Ten tips to guarantee your résumé will be a keeper

Lynn Celmer

The first 10 seconds a recruiter peers at the résumé of a perspective hire is important, especially when they might give it only a total of 20 seconds of attention.

Recruiters go through stacks of résumés daily and spend less than 30 seconds looking at each one, according to Avery Williams, coordinator of career development at the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College.

“Also many employers are now using electronic methods to scan résumés for key words, so that also cuts down on the time spent on them,” Williams said.

With the multitude of candidate résumés shuffled across their desk, staying in the maybe file rather than the round file is important.

Williams gives these tips for résumé building.

• Make sure your résumé is grammatically perfect because it shows that you pay attention to detail. Your résumé can be thought of as the first assignment that you will turn in for an employer and your quality of work will reflect on their decision.

• Be as specific as possible. Employers want to know what you have done and accomplished at previous positions.

• Make sure your career objective meets the employer’s needs spot on.

• Avoid using a résumé template. The content can make it stand out, but so can its visual appeal.

• It is not necessary to list references or that references are available upon request. It is assumed that if an employer requests personal references from a job seeker, they will be able to produce a list.

• Be conservative when designing your résumé. You will get noticed for your skills, not because of the paper you are using.

• Don’t load your résumé with irrelevant work history from 10 or 12 years ago. Only include the most critical information that relates to the position you seek.

• Don’t hesitate to include your grade-point average on your résumé if it is good. Some employers will assume if you don’t include a GPA on a résumé that it is not good.

• Fresh graduates can include information such as graduating with honors, academic awards, scholarships, etc. However, once you get about five years of work experience under your belt, educational information takes a back seat to the practical work experience you have gained.

• Previous employment that may seem irrelevant to the position applied for may be included on a résumé. If you don’t have any job experience in a certain field, the idea is to highlight transferable skills that you gained at previous positions.

Williams added that the purpose of a résumé is not to get a job; its purpose is to get you the interview.

Also, a résumé will often get tossed into the trash if it shows the applicant has a history of job hopping, according to Patty Warning, area manager for Banner Personnel Inc.

“If a recruiter sees that a person has been at this job for two years and that job for two years, that usually signals that something is not right,” Warning said. “Especially if they have a 10-year job history with a long list of jobs and they’ve only been at each job for two years. Companies want to see that an employee has been with a company for a while.”

Warning added that sometimes job hopping can be explained in a cover letter.

“Sometimes people have good reasons for hopping jobs, such as if your last two companies went through downsizing, that could be explained in your cover letter,” she said.

Warning cautioned people to never lie on their résumé.

“It will always come back to bite you,” she said

As far as a cover letter, job seekers should tailor it to the specific position, as opposed to a standard cover that a thousand other applicants send in, according to Williams.

“From what I’ve heard from employers, a cover letter can go either way,” Williams said. “Some employers may use a cover letter to determine a candidates writing skills and another may look at a cover only if there are too many candidates.”

Job seekers should put far more time into their résumé than their cover letter, according to Eric Winegardner, director of product adoption for the job search Web site Monster.com.

“If you are applying for an entry level position, your cover letter does matter, because it is one more way for you to set yourself apart from the crowd,” Winegardner said.

“General cover letters have no place in today’s contemporary recruiting. Competition is fierce and you are being judged from the second you send that résumé.”