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As TechNav’s Market Manager, Scott Beardsley leads our team of Recruiting Consultants and Sales Directors with over 20 years of experience in the field of technical recruiting to back him up. In this post, he shares his insight on how to keep your resume from ending up in a hiring manager’s trash.

Writing a resume may seem simple at first. Just list your educational background and follow it up with your work experience. Then accent the basics with a summary of the technologies you’ve used (or fudge it with some that you’ve heard of) and maybe add a few personal details about your interests and hobbies. Top it off with your contact info and you’re finished, right?

Yet, as simple as this task seems on the surface, when you actually sit down to write and edit it, all of a sudden it becomes very difficult. Why?

Overcome analysis paralysis.

The pressure of knowing that this one document is supposed to sum up all of your talents and aspirations can be enough to make even the most confident job seeker freeze up with analysis paralysis. When it comes down to it, how you write your resume can determine if you get chosen for an interview or if the hiring manager will simply “pass”.

Start with the end in mind.

My advice is to start with the end in mind. Exactly what are you trying to accomplish by sending this document to a potential employer?

In most cases, the goal is to showcase your skills and experience to another human being, in person – in other words, to get an interview. Hopefully we’ve all learned by now that a “Career Objective” section is obsolete. Instead, you can tailor a cover letter specific to the position to communicate this more effectively.

After working in staffing for over 20 years, I have come to the conclusion that there are certain key questions that employers want to see in a resume, but which are more often than not left out.  This unintentional omission costs many candidates an interview for the job that they’re probably a good fit for.

Read as the reviewer.

The first objection that every hiring manager raises is work history stability. We often hear, “why has this candidate been in so many positions in the last several years?”.  Or, “why was there such a big gap in between position A and B?”  When questions like these come up and are left unanswered, a reviewer will usually fill in the blanks with something negative. The most common negative assumptions are:

As recruiters, we can usually address these gaps with answers to these questions, such as “my candidate had a gap in work history because he had to take some time off to attend to a sick family member”.  Or, “my candidate took position A with full intentions of building a career there, but the company became financially distressed and the position was eliminated at no fault of our candidate.”  As recruiters we fight these objections every day on behalf of our candidates.  But without our help, how can you be sure that these objections are being handled properly, and that no “negative” assumptions are leaving you off the invite list?

Fill in the blanks.

When you are writing your resume, read it over as a reviewer would and hunt for any potential questions. Write a short, concise explanation of the reason behind each career transition, especially if there is a gap that needs addressed or frequent movement between positions. Don’t allow someone to make a negative snap judgment about the reasons why, but instead, eliminate the opportunity for judgment by conveying something positive in response to each question. Using this proactive approach will greatly increase your odds of making it past the first step to gaining access to a great company, even when you don’t have an existing relationship to rely on.

What is the best tip you’ve ever received about writing a resume? Share yours in the comments below!