Top 5 Resume Tips

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In my line of work, as an academic physician and chair of a department, hardly a week goes by when I don’t review someone’s resume or CV.  This could be part of mentoring, or part of interviewing and hiring employees. And, I have seen plenty of bad CVs.  Here are a few tips to making your CV or resume stand out (for the right reasons).   

Keep it updated…all the time!  

Your resume is your written first impression. It is often the way that people will first learn about you.  So always send out an updated and clean copy of your CV.  As an employer, I never like to see a not-so-up-to-date resume.   To me, updating your CV once a year and then sending it out is a little like dry cleaning your suit once a year and then wearing it every day; I do not want to be judgmental, but in my opinion, neither the updating nor the dry cleaning in that scenario is adequate. Your resume and your suits need a refresh regularly!  Keeping your resume updated in real-time is a lot easier than searching back through emails, documents or your memory to come up with key facts and dates.  Every time I update mine, I go back through and check for errors.  It should be pristine, with no type-o’s or mistakes.  Remember that first impression?  You would not show up to a job interview with mismatched shoes, so don’t let flaws in your resume make you stand out for the wrong reasons. 

Remember the purpose of your resume. 

Your resume is a formal introduction to you.  But how many times do you think someone gets hired based purely on this written document?  Practically never. The purpose of the resume isn’t to land you the job, but to land you the interview.  A really standout resume is essential to getting that interview.  As a chair, I get asked a lot of questions about such things.  First, I recommend staying away from fancy fonts, glitzy add-ons, or unusual formatting. Second, I recommend you send documents as a .pdf and not a word file.  This always looks more polished.  Third, save the file to include your name and a date. I like this format “2019_01_01_Jennifer Hunt_CV.”  This way, when it is saved or forwarded, the person doesn’t have to open it to know whose CV they are reviewing.  Lastly, don’t include every detail of your life and experience.  Instead, think about how to craft your resume to intrigue the person reading it to the point that they just have to meet you. 

Tailor your resume to the job 

You don’t have to have just one version of your resume.  If you are applying for a management level job, you will want a customized resume to highlight details related to your leadership experiences.  Do some research about the organization you are applying to, and especially pay attention to their mission and values.  Can you highlight certain areas of your resume that align really well with the company or organization?  For example, a physician applying for a leadership position at a Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) hospital might customize his or her CV by highlighting volunteer mission work.   If you are in academics and have a traditional CV, consider also having a tailor made supplemental “executive resume”. This is a great way to illustrate your leadership roles and experiences in more detail, especially if you are applying for executive level positions.

Don’t forego the cover letter.

There is debate about whether or not cover letters are old-fashioned and whether they are even necessary any more.  If the goal of your written application materials is to get an interview, your cover letter is a great tool to bring your 1-dimensional listed experiences to life.  Don’t waste the cover letter by regurgitating what is already in your resume.  Instead, use the cover letter to tell a reviewer about how your past experiences will lead you to success in this new position.  An intriguing cover letter is more likely to land your application in the “yes, interview” pile.  

Find the sweet spot on personal details

Business resumes and CVs are meant to be professional.  You’ll get conflicting advice about the personal details you should include.  Most experts suggest leaving off the family details, visa status, and any politically charged hot-button items.   But as an employer, for me there is a sweet spot for personal details.  I don’t just hire employees, I hire people.  When I am reviewing applicants, I like to get a few glimpses of them as a person.  I love to see past or current involvement with organized team sports.  Someone who has been on a team often brings added discipline, focus and efficiency skills to the workplace.  I also like to see a person’s hobbies, or at least know they have some.  Well-rounded people with a life outside of work are less susceptible to burnout and better at work-life integration.  Sports, hobbies, and volunteer work can also be conversation-starters during an interview.  A good rule of thumb is to include only as much personal information as someone could figure out from a google search of your public social media pages.   One of my mentors was admitted to one medical school primarily because he had been a smoke-jumper in Idaho.  The interview committee of doctors were fascinated by a man who willingly jumped from a plane into ravenous forest fires. He’d probably be in your “yes, interview” pile, wouldn’t he?