In the recruiting field, we're in a unique position to hear the questions and objections raised by employers in response to a candidate's resume. Left unanswered, the questions could mean the candidate doesn’t get called in for the interview. Most of these issues can be easily addressed with a few tweaks to your resume.
Here are most frequent questions I get from employers evaluating resumes:
1. Can you clarify the dates of employment? Employment date questions come up when you only list the years of employment. If you were in your last position for ten years, then including months probably is not necessary. If you’re a candidate who has moved companies every two or three years, which is becoming more the norm, it makes more sense to list the months of your employment on your resume.
Writing 2008-2009 could mean as little as one month or as much as two years. It's common to try to mask short-term employment by only stating the years, but employers know this trick. They might be concerned that you're intentionally hiding something before you have the chance to meet in-person and discuss your work history.
2. What type of job does the candidate want? I'm not a big fan of the objective statement because it comes across as either too general, too specific, or "all about me" the truth is most people don't edit the objective statement enough for each position to seem personalized. A cover letter is a better way to demonstrate your abilities and interests. It's a better forum to deliver the message that you want to work for the company (not any company), why, and how your skill set lines up with the new opportunity.
3. What has the candidate accomplished? Your resume should answer what your LinkedIn profile doesn't. Extra details are key to getting your resume recognized and into the "in" group. While an employer wants to know about your responsibilities in your previous jobs, it’s far more important to include your ability to solve their problems, increase their sales, and provide a better product. Don't make them question how you can do that. Show them through addressing your earlier successes and quantifying those achievements.
3. What’s the reputation of these companies? Hiring managers automatically look for a reason why you fit the position. Perhaps you've worked in a similar industry, but for a start-up that didn't have as much recognition at the time in its space and has since changed its name. The hiring manager probably isn't going to take the time to look up each of your previous employers. So if those companies aren’t well-known, it's a wise idea to dedicate one line of resume real estate to explain the industry your previous companies served. It also optimizes the keywords better for future searching in a company's applicant tracking system.
5. Is this educational experience relevant for the job? Education is valued for any job, but all education doesn't weigh equally. Always include your university education and degrees, but choose carefully which trade training, professional development, and conferences you list. Those should relate to the job or demonstrate in some way how they will have helped you gain the experience and knowledge needed for the job. If you list too many irrelevant training courses, you risk appearing unfocused.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.