Demystifying The Resume Process

Here at Stay in the Game, we receive and review hundreds of applications each month. We know how challenging it can be to understand what employers are looking for—and that’s especially true for moms returning to work after a “mom pause.” 

Knowing how to put together a knock-out resume is a valuable skill, but it’s not something that comes naturally to everyone. If you’re new to the process or just starting to put yourself out there after some time away from the working world, it’s helpful to have a strategy going in—and maybe a few insider tips! 

We sat down with Carrie Pharr, recruiter for Stay in the Game, to find out what she looks for in a resume and what makes some pop while others are relegated to the bottom of the stack.

In our conversation, Carrie demystified the resume writing process from top to bottom. We talked about what she looks for in a resume, what makes some rise to the top in a sea of candidates, and, perhaps more importantly, what compels her to eliminate.

Seven Recruiter Tips for Writing a Resume that Rocks

As you prepare to create your resume, use this article as a checklist to keep you on track. We suggest that you bookmark this page so you can refer back to it periodically, as, at some point, you’ll need to update and punch up. Let’s dive in!

  1. Always submit your resume in a PDF format. If you use Microsoft Word or another word processing program to create your resume, your formatting and fonts might not hold unless you save it in PDF format. Uploading resumes into application systems in any form other than PDF often scrambles the information and may cause the hiring manager to eliminate the submission. Ultimately, you want to be sure that the format, layout, and design you spent so much time on are viewable as intended. Use the “save as” feature under the file menu in Word and choose PDF under “export formats.” You can also save it as a PDF from the print dialog; just select PDF as your printer.  
  2. Use a template. Get creative! There are thousands of free templates on the web, or you can choose one already in your word processing software. Templates give your resume an edge when it comes to design, and it’s an easy way to make your resume stand out.
  3. Keep it short and concise. If possible, keep your resume down to one page. Using templates allows you to include all the necessary information about your work history and skill sets in a more compact form. Include the high points of your experience; you can expand and add more detail at your interview. 
  4. Attention to detail is critical. Always check and double-check to be sure there are no spelling, grammar, or formatting errors. Recruiters are often looking for someone talented in written communication, and even one small mistake or oversight could cause your resume to be rejected. Use the spellchecker in your software or a third-party app like Grammarly. It’s never a bad idea to have someone else look it over before you send it too; an extra set of eyes is always helpful. 
  5. Cover letter: yes or no? According to Carrie, cover letters are becoming a thing of the past. However, a well-written cover letter is always appreciated. If you feel a cover letter is necessary, consider the details. Show that you’ve done your research about the company, personalize it, and mention specifics about the job posting. Avoid using the same cover letter for every application you submit. If you use similarly-worded cover letters, double-check to ensure you’ve addressed it to the right person and refer to the right job. 
  6. Put your best stuff at the top. Recruiters and hiring managers have a lot on their plates. Don’t expect the person reviewing your resume to read every little detail right to the end. It’s not a novel—put the high points first to grab attention.
  7. Put your contact information at the top of the page. Your name and contact info should be clearly displayed in a prominent font (title case or bold) at the top of the page.

How to Address Employment Gaps

Gaps in your work history can sometimes be seen as red flags. However, there are many reasons why employment gaps happen. Addressing the situation is vital; plus, it gives you a chance to direct the narrative. 

Carrie suggests being upfront about your work gap. Perhaps you took time off to focus on your family, as many women did during the pandemic. Think about the skills you gained in the process, and leverage those points to turn the situation into a positive one. Multi-tasking, time management, managing people, problem-solving, organization, negotiation, conflict resolution, and communication skills are all critical aspects of running a household. They are also marketable skills that you can leverage to increase your value as an employee—especially when working in teams or working remotely

Perhaps you took some courses or learned new skills during your pause. Emphasize what you’ve learned and communicate your enthusiasm for learning new skills or ways of doing things. Openness, agility, and a learning mindset are all desirable qualities. 

Words Matter: The Best and Worst Words to Use on Your Resume

When you sit down to write, do you find yourself searching for the right words? According to the Muse, there are specific words and phrases recruiters are tired of hearing—and others that pique their interest in a good way.

Don’t Say This

Generally, try not to use jargony language—unless it’s specific to your profession and can’t really be said any other way. Avoid platitudes and hyperbole. Say what you mean, use plain language, and write from a professional mindset, not that of a romance novel. 

Here are a few words and catchphrases that you should avoid at all costs:

  • Go-getter
  • Detail-oriented
  • Hard worker
  • Team player
  • Synergy
  • Go-to person
  • Out-of-the-box thinker
  • Results-driven
  • Strategic thinker
  • Next generation
  • Best of breed
  • Salary negotiable
  • Responsible for … 
  • Proactive

You’ll note that these words and phrases are not directly related to any particular action you’ve taken. They are just descriptions of aspirational characteristics and do not denote results. Remember, you only have one page. You’ll want to use that space wisely and describe things you’ve done rather than what you might be capable of doing. This might not stand out to the average person as a negative, but recruiters will pick up on these points immediately.

Do say this

The following terms are active, meaning they describe what you actually did rather than making an ambiguous statement about what’s possible.  

  • Managed
  • Achieved
  • Created
  • Influenced
  • Launched
  • Negotiated
  • Improved
  • Trained
  • Mentored
  • Increased/Decreased
  • Under budget

At Stay In The Game, we’re here to support you in all aspects of your career! Whether you are fresh out of college or just reentering the workforce after a mom pause, we’ll help you find a job and a career you’ll love—on your terms. Join our community today for access to resources that will get you back in the game.

Stay In The Game provides opportunities for competent, educated individuals who have been out of the workforce. Now, they can get back in the game and put their talents to work. We offer jobs, training and community support. For more information, please visit our website https://stayinthegame.net/ or contact us at info@stayinthegame.net.