This blog provides insight into what human resources professionals are looking for in a resume. Hopefully this information will be useful as you craft your resume and tailor it for specific jobs.
First and foremost, your resume is a marketing and branding tool that shows your experience, expertise, and other relevant information. This document should be concise and focused, and should tell a story about your background. The reader forms an opinion about you, positive or negative, based on what they see.
Resumes should tell a story. The person reading your resume is looking to see how you have developed over time, what skills you have learned, and the challenges you have tackled. A resume is not a comprehensive accounting of your life’s work. Instead, a resume hits the high points.
What critical information does the hiring manager need to know about you? A typical resume should provide a detailed yet easy to read summary of your accomplishments in just one to two pages. For some, the ability to communicate effectively and efficiently is a challenge. However, in the workplace, communication is a valuable commodity. A cluttered, wordy resume simply says, I am unorganized, inefficient, and a poor communicator. It’s that simple. This is certainly not the image the typical job seeker wants to portray and not what the hiring manager wants to see. A well written, succinct and easy to read resume, on the other hand, demonstrates professionalism and attention to detail. This is the type of person that companies want to hire.
Tailor your resume for the job. When the same generic resume is submitted for multiple, often significantly different positions, it says the applicant is not serious enough about the position. Readers of untailored resumes generally put these into the “no call back pile” in lieu of someone who took the time (and therefore appears more serious) to tailor their document. Tailoring a resume can be as simple as including information, such as research techniques, from the job description when you have this experience or highlighting your therapeutic experience, i.e. oncology, when you apply to oncology focused companies. Don’t assume the company representative will know that you have these skills just based on your degree or previous title.
If you apply for a bench scientist role, you should highlight research and technical skills since these are critically important to this type of job. On the other hand, if you are a scientist applying for a business focused role, in addition to your scientific skills, you should focus on other experiences including business experience/exposure, communication, leadership, management, etc. If you apply for a business role with a technical resume, you will probably be overlooked.
Formatting matters. Lastly, Formatting and ease of reading is critically important. The font should be legible, i.e. not size 7 font to ensure that you can fit every last detail. Bullet points should be aligned, and be the same size and color. All of the font should be the same style. The resume should be either 1 or 2 pages, but not 1 and ¼ page. That just shows that you are not detail oriented or particular enough to get everything to fit into a single page or two full pages.
Remember, HR professionals generally spend 20-30 seconds on each initial resume they review due to the volume of resumes they receive. Make this time count when they get to yours!