Resume 101: The Basics

Before jumping into the meatier content, I wanted to start this series off by laying some groundwork on what resumes are used for and what to keep in the back of your mind as you craft and refine yours.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand the purpose of a resume and the goal to achieve with it. Typically when you apply for a job (as of the writing of this post), you are one of many submitting an application. Your resume, and the experience and qualifications you choose to include to in it, is what will make you stand out as a candidate; but bear in mind that the person sifting through applications must knock that stack out efficiently. Thus, the goal of a resume is to get your application in the “Yay” pile after a quick read, so you move on to the next step (often a first-round interview), and a good one will do that.

Sidenote: It’s worth noting that job application systems sometimes use keyword-trawling software to extract keywords and phrases from your resume that match the job description. If there aren’t enough matches, your application may be weeded out before a human lays eyes on it. To be honest, I don’t know much about the inner workings of this (and I think the primary intent of this software is to weed out the total crap), so I frankly don’t worry about it, but I think it’s good to be aware of.

So in short, the purpose of your resume is a company’s first impression of you, and the goal is to pique the interest of the reader (your gateway into the company) enough that they want to learn more about you – thus, qualifying you for the next step of the application process.

If this sounds annoying, knowing how painstakingly you must scrutinize, tweak, and revise your resume to perfection, only for it to be scanned quickly for a “yay” or “nay”, that’s because it is. Due to the volume of applicants that most job listings receive, your resume won’t be combed through in depth, and if it does, it will be further along in the application process, when an interviewer may read it in order to formulate questions for you about your experience.

Unfortunately, that does not mean that you can skimp on editing, scrutiny, and perfecting. Unlike a Bachelorette contestant, where even negative publicity is good publicity, you never want your resume to stand out for the wrong reasons. You don’t want to be remembered as the candidate who spelled their job title wrong, or worse, you don’t want a grammatical error to be the reason your application gets tossed in the reject pile. In a climate where it’s very possible that hundreds of candidates apply for a job, recruiters need some way to thin out the “yay” pile, and sometimes it can come down to a perceived lack of care due to a typo.

If you think about it, though, because your resume is your first impression, it is imperative to put your best foot forward; you want to be memorable for your unique background or an interesting project you led, not an easily-fixable error.

I’ll go into more depth on how to make your resume stand out in a good way in subsequent posts, but before getting into those, I really wanted to reinforce these two high-level concepts: the purpose and goal of your resume, and the importance of a high-quality one and detriments of errors, in spite of the nature of the beast.

Stay tuned for more in this series coming your way shortly!

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