There are a lot of misconceptions about the resume. A resume will not get you a job. A resume will usually not get you in the door. Only your efforts through cold calls or crafted and targeted cover letters-—to which the resume is an addition or follow-up–or the efforts of others on your behalf will get you in front of the hiring manager. The resume is, however, your “best foot forward.” I should note that some argue that you can craft a resume in such a way that it will get you in the door and more interview offers. Interested? Check out Guerilla Resumes. You will get a lot of creative ideas for making your resume come to life and stand out from the rest of the crowd.
In general and for most cases, however, the following advice should serve you well when it comes to writing a resume:
Important: Think of a resume as a part of what you will talk about, but not whether or not someone will talk to you.
So, How does the good resume help you?
If a resume doesn’t necessarily get you a job, what is it good for? A resume presents relevant information to interested parties in your targeted job search. It doesn’t say everything about you, and is not just a list of everything you’ve done. (There is a different document that does, called a CV, or curriculum vitae, and is mostly used for academic and specialized professions.) A good resume makes the interviewer’s job easier and helps you prepare for the interview. You should send in your resume after you have spoken with a recruiter or hiring manager. Otherwise, their consideration of you for a position will be solely based on your written resume and cover letter.
There is one situation where the resume itself is important to getting you in the door. When you are formally responding to a Human Resources department about advertised job openings. Because recruiters are reviewing more than a hundred applications for any one position, resumes are often used to weed out applicants rather than to match them to a job. This means your resume will be reviewed by human resources staff in terms of what could eliminate you from consideration, rather than an eye for finding good things in it in order to hire you.
So, the bottom line is that resumes are useful in the job search–just not in the way that most think they are. They are useful in helping you prepare for an interview. Also, they help shape the conversation you will have with a prospective hiring manager. Also, when well done they can also demonstrate your professionalism and your ability to communicate in written form. What resumes don’t do: They don’t get you a job or even in front of a hiring manager. The one slight exception is when you are applying to job ads or classifieds. That’s when a resume is used to weed you out of the job applicant pool (hence all the advice about spell checking, good formatting, etc.).
Knowing what the resume truly is for and how to create a standout resume to help you in the job search will go a long way towards helping you get hired. All of this said, there are ways to make your resume standout so it will assist your job search efforts.