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Ramping up Resume Quality: Best Practices

Author: Chrissy Li

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A succesful job search begins with a good resume, making a good 1st impretion. Do I have your attention, and have I lost my credibility with the mistakes in the first sentence? I appreciate the mistakes I am intentionally making appear exaggerated, but sadly, I see them every day. Careless mistakes can sabotage a jobseeker’s chances for a great opportunity.

Presently, there is more available supply of job candidates than demand for new employees and one must stand out among a large number of applicants. First impressions are critical, so let's work on building a quality resume. 

My introduction paragraph demonstrates several mistakes that prompt employers to question a jobseeker’s written communication skills:

  • Typographical errors
  • Misspellings
  • Text speak
  • Font variations
  • Grammar mistakes
  • Wordiness

The same mistakes have resulted in employers rejecting candidates. A resume should look clean and read fluidly. The unfortunate truth is that you only have one page, maybe two, to showcase your professional abilities and as such, you need to make a good first impression and make it count. Also keep in mind that, like denim, the Oxford comma will never go out of style!

Common Resume Mistakes

Lately, the standards for resumes seem to be falling. In my seven and a half years in the staffing industry, I have seen great resumes and some that are shockingly bad, including a recent resume submitted on the letterhead of another recruiting firm with which the person was working. Now, I appreciate that a lot of people have not had the luxury of a resume-writing workshop or a mentor to provide guidance but the resume is your first opportunity to make a professional impression, and you cannot underestimate its value. I recommend finding help or doing online research. Do not wing it.

My first job after college was with a Big Four public accounting firm and, in the professional services industry, accuracy was essential. All deliverables were subject to review by a more senior member of the team, and that person generally did not hold back from pointing out errors. The critiques were par for the course and I always listened and made sure I did not repeat the same mistakes because why not be on the right side of quality?

Let us review a few common resume offenses:

  1. A multipage resume with only a few rows occupying the last page
  2. Inconsistent line spacing throughout the document
  3. Unnecessarily large margins and headers that occupy too much of the page
  4. Inconsistent fonts
  5. Using periods on the ends of some sentences, but not others (like I did here).
  6. Shifting tenses between sentences or even within the same sentence
    • Using different types of bullet points in a list (like here)
Ultimately, consistency and uniformity make a resume aesthetically pleasing and is what makes the audience swipe right or swipe left at first glance. Also, unusual fonts, boxes, tables, and colors can distract from the content of the resume and they make a resume difficult to read.

Making the Most of a Resume

Summary of qualifications. To set the tone, I recommend a brief professional summary that highlights your core competencies at the beginning of the resume. Ideally, this is a clean paragraph consisting of a few sentences that touch on your industry experience, areas of expertise, and core skillset — just enough to inspire the audience to read on.

Description of job responsibilities. I have seen verbatim descriptions of job responsibilities for multiple positions throughout a resume. It makes me question the candidate’s own understanding of their job and ability to have an engaging discussion during a phone or in-person interview. I get it, describing multiple jobs that are similar is a pain. An accountant is an accountant is an accountant, right? A workaround to redundancy is to describe significant accomplishments, as opposed to day-to-day tasks, which may end up 50+ bullet points. Instead of, “made payments to vendors timely,” consider sharing how you improved the vendor payment process that resulted in timely payments and eliminated late fees in a high-volume environment. Instead of, “worked with auditors,” consider describing how you maintained proper documentation and internal controls that resulted in unqualified audit opinions in X number of consecutive years. Brag a little!

Objectives (or not). Personally, I feel an “Objectives” section is unnecessary, as it sets limitations. Your objective might read, “I’m looking for a full-time position with a large company.” Well, that mid-sized company with promising growth opportunity and attractive perks might pass on your resume upon reading this objective. Or, the hiring manager of a contract position with full-time hire potential will move your resume to the recycle bin, assuming you would not be interested. I recommend keeping your options open by excluding an “Objectives” section from your resume.

Technology and software skills. Technology advancements have enhanced people’s ability to interpret data efficiently and effectively across industries. If you have certain systems experience, do dedicate a section for them on your resume and be specific. Also, if you have advanced MS Excel proficiency, specify the advanced formulas and commands that you excel in. Pun intended. Many employers have specific system requirements and a quick Ctrl+F can put your resume to the top of the pile. The same recommendation applies to professional licenses and certifications.

Some of these recommendations only apply to those who have had significant work experience under their belt. For the younger generation looking to join the workforce, include your education, part-time positions, internships, and extracurricular activities, even if they are not directly related to your field of studies. I cannot think of any employer that frowns upon a candidate who keeps himself busy and engaged while attending school. By the way, only include your GPA if it is impressive!

Final Thoughts

A resume is more than a formal job application. It is a summary of who you are as a professional and a marketing tool to convey your value to employers. Dedicate time to it, pay attention to the details and make sure every word provides value, so that the final product offers meaningful content. Competition is fierce, especially now; set yourself apart with a top-quality resume.


At Cordia Resources, we pride ourselves on our custom approach to connect accounting, finance, and human resources professionals and employers. If you need help with your job search, contact us today!

 

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Chrissy Li, Principal

Chrissy co-leads Cordia Resources' Washington DC office and specializes in connecting accounting, finance, and business systems professionals to employers throughout the Washington metro area catering to clients and job seekers in a wide array of industries, including not-for-profit, government contracting, real estate, professional services, financial services, and others.  Chrissy holds a B.S. degree in Accounting and Finance and started her career at a Big Four public accounting firm. Prior to Cordia Resources, she worked for an international recruiting firm and focused on senior-level accounting and finance placements. Her overall approach is to develop and maintain long-lasting relationships based on honesty, transparency, and empathy. Chrissy enjoys working with people of diverse backgrounds and treats all with care and respect. 

 

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