Resume Tips from Professional Recruiters

As professional recruiters, Avanta is often the first point of contact between job seekers and employers. We review hundreds of resumes each week, and we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. We’ve compiled these resume tips to help you avoid mistakes and land that career you’ve always wanted.

What makes a great resume?

The purpose of a resume is to prove that you are worthy of the next stage in the hiring process: the job interview. It’s not meant to be an autobiography, nor a record of everything you’ve ever done. It’s a piece of highly targeted marketing intended to get your name on the shortlist.   

A good resume contains information relevant to the job for which you’re applying. This means you will need to create a different resume for career opportunity. A one-size-fits-all approach will not get optimal results. Recruiters only look at your resume for one minute at the most, meaning you have to catch their attention right away

How many pages should it be?

If you pay attention to only one of these resume tips, let it be this: your resume should be no longer than four pages. Less is more–two pages is much better than three unless you’re a very senior director or CEO, in which case it’s acceptable to have up to four.

What do professional recruiters look for?

An executive recruiter will have a clear idea of the background and skills the position requires. The first thing they review is your last employer and position. If that experience is relevant, they’ll look more closely to see what other experience you have.

For best results, you should present this information clearly and immediately. This will improve your chances of being selected for an interview.

How should I organize my resume?

Resumes often fall into one of two categories:

Time-based resumes are the traditional and preferred layout. If you’re following this format, arrange your career history with your current or most recent job first and work back in time. Ensure the job title and employer are clear, and expand on your job details. Jobs held more than 15 years ago should be listed very briefly.

Skills-based resumes are organized around your skills. These may be more appropriate for someone who has moved jobs a lot or has significant experience from other areas, such as volunteer work. This style of resume is also useful for candidates contemplating a major career switch because they can put their previous experience in context and make it relevant to the job for which they’re applying. This format however, is not popular with recruiters.

What should the structure and layout look like?

The most relevant information should be listed first, including your name and employment history beginning with your most recent position. Your education, address, and other supporting information belong at the end. Don’t forget your contact information should the recruiter choose to contact you for an interview.

Unless you are applying for a position in a creative industry, it’s best to stick to a very clear and simple resume design. Keep in mind that your resume will be scanned quickly, and should be as clear and readable as possible. Using a consistent heading and subheading structure is a good idea.

What font should I use?

Choose a clear and straightforward font. Arial and Times New Roman are both good choices. Do not use more than two font families in a document and never use fonts smaller than 10pts. Ensure you have enough space for the reader to breathe. Don’t try to squish everything onto the page–it will be hard to read and make your resume appear unprofessional.

What should I leave off my resume?

Whatever you do, don’t lie about your accomplishments. It’s acceptable to leave out less than impressive facts, but don’t make up stories. Chances are, you will be discovered, dismissed and never considered again by the recruiter.

Things that don't belong on a resume:

  • Birthplace
  • Nationality
  • Marital status
  • Family details
  • Primary school details
  • High school grades
  • Failed exams
  • Hobbies or interests (unless you’re an Olympic athlete or bestselling author, for example)

What’s the best way to email my resume?

If you’re emailing your resume, ensure you have anti-virus software that prevents the risk of sending a virus with your attachment and having your resume quarantined and never read.

Microsoft Word is the most commonly accepted format. If you don’t have Word, send your resume as an RTF document. Do not send other formats that might not be compatible with most computers, like .wps, for example.

What’s the best language to use in my resume?

When writing your resume, we recommend you:

  • Use bullet points
  • Keep sentences short
  • Use active, not passive verbs
  • Stick to facts, not opinions
  • Use standard, widely recognized job titles, not company-specific ones

A note on opening statements: beginning your resume with an opening statement full of flowery words about you is not necessary. About half of the resumes that come through Avanta have some kind of statement like this and most of the professional recruiters on our team don’t bother to read them.

Should I include a summary?

Space on your resume is precious, so including a summary is up to you. Many candidates feel it presents a useful overall snapshot of their skills, but you should keep a few tips in mind if you decide to go this route:

  • Keep it short: recruiters will only spend at most a minute reading your resume so keep it brief and avoid excess information.
  • Keep it factual: don't describe yourself as a "hands-on proactive team player with business acumen and entrepreneurial flair who strives to exceed"–just state the pertinent facts.
  • Get to the point: considering recruiters look at hundreds of resumes, presenting the most important points right away is your best bet.

I’m ready to submit my resume!

If your resume is polished and ready to go, search available Job Opportunities and apply online.

Good luck!