of writing a resume can feel so daunting and overwhelming to the point that you
might produce something from an anxious mind, rather than from a clear and
organized thought process. If you have read part one of this series, you may now be asking yourself whether your current
resume is considered good or bad, and how you can ensure you are best
represented on paper to lead you to your
dream job. I sat down with Filter Talent Managers, Andrew Martin and Heidi
Raynor, for expert advice on what makes a bad versus good resume.
Q: Why is having a
strong resume so important?
Heidi Raynor: Hiring managers are only going to
glance quickly at it rather than read it thoroughly. They need to be able to
glance at your resume quickly and know the professional story you’re telling.
Andrew Martin: The sheer volume of resumes that come
in will be in the thousands in one month. Hiring managers may be working with
as many as four agencies, or on their own. So, the old adage of you only have
one chance to make a first impression holds true to catch their interest in 15
Q: What are the
different schools of thought in writing a good resume — and, what is your
HR: Two of the most common styles of resumes used are a
skills and a timeline resume. Senior level people tend to lean towards a skills
resume, but the drawback is that some of those individuals will do a mash-up of
skills and timeline, resulting in a long and complicated resume. My approach is
that regardless of your style, it’s important to have a narrative of your
resume, a story that tells who you are clearly. A hiring manager should not
look at your resume and not know what you do.
AM: Skills and timeline are classic styles, but what we’re
seeing more with junior level or younger generation candidates are a social
media inspired resume. In my opinion, this style is too much fluff, too much
personal information, and too many images. I don’t need to see your picture.
Q: What key
components should be on a good resume?
HR: It should start with an overview, not a mission
statement or goal. Basically, a summary of you in two sentences, followed by
skills, work history, and then education. For junior candidates, education and
work history can be swapped. Skills are extremely important to call out, even
soft skills, such as a UX Designer also having mobile experience. Just make
sure to highlight soft skills in a measureable way.
AM: I don’t mind a mission statement if it’s on a separate
page because I can use that as an additional resource if I need more
Q: Job seekers might
view the cover letter as just an annoying step, or that it’s not important
enough to make an impact. What feedback do you have about cover letters?
HR: We see so many cover letters that are not for the job
that the person is actually applying for. Mistakes are made because they are
using a generic cover letter to submit to multiple jobs. If you’re going to use
a generic cover letter, don’t use it at all. Something where you can just swap
out company names should be thrown away. I would rather have no cover letter
than a bad cover letter. A mediocre cover letter is more damaging than having
no cover letter at all.
AM: A generic cover letter tells me that a candidate is just
randomly shooting in the dark. You don’t really want this job, you want a job.
We’ve all been there — when you’re about to scream over another cover letter and another
resume, but it will pay off in the end. When someone is in our position or a
hiring manager, it will stand out that you really made an effort with the cover
letter. The overall impact will be that this person has great attention to
detail and will be impressed that you took the extra 15 minutes to speak to
what they need.
Q: When is a resume
too short and when is it too long?
HR: With junior candidates, one page is hard enough to fill,
and if they have more than one page, they are likely putting too much on it.
More senior level candidates, like developers, can have up to three pages, but
I would rather see people keep it to two so that you’re not going too far back.
As you go back in time, the older items can take less space in context.
AM: You can take skills learned from an old job without
speaking about that old job. Rather than putting your years of experience spent
working retail for The Gap in college, list the skills in that you can meet
client needs and have relationship building skills. I’ve had resumes that were
like 20 pages long, and if the meat of the resume is hidden, all that
experience will do is prevent you from getting the job. Not every experience
you’ve ever had is relevant to the job you’re applying for. Advice I got from
Heidi that I have passed along to candidates is that if there is something you
don’t ever want to do again, don’t put it on your resume. Finally, don’t list
work that you have to make excuses for. Less is more. Don’t try to make up for
content with fluff because all it does is distract from the goal.
HR: If you don’t want to file, don’t list filing as a skill
on your resume. You shouldn’t go too far back in your work history because you
most likely have other things you can talk about now. If you recently had a six
month contract doing the type of work you want to do, listing that is more
important than the thing you did for five years that you don’t want to do
Q: Besides things you
never want to do again, what other items should not end up on your resume?
