I used to edit resumes professionally.

By far the biggest issue I saw candidates come in with was a resume that was far too long. For example, I was once presented with a six-page resume for a director-level person.

Six pages.

Fortunately for her, I was ruthless. I cut, I trimmed, I straight-up deleted entire sections.

She came back to me a few weeks later to let me know she'd gotten hired.

It turns out this resume-being-far-too-long thing is a common problem for not just me, but many, many recruiters and hiring managers. 

Those in a position to hire you don't want to see everything you've ever done in your entire life on your resume. What they want is a sense of who you are now, what you can offer, and what you accomplished at past positions that's relevant for what you're applying for now. 

A resume that's too long can get you passed over just as quickly as one that demonstrates a lack of experience. So don't put everything on your resume, but do put these five things on it:

1. Statistics

This cannot be overemphasized: recruiters and hiring managers love when you use numbers on your resume. In one study of over 350 recruiters, one of the biggest resume deal-breaker (that could cost candidates the job) was listed as "failure to demonstrate and quantify results."

Review your resume immediately to quantify as much as possible. For example, instead of "Wrote all marketing communication for fast-paced startup," quantify it: "Wrote 62 blogs and 169 Facebook and Instagram posts over the course of 10 months." 

Instead of "Managed comprehensive budget," quantify it: "managed $1.2M annual budget across 7 departments." 

Instead of "helped expand market in the Northeast region," quantify it: "expanded lead list from 57 to 153 in the Northeast region, and closed 20 new accounts within 7 months."

The more numbers you have on your resume, the more a recruiter or hiring manager gets a sense of what you've done in the past and how effectively you communicate now. 

2. Keywords

The use of applicant tracking software (machines used to screen resumes) has grown over 200 percent in the last one to two years. Nearly every single Fortune 500 company now uses some form of automation in the hiring process, whether AI-based or otherwise.

It's now critical that you include the right keywords in your resume. What are the right ones, you ask? A good rule of thumb is to scan the job descriptions of the positions you want, and steal from them outright. You can also do a quick search for "resume keywords in [your industry]", and work backwards from there.

Don't worry about being perfect or advanced, either. If you're looking for a position in marketing, keywords are going to include "Twitter", "Facebook", "Instagram", "social media", "creativity", and "post engagement." You don't need to include crazy buzzwords; the basics will do.

3. Competitors

According to Vicki Salemi, career expert for Monster.com, "Hiring managers often love to see that you've worked for a competitor. It can be an immediate green light with the understanding that if you're good enough for that company, you're good enough for us."

Don't feel intimidated about including your work for a well-placed company in the same industry.

4. Perfect spelling and grammar

You knew this was going to make the list. It's one of the easiest wins you can get when it comes to your resume--just have that really nitpicky friend of yours look it over (in my friend group, me).

5. Skip the objective statement--do an executive summary instead

Toss the objective statement at the top of your resume; it's outdated and ineffective. Or in the words of TopResume career coach Amanda Augustine, "We hate them because they are fluffy and filled with overused adjectives." (No one wants to hear about an "innovative team player and go-getter who creates synergy at every turn.")

Instead, you can include an executive summary, which is a three- to five-line "elevator pitch" that summarizes why you're qualified for the role. (Note: only do this if you're experienced enough to warrant it.)

It's also worth noting that getting a professional editor for your resume can be well worth in. In one study of 157 recruiters in New York City evaluating self-written vs. professionally-edited resumes, results showed that not only did the professionally-written versions get rated as more polished, but recruiters saw the candidates as worth a higher starting salary. 

The recruiters were also asked how confident they'd feel presenting the candidates to a hiring manager. Those with self-written resumes got a 39 percent rating; those with a professionally-written resume got a 57 percent rating.

Sometimes it's worth investing in how you come across.

Published on: Jul 17, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.