address? (Best to set up an account with your full name for job applications, and save bikinigirl206@____.com for your friends.)
B. Have I listed my current location (city and state)?
C. Are my employment dates accurate? (Please include the month and year of your start and end dates.)
D. Most importantly: Has at least one other person reviewed this? Not only can a reviewer let you know if you’ve made a strong case for your fit for this role, it’s also easy to miss your own typos. Spellcheck is unreliable–if you meant “manager” but type “manger,” spellcheck won’t catch it! Typos can be distracting, and incorrect contact info can prevent us from inviting you to interview.
We hope these tips are helpful, and thanks to everyone on Twitter for your suggestions! Every recruiter and hiring manager is different, and each of us could probably write our own list of guidelines. What are your favorite resume tips, and what has worked for you in the past? Come find me at @EricaRecruits and join the discussion!