Candidates ask me constantly to send them a sample resume they can copy.

I provide our proven ResumeGenie format that’s based on the science of job search in the CareerRx program. They typically will say, “But I want something pretty. With more design elements. That looks more like a flyer with images, different fonts, colors, shaded boxes and creative ways to present my work experience.”

Pretty Doesn’t Mean Perfect When It Comes To Resumes

Actually, your pretty resume might be killing your job search. And your designer resume where you got out of control with boxes and fonts might just be a career assassin. Those I want to look like a creative person resumes even though I’m not and use purple indiscriminately might be causing you to lose any chance of getting an interview.


Because an applicant tracking system AKA ATS- Greenhouse, Taleo, Brassring, Jobvite, iCIMS – whichever recruiting technology vendor a company uses doesn’t care about pretty. Because the ATS is doing the heavy lifting. It has to parse your pimped up resume into the ATS and if you embed the document with coding, images, fonts, symbols and then jack it further with putting your address in a skinny box on the side going up and down, it can’t parse that data.

So forget pretty. Think parsing. Is this resume parsing worthy? Can an app parse my data- contact information, bio, professional work experience, education and relevant go to market toolkit? If you get too out of control, chances are the ATS can’t parse it.

72% of all online applications – which are populated through ATS parsing – are never even seen by a HUMAN. Bots review for key words around title, functional area, industry, software, education, degrees, certifications etc…Bots can’t figure out when you decided to drink wine with a friend who dabbles in design and go a bit crazy on your resume.

Resume Optimization Ten Commandments

You have 6 Seconds – Studies show people review a resume for 6 seconds. Don’t even think of wasting their time. And that’s when a human reviews it.

It’s All About the Reader – It’s not about you. It’s about the reader. The Recruiter who has a JD they are benchmarking you against. The Hiring Manager who needs a self starter, go getter with VP level skills who doesn’t need any training or supervision and is fine with being treated like crap at Manager level compensation (don’t get me started on these awful traits managers are seeking)…no more ranting, You get my point.

Focus on Toolkit – The Hiring Manager has to fill a job. No one cares about your life history and every small detail.

Top of the fold – Recruiters and Hiring Managers review resumes like webpages- with a focus on the top third. That’s the top of the fold for a resume.  All critical info must be viewable without scrolling.  No one wants to scroll down to see anything.

10 Years Is It- If it happened over 10-15 years ago, that’s 4 Presidents ago and no one cares. Whack it. Now.

Bulletize – No one reads wrap about sentences. Takes too much time. List your relevant current in demand keywords as bullets.

Embed Your Career Transition History – Let’s say you have been at a lot of companies that went through sales, mergers, downsizings….transactions that cause them to cease to exist, move operations, close your office….that’s not your fault. Add a bullet to that job indicating “Company sold and operations shut down.”

Job Jumping – Hiring Managers – Boomers….not Millennial managers – will irrationally blame you for moving on. I like job seekers who move and show a steady progression of developing new skills across companies and industries. But for some reason, there’s a legacy concept that loyalty is more important than skills. I say stay loyal – to skillbuilding.

Spellcheck – Seriously. I have to keep on adding this. I see candidates with typos in their titles. It’s sad. Don’t be that person.

Word Cloud – It can’t hurt to run your resume through a word cloud that compares your keywords against the word cloud keywords in the job posting.

So when it comes to resumes, stick to functional formats. Forget pretty. Your resume needs to be more like Dwayne Johnson. He can do anything. He’s very versatile. Appeals to multiple audiences. He can act, do comedy and also maybe run for President. Make your resume into the Rock of Resumes.