The Purpose of the Resume

Your resume has two distinct purposes:

  1. To get the interview
  2. To guide the interviewer in the interview

Many people write the resume for one side or the other, when both sides need to be served equally. For example, if you have a resume that is keyword packed which helps you surface in a keyword search, but is lacking in flow for the interviewer, you may get the interview, but fail the interview itself. On the other hand, if you have a well-written English 101 resume that has flowery words and reads like a novel, you may never get the interview in the first place, since you didn't include the key information for getting the interview and your resume is buried deep in an applicant tracking system, never to be found in a keyword search.

So when you write your resume, keep both angles in mind: both the screener (usually a Recruiter or other person in HR who is doing the initial search and review of the resume) and the interviewer (usually the hiring manager and others designated to assess candidates during interviews, both on the phone and in person). The screener is looking through the resume quickly (often in as little as 2-3 seconds) during the initial scan and then more thoroughly (but talthough only 30-60 seconds) in the read to determine if you are a potential candidate. From that point forward, reviewers will take more time to read your resume. However, don't assume that the interviewer has taken time to fully read your resume before the actual interview. Most phone interviews begin with no more than a few minutes quick review of your resume and many in-person interviewers take 5 minutes or less in prep for the interview. I've seen many interviewers walk into the interview room looking at the resume to get the name of the person, then winging it from that point forward. So the resume has to perform within the interview itself to guide the interviewer to key information. Making the key information easy to find is important for both the quick review and the detailed review.

Think about each line on your resume as a dollar spent. You have about $35-$40 to spend on an internship, entry level or recent grad resume (one page equals approximately 35-40 lines of text beyond your contact information) and $75-$80 to spend on an experienced resume (two pages). As you write your resume, make a decision on whether the information is line worthy of spending one of your dollars. Compare it to other information which could be filling the space. From the perspective of the screener and the interviewer, is it money well spent?

A well written resume will cover all of the key information in an efficient manner, effectively serving both purposes of the resume. It includes the appropriate keywords for being found in a keyword search, but avoids the "keyword packing" approach that many resumes take, especially in more technical fields. It has all of key information formatted in a way to make it easy for the interviewer to quickly understand and comprehend who you are and the value you provide.