The 21st Century Resume

A headline from the Wall Street Journal -Careers blog of January 24, 2012:

Your Resume v. Oblivion: Inundated companies resort to software to sift job applicants for right skills, by Lauren Weber.

There is great satisfaction when the WSJ echoes the very advice Inkandvoice Communication has been giving job hunters for years, Rule Number 2 for resumes – K.I.S.S; Keep It Short and Simple. What is rule Number 1?

As a resume consultant (one of many communication services InkandVoice Communication offers), IVC’s owner David Rosman has been warning people about the “resume rejection bin,” what the WSJ calls the “Black Hole,” for years and how to get around it, if only to increase your chances to get that job by a few percentage points.

The number of companies using electronic screening systems for applicants has grown to a point where the WSJ reported that as many as 90-percent of Fortune 500 companies are using computers to “cut the herd” of applicants. We believe that number is closer to 100-percent.

Other numbers from the WSJ:

Only 19% of small businesses review at least the majority of resumes received. Most weed out the “silly resumes” quickly. Using colored paper, fancy and oversize fonts, not following the “new” format, which is really an old format that we have forgotten about.

One company told the WSJ that when they opening one position online, they received over 400 applicants in 24-hours. To believe yours will be found in that pile, accepted by the computer and then reviewed by an HR professional, is slim.

Finally, it costs a company almost $3,500 for the online hiring process alone. This does not include the costs for training and other expenses after the individual is hired.

In other words, the recruiters are inundated with an overflow of applications and they are looking for any method to cut the pile to a reasonable selection group.

IVC has been touting the “Rules for Resumes” for some time now. Most are “common sense,” the after the fact understanding of how the system works. We would like to restate a few of them here.

1)       “Nothing is as hard as it seems, but everything is harder than it looks.” – (The one you’ve been waiting for.) We start every training program with this simple but often forgotten rule. It is not hard to simplify and rebuild your resume. It is difficult to put your ego aside and fix the problems.

2)     K.I.S.S. – The WSJ agrees, nothing fancy. No silly or oversize fonts. Stick to bright white paper (105+ brightness) and black ink. Use Times New Roman, Georgia, Arial, or similar fonts only. 10- or 12-point fonts for the body of the resume and cover letter.

3)     One Page Only! – Nothing more need to be said here.

4)     Create a “Boiler Plate” – We usually suggest that an applicant with more than ten-years of career experience write a true Curriculum Vitae, your life after graduation; the “long form.” Keep this for the formal application process.

      From the CV, create a resume, the “short form,” concerning your last ten-years of experience. A recent survey taken by IVC of HR professionals showed that experience over ten-years is considered “obsolete” by a majority of recruiters.

     Update both often and purposefully.

     The exceptions for this rule are simple. If an older position you held shows the same skills set as the announcement or if you held a senior management or executive position.

5)     Be Professional, Look Professional – The resume is actually two documents in one. It is an advertisement concerning the skills and compatibility of one person for one job opening.

     It is also a presentation of you as a professional. It does not matter if the resume is for a senior manager or janitor, if it is not presented in a professional manner, it will be rejected. Check your “spelink” and grammar after you use spell check. Reread the document twice and out loud before sending it to the HR computer. 

6)     Letterhead – The letterhead for your resume should show your name no larger than 14-point and your complete address, including an email address, no larger than 10-point. Use the same letterhead on your resume as well as your letter of application.

     By the way – Create a new professional email account using your name. A recent survey of recruiters by IVC showed that a majority are now using email to communicate with potential hires.  “vampirekiller” will get you rejected.

7)     Key Words – Read the placement announcement carefully and use the same key words in your resume. There are two methods to do this.

     We advocate placing those key words or phrases within the context of the “experience” section of the resume. Others suggest that a “Skills Set” section should be the location. Either way, Key Words are one key that will definitely help getting past the rejection bin.

8)    Leave Out What is Not Necessary – Do not add any personal information like non-professional organizations, marital status, willingness to move, religion and, most important, “References Available Upon Request.”

     Of course references will be available upon request and you would not have applied for a job in another state if you were not willing to move. (Just talk to your significant other first.) The rest have nothing to do with the purpose of this document – getting a job.

9)     Keep to Format – When listing career experience, the format is very important especially for the first review of your resume, by a machine or a homo-Sapien. And the WSJ agrees,

  • Job title – Company name – Location (city and state only) – Dates.
  • A short description of your responsibilities comes next. Keep this to one short sentence, two at most.

     Remember, this is your resume, not one advertising your former employer, so do not say what that company does or did.

  • MM-SM-ST – This is a rule specific to IVC. The recruiter does not care about the activities you performed that are expected of that position.

     They only care about one thing; How you can Make Money, Save Money or Save Time for the new employer. Put a dollar or percentage value on the activity, even if it is a SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess), as long as it is truthful.  Say how you accomplished this feat for your former employers. 

10)  The Rule of the Ridiculous – This is also an IVC exclusive. Watch an infomercial or two. That new exercise machine is “only five payments of $69.99 each,” or you can make over “$1,000,000 using our Get Rich Quick system,” or the life insurance policy is “less than $1.00 a day.” How much did you pay per gallon the last time you filled your gas tank? They are all practicing.

     The Rule of the Ridiculous: Use a number that is so large or so small that makes your product, you, look the best.

     That exercise equipment will still cost you $3500, plus shipping and handling. Yes, someone may have made that $1 million dollars, but most lost money buying the scheme. The life insurance will cost you $300 annually and that is a one-time payment every year. And you did not pay $3.09 for the gas. You paid $3.09.9, closer to $3.10.

     By the way, did you notice the GRQ scheme’s numbers? Which looks bigger: $1 million or $1,000,000? Use the numerical form when it is to your advantage. It is also easier for the computer to read.

11) USPS – Another IVC exclusive and one that many others do not suggest, especially for mid- and upper-level management positions. What do you do after you complete the online application?

     Go to the company’s Web site or do an Internet search. Find out who the V.P. of the department or of HR is. Send them a copy of your resume and cover letter. Why?

     Because water flows down hill and if your resume is forwarded from a VP to the recruiter, it will more likely be reviewed.

Warning: This does not work for entry level or lower level management positions.

12) SW-SW-SW-N – Do not take rejection letters personally. The letter is not an indication that you are somehow not the “right” for the position. There is timing, a bit of luck and other factors over which you have no control involved.

     SW-SW-SW-N is an old business pithy which we incorporate often and try to instill with all of our clients. A modification of P.T Barnum’s famous line about suckers:

“Some Will- Some Won’t-So What-Next!”

Of course this is not an all-inclusive list but it is enough to get you started on a better career search. Discouragement is normal, but do not let it get you down. There is the right match for you out there, but in this economy, it just takes a bit more work to find it.

 InkandVoice Communication provides resume review and editing, and interview coaching. IVC also provides customized internal and external communication training for corporations and non-profits. Please visit our Web site at, write us at, or call us at 573-999-0982.

David Rosman, IVC’s Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, is an award winning author, columnist, and educator. He has written over a dozen professional development textbooks and 200+ training programs for organization as large as fortune and Inc. 500 companies as well for the Ma-Pa corner store.

Our commitment is to your success.


About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place), the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing, and the winner of the 2007 Interactive Media Award for excellence in editing.
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