Ambition Résumés

Test your résumé knowledge here. These questions address some of the most common misconceptions and areas of confusion.

The Five Elements to a Successful Résumé

The purpose of a résumé is to get an interview, so the first person you need to impress is the hiring manager. These are 
the five ideal résumé characteristics that hiring managers respond positively to.

CLEAR:  You will never know who will be reading your résumé, so it should be comprehensive to a wide audience. Use proper syntax, spell out all those industry specific acronyms, and stay consistent in format, thought and organization.

CONCISE: Hiring managers do not want to read a book about you, so let's accommodate them by getting to the point quickly.

MEANINGFUL:  Each and every word should have purpose, be relevant to the job you are applying to, and is actively selling you. Avoid filling in with meaningless or redundant words just to make your résumé look longer. Writers call this "fluff", and hiring managers can detect it.


: This is the lynchpin of all résumés, and the area where most people fall short. Hiring managers don't just want to know what you did, they want to know how well you did it. What sounds more impressive to you?

"Increased company's revenues to an all-time high." 


"Skyrocketed annual revenues by 200% in one year-equates to a total of $20M in sales that exceeded revenue projections."

TARGETED: A universal complaint among hiring managers is “résumés that lack focus”. Your objective should be clear and appropriate to the job you are applying to; your skills and achievements well defined; and your résumé content should be Search Engine Optimized so that it matches the search criteria designated by that employer 



What is a résumé?

A résumé is a polished marketing piece about you and your value as an employee. You are the product, your title is your brand, and your skills and accomplishments are your key selling attributes that make hiring managers want to invest in you. Like an advertisement, your résumé should be clear, concise, meaningful, quantifiable, and targeted.


What is the primary purpose of a résumé?

The primary purpose of a résumé is to get the interview, not the job. Rarely will a person be hired based on the résumé alone. However, you don’t always need a résumé to land a job. Some lucky individuals manage to get the interview and the job without one. In this situation, they most likely had a reference by someone within that company.


Is the paper résumé dead?

This is an opinion-based argument. There are a handful of books and blogs that state you have a better chance of standing out by creating new media résumés such as video and website résumés. This statement is neither correct nor incorrect. Times are changing, and perhaps the paper résumé will someday become extinct. But today, most employers still expect a paper résumé from you, so stay conservative. However, if you have a creative résumé with animated graphics or professional video coverage, attach an online link to your résumé or upload it to your LinkedIn page.


What is the only attribute that an employer really cares about when considering you as an employee?

Regardless of your title or industry, an employer only wants to know one thing- Can you make them money? Or alternatively, can you save them money, which in their eyes is almost the same thing. In quantifiable terms, you must be able to demonstrate this ability based on your past experience. They must feel confident that after hiring you, you will produce a timely return on investment. Making or saving a company money is not as black and white as you may think, and there are many ways to do this. 


What should never be included on a résumé?

Besides spelling errors, leave off any type of personal information such as date of birth, height, weight, ethnicity, marital status, number of children, gender, sexual orientation, and … photos. You are probably thinking the first eight are obvious, but asking yourself why not a photo? Unless you are an actor or model and this is your head shot, resist the temptation to attach your photo. Hiring managers are under extreme pressure to find the best candidates, and photos on résumés are considered a liability. Reserve your photos for your LinkedIn and Facebook pages- yes, hiring managers will look you up to see what you look like.


When hiring managers view your résumé, what is their underlying goal?

You may think that a hiring manager's goal is to find reasons to hire you. But in actuality, they are looking for reasons to eliminate you from the applicant pile. This is why your résumé must be written with the ability to quickly impress and catch their interest.


Will a hiring manager read your résumé front to back?

Not on the first pass. In fact, unless you are applying to a very small company, your résumé will probably be viewed by either an assistant or a computer applicant tracking system. Most hiring managers admit to only skimming a résumé for key words or specific information before putting you in the possible pile, and generally will only look at the top 1/3 of the first page. This makes that section of your résumé critical, and what we in the industry call the “30-second window.”


How important is the cover letter and should you include one every time?

Statistics show that 1/3 of hiring managers will read your cover letter, 1/3 will skim it, and 1/3 will ignore it. So should you include a cover letter? Absolutely. One third of hiring managers WILL read it, so don’t be that person who doesn’t send one, even if they don’t specifically ask for one. Additionally, a cover letter is a great supplement to the résumé where you can emphasize key points on your résumé, add additional information not on your résumé, and also give a new employer an idea of your personal character. However, if specifically asked to NOT send a cover letter, then don’t. Always follow the employer’s instructions implicitly- it is a test.


How long should your résumé be?

There is no definitive answer to this question. In general keep it concise yet meaningful, and representative of your actual experience.  For example, if you are a new grad, stretching your experience out to three pages will not be taken seriously. Senior executives with 30 years of experience should try to keep their résumé to under three pages, and only focus on the most relevant and current experience. Keep in mind that a hiring manager does not have time or want to read a book about you, and will appreciate a well written summary of your career history. (Exceptions are with Federal résumés, CVs, or for employers who have explicit directions for your résumé.)


How important is visual appeal on a résumé?

Very important. Well balanced text to white space (the space between lines of text) makes the reading experience much more inviting, and is an indication of your ability to be organized, communicate clearly, and pay close attention to detail. (On this note, see question below about soft skills.) Résumés that are crammed with text and lack focus are far too often overlooked. Don’t make a hiring manager have to search for your best selling points. Format it so they stand out.


What are soft skills, and why should they be avoided on your résumé?

Soft skills are personal traits such as well-organized, good communication, attention-to-detail, multi-tasking, and interpersonal skills. Although these are important traits to have professionally, they are by default expected from you as an employee, and should not be present in literal terms on your résumé. Soft skills are baseless, and everyone claims to have them. Therefore, they are an inefficient use of valuable real-estate on your résumé. Stick to verifiable hard skills like software programs, selling techniques, management skills, etc.  If you do choose to include these, use conservatively and back them up with evidence.


What is the difference between a résumé and a CV?

The terms “résumé” and “CV”, or curriculum vitae, are often used loosely and interchangeably around the world. But in the United States there is a difference. Typically, CV’s are expected from doctorates and students, generally in the scientific fields, who are applying for academic or medical positions, grants, or scholarships. A CV will often contain lengthy lists and descriptions of research conducted, publications, presentations, committees, etc., and can be several pages long. In a nutshell, CVs are credentials-based, where résumés revolve around accomplishments.