You've probably heard the phrase, "Time to dust off the ol' resume." Whether you're currently looking for a job or not, it's always good to have an up-to-date resume ready. 

Gary Burnison, the CEO of Korn Ferry, a leading headhunting and talent selection/hiring firm, shared in June on CNBC's Make It what he loved about the best resume he ever saw. It wasn't the astonishing credentials within it, he said, but that it had these six things going for it.

1. It was easy to read.

Burnison said the resume was two pages long (necessary if you have over 10 years of experience), was well organized with plenty of white space to contrast the company names in bold, and had italicized titles with job details in bullet points, all with an easy-to-read font and nary a typo. Simple. Easy to engage with.  

Having seen my share of resumes running a Procter & Gamble recruiting team for 10 years, I can say that simple resumes with "less to say" were more memorable than jam packed resumes with a lot to say, just because they were easier to read. You can't remember what you can't read.

2. It told a clear story of progression.

The best-resume submitter had a career journey that was easy to track, enabling Burnison to see what he called the "staircase pattern" of career growth: no missing periods of time unexplained and a clear before-and-after from top to bottom (with the most recent position at the top).

The best resumes I've seen also told a story of progression. The trajectory came across as warranted and worthy of serious consideration.  

3. Job responsibilities were illuminated by accomplishments.

Anyone can tell you what their job responsibilities were. Guaranteed, though, you won't remember five minutes after they tell you--unless they make those duties memorable by highlighting what they achieved in each.

Burnison gives a great example of the difference. Don't say "Led marketing and sales team." Say "Supervised marketing and sales team and achieved 15 percent annual growth versus .5 percent budget."

When I was running a recruiting team, if the accomplishments (versus the responsibilities) were impressive enough, the applicant got an interview. In person, I always probed to make sure the applicant's accomplishments were something that would not have happened without them

4. It was without exaggeration or untruths.

Burnison said the best resume he ever saw also included something I admittedly hadn't thought about before, links to the candidate's LinkedIn page and professional website to make it easy to double-check the claims made on the resume.

Fact checking and references happen every time, so the truth is the only thing that will set you free (from the job you want to leave).

5. It used action verbs, not clichés.

Nothing made my eyes glaze over faster when I was reading resumes than when I saw standard language like "team player," or "ambitious," or "creative." Again, Burnison offers an alternative example. Instead of "excellent communicator," say "presented at face-to-face client meetings and spoke at college recruiting events."

I've found that action words help you to visualize the candidate in, well, action. You'd rather have the interviewer picturing you in action than not, no?

6. It came via a recommendation.

Hands down, when someone can lower the risk for you as a recruiter, you'll take the help. Resumes that come to you via referral will definitely make it to the top of the pile.

Burnison goes so far as to say you shouldn't even submit a resume "cold." Instead, do whatever it takes to meet someone in that company, make connections, and then leverage that connection to get your resume on the desk of the decider.

Net: It might be time to resume updating that resume.

Published on: Aug 20, 2019
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