Write the Right Resume

By MedHunters Staff

Writing the right résumé today requires more thought and attention than ever before, because instead of just being read by a person, résumés also need to be read by computer systems. But despite the extra scrutiny, the normal résumé rules still apply – whether it's read by a computer system or not.

1. Content:

  • Ensure your contact information is prominent, complete, and correct.
  • Decide on format (see: Dear Cindy – Types of Résumés). If you're using the most common style, chronological (or if you're using the combination style), describe your work experience from most recent to least recent.
  • List both the month and the year of each job. For example, 2002 to 2003 could be interpreted as being two years of experience, but the reality may be that you were only in the position from November 2002 to February 2003 (see Dear Cindy – Can a Job Be Too Short for a Résumé?). Avoid being misleading; be clear.
  • List all relevant degrees/diplomas/certifications and the name of the institution from which you obtained the degree. If you did not complete a program but want to include it, be sure it's clear that you did not complete it.
  • Use the appropriate acronym for your specialty certifications.
  • Avoid jargon. Use words that clearly describe what you do or are interested in.
  • Indicate the type of facilities you worked for, specific skills, etc.
  • Be comprehensive but concise. You do not need to list every detail of your work history. Unless it's particularly relevant, save older information for the interview. (Depending on how long you've been working, your résumé shouldn't be longer than two pages. For information, see: Dear Cindy – Résumé Versus CV and Dear Cindy – How Long Is Too Long for a Résumé.)

    2. Presentation:

  • Before you send your résumé, have someone read it to check it for spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Many employers consider errors, particularly spelling errors, to be an indicator of your lack of attention to detail. Your computer's spell check function can usually identify misspelled words, but it is not effective for finding words that are used in the wrong context: patients can easily become patents.
  • Use standard fonts such as Arial or Times New Roman. And make sure it is a readable size.
  • Use capital letters appropriately – a résumé entirely in capitals not only looks strange, but is also painful to read.

    3. Some important don'ts:

  • Don't include personal information, such as your religion, how many children you have, and whether or not you're married.
  • Don't omit jobs from your résumé. Even if they didn't work out, include them. (Also see Dear Cindy – Listing Work Experience – How Old Is Too Old?.)
  • Don't exaggerate your skills or experience.
  • Don't include a photo, except in certain special circumstances.

    New Trends in Recruitment

    Today's recruiters use job boards, key words, and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to find their candidates.

    Job boards are like online classified ads. They can be specialized (such as BioSpace) or general (such as Monster). Unlike newspaper ads, however, job boards have additional features. Job posts placed online reach a wider audience, and jobseekers can register to be informed of suitable jobs.

    As well, some job boards use key words. These indexing words help jobseekers to search for jobs. And recruiters make use of key words to identify candidates.

    Key words are also used in ATS, which are one of the newest trends in recruitment. ATS are computer programs that store résumés. To select a specific set of candidates, a recruiter enters a particular key word into the ATS, which is then matched to words found in the stored résumés. Because an ATS is the first filter to screen out inappropriate résumés, your résumé should not only include those key words that identify you, it should also be scannable in order to be entered into the ATS in the first place. If your résumé misses on either of these points, it will never make it to the next level – where a real person will see it.

    In addition to writing a résumé for human eyes, and to ensure that a computer will be able to read it as well, keep in mind the following:

  • Use important, but appropriate, key words (e.g. CRA, QA, etc.) so recruiters can find your résumé.
  • Spelling errors (especially of key words) can prevent your résumé from being found in a database.
  • Tabs, graphics, and other fun formatting features do not always translate well between computer programs (see: Dear Cindy – What's the Best Way to Email a Résumé?). A common example is finding that your nifty bullets, used to highlight each of your achievements, have turned into upside-down question marks. So avoid using tabs and graphics. And consider saving your résumé as a text-only file. By working in a text-only file, you will be able to see how your résumé will appear once it is scanned electronically and stored in a database.

    And finally, revisit your résumé from time to time. Not only will you have new skills to add, but a fresh eye will see opportunities for improvement.

    NOTE: What exactly are key words and will using them help me get a job?

    A key word is a significant or indexing word. Or, to use a pun, it's the "key" to what you're looking for. Most of us are familiar with using them, because we use them all the time when we search for information on sites such as Google or Yahoo!. For example, a person looking for a job as a CRA could use key words like: "CRA job," "clinical research job," or "clinical."

    As mentioned earlier, the ATS programs used by recruiters use key words. So, when writing your résumé, include key words that are common to your profession, e.g., equipment used, acronyms for specialty certifications, names of licensing boards, etc.

    But don't think that peppering your résumé with key words guarantees you that dream job. Your résumé still has to have substance. And bear in mind key word searching is far from perfect. We've all had to sift through pages of incorrect search results to find what we are looking for – for example, my former coworker did a search engine query on "Social Workers" and the first websites listed on the results page were those of prostitutes.

    Which is why some job boards choose to forgo key word searching, and instead ask individuals to categorize themselves by job title (e.g., CRA-Clinical Research Associate). This way, jobseekers get matched to the jobs they are looking for, and employers find only those candidates that qualify for their jobs – that is, they get that CRA, instead of a technician who worked in a "clinical" environment or one who specializes in the repair of "clinical" equipment.

    >>> Discuss This Story

  • Back to news