What employers want on your resume

05/02/2014 8:00 AM

05/05/2014 8:45 AM

Here’s what employers think about resumes, cover letters and thank you notes, according to a survey released by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Two-thirds of hirers want chronological resumes listing your work history and education in reverse order. Four in 10 like bulleted formats.

Thirty-eight percent want your whole relevant work history. Nine percent ask for 11 to 15 years. Another 38 percent are OK with the last eight to 10 years.

Nearly nine in 10 want your resume tailored to the job or industry. No one-size-fits-all.

About one-third of government hirers said it’s a mistake to lack a cover letter, but only one-fifth of private industry hirers would miss it.

A good cover letter, if welcome, emphasizes how you fit the job requirements and tells why you want to work there.

If you were fired or laid off, nearly eight in 10 hirers think you should explain that in a job interview.

Gaps in your work history? About half said you don’t need to draw attention to or hide them. Just state facts.

Sixty-eight percent of hirers prefer to get resumes through their websites. Email, job boards, postal mail and applicant tracking systems are less preferred.

Human resource professionals said they spent less than five minutes per resume to decide whether an applicant proceeded further.

Heavy use of applicant screening software means your resume must include key words from the job posting.

The biggest resume mistakes are grammatical and spelling errors and missing job history details or dates.

Six in 10 think a thank you note is important after an interview. Half prefer emailed notes.

As always, try to use personal contacts to discern what your target employer prefers. Opinions differ. There is no one way.

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