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Seattle, WA 98116
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Tandem Powered offers a full suite of Professional Resume Writing, Career Development, and HR / Business Consulting services.

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Tandem Powered's blog is dedicated to empowering readers by highlighting best practices in the arena of resume writing, career development, and organizational effectiveness, as well as by providing readers with an insider's view of the corporate hiring process.

What Makes the Best Resume

Kent Nolen

Last week's post on resume length triggered a lot of questions surrounding the "best" resume. Here's a repost of an article addressing resume length.

I just had an interesting e-mail from a potential client, inquiring about Tandem's services. Within her inquiry, she stated that she had just read a powerful article written by a popular entrepreneur. She wrote:

"In the article he says that he won't even consider resumes that don't make mention of professionals within the field who have influenced the job candidate."

She had not heard of this before and was wondering what to do with the information. This goes back to a couple core questions that come up from time to time here on the blog.

What makes the "best" resume?

Whose opinions matter?

First off, There is no "best" resume. There is no gold standard, which is what makes resume writing so mad-making for so many. Second, opinions on resumes are largely subjective.

Bottom line... If you include uncommon things in your resume a handful of readers, such as the article writer referenced above, will likely be thrilled. The truth, though, is that most readers won't be so pleased. That's why it's important to remember the core purpose of a resume – to serve as a hook that piques readers' interest and helps in securing an interview. The most effective way to accomplish this is by creating an achievement focused resume that appeals to a broad range of readers.

So, to all of the people that say "I want to add (color, a crazy font, a picture, a poem, etc.) to my resume because it represents me." I let them know that there are other ways to inject "you" into a resume. The job-search / candidate-sourcing process is changing – moving to something that is more meaningful for all involved. For now, your best bet is to stick to a resume that is most likely to work in the current environment. The job-search process can be frustrating enough; there's no sense in complicating it further by diluting your chances of securing a job.

The list of companies that like to see off-the-beaten-path elements on a resume is growing (although still quite small). I encourage clients to add those elements situationally. For instance, Google wants to know what makes candidates unique. When I work with clients who are targeting Google, we add that sort of information in.

It's worth repeating... No single style works perfectly (without that gold standard). However, there are certain resume standards that tend to work more effectively than their alternatives. For instance:

  • Certain fonts screen more effectively with humans and computers.
  • The optimal placement and presentation of keywords makes a difference.
  • Certain approaches (functional, chronological, hybrid) work well for particular industries and disciplines.

Beyond these standards (and some others), though, a well composed resume can take a number of different forms. Although It’s most important to follow the appropriate standards for your situation, it’s also important that adherence to those standards is backed up by content and a format that makes sense – one where all of the elements maximize each other. This is why it's not a good idea to go too far out on a limb. Remember, you want to appeal to the broadest audience possible in the current environment.

My resume work focuses, first and foremost, on those conventions – not opinions – that are proven to work. This includes those things that I’ve learned not only as a resume writer but also from my work on the other side of the table as an HR and business professional. Beyond that, though, my resume writing hones in on other concrete, key dimensions that make them as effective as possible. All of my work is backed up by a highly individualized approach that fosters the inclusion of incredible content, style, and a bit of your personality.