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What Some Employers Look for in a Résumé

Welcome to another of my `Career Musings`.

It is known in resume circles that the only rule in resume writing is that there are no rules. The important thing is strategy.  Yet, the other day, a client of mine who works with a city government asked his HR Director for some resume advice, and this is what he got. It`s reproduced without edits:

  • Resume – no more than 2 pages, including Cover Letter
  • Resume should mirror position applying for. Keep the employer’s intent in mind
  • No gaps of previous job
  • Career progression very important
  • Formatting: No CAPS
  • No Objective
  • No Roman Font
  • Employment First
  • Education History Last
  • List all job related qualities, functions of job applying for
  • Tangibles and stakeholder management
  • List what learned in different jobs
  • Build job history
  • Demonstrate fairness, honesty
  • Communicate to fit profile
  • Have a Customer Service approach

It would appear that from the Director’s perspective, these are absolutes, and probably, if a resume comes across his desk with anything less than the above, it would be thrown aside.  What are your thoughts?

About Daisy

Daisy Wright is an award winning certified career management coach, author, and certified resume strategist who collaborates with executives, managers, and mid-career professionals in all aspects of their job search and career. With more than 15 years in the careers industry, she has what it takes to guide you in the "Wright" direction and help you get hired FASTER! Daisy is also the Founder and Chief Encouragement Officer of the Let's GROW Project.

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  1. I can think of exceptions to most of these bullets. It’s no wonder job seekers are confused most of the time as to what recruiters need. He is of an older age group? I say this because generational studies show that those in their 20s and early 30s would have resumes very unlike what is described above. I’m giving a talk on just that because of the problem recruiters will have with coaching hiring managers when these changes in resumes become morer prevalent in the next five to ten years. Career progression will not be as much of a factor and apparently education will not be either according to some research. Gaps will certainly be commonplace, they already are. Not sure how one adds fairness and honesty to a resume, especially if it’s a one-pager! Not surprising it is city government which is why that workforce skews older.

  2. Daisy, I’m still finding it hard to believe that anyone could be so rigid in expectation as this HR Director. Surely this is just the opposite of what management might hope for from the incumbent in such a position?

    Of course a well written résumé will try to appeal to the employer’s interests. However, someone who has not worked in an organisation cannot be expected to know those interests well and it is part of a HR official’s job to look between the lines for signs that a candidate might have value that is not being presented well in the résumé. In the recruiting process candidates and employers should be making a mutual effort to establish communication, and this HR Director does not appear to understand that principle.


  3. PS: What I left out: A few years ago I submitted a résumé formatted with two columns. The manager to whom I had submitted it told me to resubmit with a more conventionally formatted document.

    I think my direct answer to your question of true or false might just have to be ‘true’. There are some rigid people like this.

  4. Dorothy,

    Thanks for your comments. What can I say? To each his own. He is definitely from the old school.

    I hope he didn`t bypass any good candidates simply because their resumes didn`t measure up.


  5. Bill,

    Sometimes rigidity takes over from logic!

    `…a more conventionally formatted document` – Which was more important to him? Format or content?

    Thanks for your perspective.


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