HR: Don’t list your hobbies, unless it directly ties to the
job you’re applying for. If you’re a designer and involved in various
design-related clubs, list them. If you have a blog about typography, list it.
If you have a blog about kittens, that should not be on your resume. Related awards and accolades are fine, but do
not list that you were your high school class president.
AM: Don’t use made up words or slang. Your resume is not a
social network, so don’t use LOL or pictures of kitties and cupcakes. There are
ways to speak to your personality through clubs, but generally, your
personality on paper is irrelevant. Use the in-person opportunities to let your
Q: Speaking of social
networks, how should social media play into the role of job seeking?
HR: With new job seekers, social media is engrained in their
daily lives and they assume it should reflect on their resume. I speak at
schools all the time and explain to be aware that your social media profile is
permanently out there. You could have blogged about something previously that
is now offensive to a hiring manager. Do not put your Facebook profile on your
resume, but a link to your LinkedIn profile is totally appropriate.
AM: There is a level of self-obsession that is greater than
we’ve ever seen before because new job seekers are raised on YouTube, Facebook,
Instagram and more. It creates this idea that there is interest in that person
specifically, but personality will never make up for a lack of experience or
Q: What are some of
the more outlandish things you’ve seen on a resume?
HR: Obscenities, like writing “I’m the shit”. I actually see
this happen a lot. Don’t make a brand out of yourself on your resume either. Leave
the design work to be showcased on your portfolio and keep your resume clean.
AM: Filling the content of a page with pictures of cutesy
stuff that is not relevant to the job.
Q: What are creative
things you’ve seen on a resume that were done right?
HR: I’ve seen designers do fun stuff with information
graphics around their skills, or create a timeline out of years of experience.
It’s graphical, but informational — gets across the information in a really
AM: I’ve seen developers who have multiple levels of skills
rate themselves on a scale or star system — most fluent to least fluent or
rating 1 out of 5 stars. It gives me a quick visual that helps me to
communicate to a client the level a candidate can function at. The information
you provide, however you do it, should elevate your message and not distract
Q: How should job
seekers go about receiving feedback on a resume?
HR: I think people tend to shy away from giving direct
feedback, so they tend to focus on grammar errors and punctuation only. Tell
people specifically how you want the feedback. Can you tell what I want to do?
What are the top three skills you think I have after reading my resume? What
about my resume would make you want to hire me? What’s the first thing your eye
AM: Rather than asking someone what they think, ask specific
actionable items. What are your first impressions about me from my resume?
Also, consider who it is you’re asking. Try to ask someone who is in a position
of seeing many resumes, like a store manager or recruiter.
Q: Are there ever candidates
that refuse to take your advice because they are so invested in what they’ve
done to want to hear your feedback and apply it?
HR: In the creative industry, handling feedback is so
important. If they can’t handle feedback from a recruiter, how are they going
to handle feedback from a client? A job seeker does not have to listen to us,
but if you understand that we have your best interest and that we know what
hiring managers will respond to, the process will work.
AM: Editing allows for discovery. You have to ask yourself
what is more important. Applying feedback from someone who can get you hired,
or having that extra few lines on your resume? If someone tells you that you
will have more options by editing something out and your response is no, then
you should be asking yourself what you are doing. It demonstrates that a person
can take direction well if they can take the feedback and put it into action,
returning with an edited version. It shows they are able to divorce themselves
from the work personally, and reveal that it’s about the work and not about
Q: Any final thoughts
you’d like to leave with job seekers?
HR: Try writing your resume backwards. Start by defining
what your goal is, then work backwards in providing context that supports that
goal because it is the goal that should be driving what you add and eliminate
on your resume.
AM: Print out your resume for proofreading before emailing
it out. It changes your perspective of your resume and allows you to edit if
the font is too small, if the format looks right, and if there are extra
paragraphs that can be eliminated. Don’t rely on spellcheck to catch all errors
because even real words can be used wrong.
If you’d like further assistance from
our talent managers to find work in the creative fields, register with Filter today to refresh your career path!