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Résumé Writing Tips- Keep it Concise and Relevant

March 25, 2020 by Kelli Long

Keep your resume relevant and concise

According to Glassdoor and numerous other resources, hiring managers and recruiters spend about six seconds reviewing a résumé. This means that your résumé needs to be concise and relevant. It needs to grab the reader’s attention quickly. For many job seekers, the hardest part of résumé writing is pairing it down. What do you include? What do you exclude? Should you omit education or experience? What accomplishments should you include?

If you are struggling with developing a concise and relevant résumé, below are some tips to help you determine what to add and what to remove!

Step one- Identify the RIGHT professional accomplishments!

Make a list of your professional accomplishments; any and all of them. Read your list at least twice. Then, highlight the accomplishments that are relevant to the job for which you are applying. Cross-reference the job posting to ensure you are actually highlighting only relevant ones. Those are the accomplishments that need to shine on your résumé (Page 1)!

Pro tips

  • Give yourself permission to delete the accomplishments you did not highlight. It does not mean they are not impressive. It does not mean you should not be proud of them. All it means is they are LESS RELEVANT to the job for which you are applying.
  • If you are struggling to come up with accomplishments, pull out previous performance reviews. They can be great resources. If you don’t have any performance reviews and you can’t think of any accomplishments, move to step two and then come back to this. The order of the steps does not matter. Completing other sections may trigger your memory so you can come back to this step later.
  • Use formatting to make these accomplishments stand out in your résumé. Depending on how many accomplishments you have, you may include them in one section or under each relevant job.
    • If you have an “Accomplishments” section as a separate category, put it on page 1 and list three or four accomplishments.
    • If you list accomplishments under each job, use formatting to draw attention to them and aim for three or four accomplishments under each job.

Step two- List your experience and responsibilities!

Make a list of your primary duties for each job. For each duty listed, ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Why did I do this task?
  2. What did this task accomplish OR what was its purpose?
  3. Is this task relevant to the job or company for which I am applying?

If you answer “no” to question three, scratch through that duty. That duty provides no relevance to the job for which you are applying, which means the hiring manager is not likely to find value in it. The remaining duties are the ones you should include in your résumé. Make sure you demonstrate the value of the duty in your résumé; don’t just list tasks.

Pro tips

The above will ensure your content is relevant. You still need it to be concise and accomplishment focused. The below tips will help keep your content concise:

  • Use bullets instead of lengthy paragraphs.
  • Use formatting to highlight accomplishments and/or separate them from duties or narrative text.
  • Keep bullets and sentences to less than 25 words. Tip, if you highlight the sentence in MS Word, it will tell you how many words the sentence contains!
  • Limit each job to five sentences and/or five bullets (depending on the format of your résumé), but no more than five of each. Concise is critical!
  • Barring a few exceptions, it is appropriate to only include the most recent 10 years’ work history.

Step three- What education and training demonstrate the most value?

Make a list of your degrees, certifications, and professional training. Highlight the ones that are relevant to the job for which you are applying. Those are the ones that should be in your résumé.

Pro tips:

  • If you have an expired certification that is relevant to the job, list it but clearly note its status (expired, inactive, etc.).
  • If you list professional training, include the organization that provided the training to add validity.
  • If you completed courses yet not a degree, make this clear so there is no question of misrepresentation.
  • Remove education dates if completed more than 5-10 years ago.
  • If you have an advanced degree in which the subject area is not relevant, consider leaving off the subject area or listing the college/department area instead of the major.

Step four- What else should be included or removed?

Use the same process from the above steps to evaluate other categories on your résumé, such as Honors & Awards, Skills Tables, Competencies, etc. Make a comprehensive list and highlight the relevant content. It might be hard but LEAVE OFF THE REST. If it is not relevant, it adds minimal, if any, value to your résumé for the specific job for which you are applying (yes, you have to tweak your résumé for every unique position or category of positions).

While a one-page résumé is no longer the standard, it is still important to be concise and relevant. Few people will read a six-page résumé. Remember, a résumé is a marketing tool to get you an interview. The interview gets you the job. Your résumé is your “sales brochure”. Tell the manager what he/she NEEDS to know, not everything about you. If you were considering a landscaper to make your yard beautiful, would you hire the landscaper who brought you a brochure about his vinyl siding skills? Probably not.

Review your résumé and make sure it tells a story. Effective résumé writing showcases your value and successes. One of my favorite quotes is “demonstrative not declarative.”

YOUR RÉSUMÉ SHOULD BE DEMONSTRATIVE NOT DECLARATIVE!

For more advice on résumé writing or job search tips, follow our blog and social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). Need customized résumé writing help? Contact us.

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