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  3 Resume Tips from a Headhunter's Perspective

Jul 25th

3 Resume Tips from a Headhunter's Perspective


Career Management, Coaching, Interview, Personal, Success

As a headhunter for 5 years, I evaluated over 45,000 resumes. For every candidate I chose to work with, I spent a significant amount of time helping them with their resume in order to obtain an interview for them. Because I was the conduit between the client and the candidate, I quickly latched onto what particular aspects of your resume could make or break your candidacy to a hiring entity. 

With that knowledge, whether I represented a C-level executive, or a senior specialist, I reformatted their whole resume into my own recommended format which appeals to any audience, including HR, hiring managers, other recruiters, and even internal colleagues. As a result, I became one of the top 1% of headhunters globally.

Here I'll share 3 Resume Tips from a Headhunter's Perspective so you can also do the same to increase your resume's effectiveness and impact.

1. Less is more - Cut and simplify your formatting. There is no need for all these special sections, tables, lines, sizes and fonts (heaven forbid any colors/pictures)! Please keep it simple. Your resume is a professional document, NOT personal. Some people will find that hurtful (I argue those are the same people who will abuse LinkedIn and use it to market personal stories). A resume is meant to sell your brand as an employee within an organization - not a creative genius, disruptive/unconventional manager, nor artist. Yes, you can still seem visionary and convey leadership, but it's not done by going off the deep end and creating some weird non-traditional document. That's what your social media and personal website is for.

Here's an excerpt from my resume so you have an example of simple formatting. Normally, under your name, you should have your Address, Email, and Telephone Number, potentially even LinkedIn profile page URL/website or any other professional platform you want to feature. Here I have protected my personal details so it's just my name alone at the top section.

TIP: In this day and age of online applications, tables/fonts/lines/any other fancy artwork do not upload well onto various websites and job portals! That's why my format is unencumbered by any designs. You can see clearly when I worked for which companies, even when I got promoted, my very distinctly-worded job accomplishments, and the very clear categories I'm trying to illustrate (Professional Summary, Professional Expertise). I only use Bold, Upper Case and Underlining as a format. The whole document is written in one size, other than my name.

2. Delete any Key Competencies sections or Key Skills or Qualifications list. It's a waste of space. Your CV has 10 seconds before you lose your audience's interest. A laundry list must be avoided at all costs because it will be utterly ignored anyways. I have always deleted this section from all of my candidates' CVs unless it's really really special, which it's usually not. Everyone has "people skills" and "attention to detail". This section risks making you look very generic!

All of those above mentioned key skills/qualifications should ALREADY be in your resume in the experience section. That is duplication in its most basic form. It's unnecessary and furthermore, may lead an employer to assume you lack other key skills because you didn't put it on there. Maybe the employer isn't interested in the skills you've self-selected to feature! Making assumptions, and complicating your resume muddles your candidacy.

TIP: The only skills worth listing would be specific technical details for people like scientists or web developers who know very specialized languages, testing protocols, and programming information. Short of that, the rest of us would be best avoiding listing qualifications and soft skills. All of those should already be in the content like in my example above in my own resume. The content already contains the key words so you've accomplished your goal to convey those key skills; there is no need for a separate section.

3. Job experience content should be written the correct voice in past or present if it's your current job (again refer above to my resume). More importantly, content should be very detailed in terms of results/accomplishments NOT responsibilities. Many people take a job spec or a job advertisement, and customize it into their resume so the word "Responsible for" is every other bullet/sentence! Any half-decent recruiter/headhunter/HR staff (who btw, WRITES those job ads) will know in one second if you've copied a job description. I've called candidates out on this numerous times.

In fact, I seriously judge someone who chooses to take such little care of their professional brand so as to copy information readily discoverable on the internet and plagiarize it. Everyone's busy. There is no excuse for neglecting to do what you're supposed to do for yourself, by yourself.  

TIP: Avoid using the words, "responsible for", "ensure that", "supported", all of those words sound very passive. Instead, describe the result and how that responsibility was morphed into an actual accomplishment! My resume has lots of interesting verbs because I like to paint a full picture of all the steps I took to get to a certain result, and hopefully shed light on the accomplishment.

My suggestion is to seriously take a look at your resume, and invest time in yourself and your future to make this one of your best written work. Of course, it's by no means a be-all end-all. I've definitely relied on referencing and LinkedIn pages to get my candidates interviews without ever submitting a CV, but that's not the norm! A resume is still very important in today's hiring world where your headhunter has to convince the hiring manager or HR person to interview you based on that document alone. Your updated resume will help your headhunter do their job to get you that first interview you need to get the ball rolling. The more you can help your headhunter/yourself look good, the more wins you'll see!

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For more professional and personal branding advice, read: 

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3 Ways to Cope With People Who Let You Down

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