A Confusing Resume Equals a Confused Job Seeker

Nancy Anderson
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Your resume often reflects your identity as a job seeker. A clear, well-organized document shows that you've identified the logical next step and examined how your work history can get you there. A scattered, confusing resume, on the other hand, signals a lack of clarity. Fixing your resume can help you conduct a more efficient and productive job search.

Explain Your Career Progression

A scattered career progression is a hallmark of a confusing resume. A recruiter should be able to look at your work history and see exactly how it's prepared you for the open position. When your recent jobs are all over the place, this can be a challenge. The solution? Explain them in terms that are relevant to the potential employer. If you're applying for a management job, experience as a theater director might not seem useful. To help the employer connect the dots, you might list responsibilities such as "Managed a cast of 25 people," "Planned and executed strategic rehearsal goals" or "Increased ticket sales by 25 percent by implementing a cast referral program."

Remove Irrelevant Information and Filler

A great resume tells a clear story about your professional brand and career path. Filler text and irrelevant details dilute this message, leaving recruiters and employers to wade through a confusing resume. To make your resume more compelling, examine each entry and ask yourself if it supports the image you want to portray. If you're applying for a fashion editor job, the employer probably doesn't care about your college ski team experience. The same goes for generic filler text in your Skills section, such as "proficient in Microsoft Office" or "skilled in customer service". When in doubt, use the job description as a guide — if a detail isn't relevant to the duties of the position, omitting it is likely to help your confusing resume.

Create a Clear Structure

One of the easiest ways to improve a confusing resume is to create a clear structure. After a quick scan, an employer should have an idea of who you are as a job seeker and professional. To accomplish this, set up a visual hierarchy. The most important information should be closest to the top and left margins. If your job titles are important, you might left-justify them and use bold text, with other information indented and arranged in a bulleted list. If your college degrees set you apart from other candidates, you might put the Education section before the Work History section. As a general rule, avoid large blocks of text — they're difficult to scan, so important information might get passed over.

Fixing a confusing resume helps employers and recruiters, but it also benefits you. As you edit and organize your work history, it's easier to gain clarity and determine the logical next steps in your career path.

Photo Courtesy of Kate Hiscock at Flickr.com


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  • Alisa Marie Rey
    Alisa Marie Rey

    Very interesting information from both the author as well as the numerous client reviews and insight.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Bradford C thanks for your email and for your correction. It's good to know that many recruiters also use the ATS. Not that it's going to make any job seeker happy but at least they know what they are up against when they apply for a job or attempt to go through a recruiter. We get emails all of the time from angry job seekers who have submitted their application to a recruiter and never hear anything back from them. Guessing that they didn't make it through the ATS. Thanks again for letting us know.

  • Bradford C.
    Bradford C.

    @Nancy Anderson According the Capterra: 75% of recruiters and talent managers use some form of recruiting or applicant tracking software. Source: https://www.capterra.com/recruiting-software/impact-of-recruiting-software-on-businesses I respectfully disagree with your statements. A simple Google inquiry on the percentage of recruiters using ATS reveals a wealth of current data that argues to the contrary of this article. As stated in my previous comment, it would be ideal if the job search climate still involved the good ole days of impressing the recruiter or hiring manager, but that’s just not the reality today.

  • Lorraine Gordon
    Lorraine Gordon

    Hi Brad. You can try listing all the keywords in the job description in white letters on the bottom of your resume. Humans can't read it, but scanners can. It just might help your resume get to the next round.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Bradford C thanks for your comment. This particular article concentrated more on the relationship between a recruiter and a job seeker and not through a company's ATS. It is true that, when you apply at a company for a position, your resume will more than likely be sent through an ATS that is set up to filter on what the hiring manager/HR deem important. If it makes its way through that, it might end up with the hiring manager. However, even if it makes it to the hiring manager, that doesn't mean that you will get called for an interview. You might get a screening call from HR to determine if what you put in your resume is true and to do a sort of mini phone interview with you. If you get through that, you might be called in for an in-person interview. That's pretty much how it works in a company. With a recruiter, the process could be different as most recruiting companies do not use ATS due to cost constraints. And one last thing - remember keywords are king. If you do not have the keywords that a company or even a recruiter is looking for, well, game over for that position.

  • Bradford C.
    Bradford C.

    Do you think that this is an accurate description of what it is like to job hunt currently? I would have to say it is not. The days of your resume being read by an influential HR Manager are far gone. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) dominate HR “departments.” A resume must be on par with the ATS filter that contains key words, skills and other characteristics with unreasonable granularity. In fact, the level of specificity that ATS implores is borderline-discrimination. While I would love to exchange ideas about targeting a resume to a human audience, the reality is figuring out the algorithm the human told the bot to hire.

  • Lois K.
    Lois K.

    very Interesting

  • Robin K.
    Robin K.

    great information still looking for a job

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