When It Comes to Your Resume, Style Matters

A common mistake persists among aspiring cybersecurity professionals, when it comes to resume writing. Some continue to believe their resume’s content is the only thing that matters. It’s understandable.

You spend so much time trying to develop the right resume bullets to capture all your relevant experience. With such limited space, it’s tempting to use it all. After you’ve spent hours writing and rewriting your resume, it is easy to expect that someone will dutifully read it all.

In reality style matters just as much as substance. A well designed resume is going to get more attention. It makes it easier for recruiters and hiring managers to find the information they’re looking for. Conversely a well written resume—which is hard on the eyes—will do you a disservice.

Myth That Someone Is ‘Reading’ Your Resume

When people think of their resume being read, many have this image of someone sitting at a desk and reading their resume top-to-bottom like the latest suspense novel. Sounds cool, but that's fiction. No one is reading your resume top-to-bottom. You’re lucky if someone spends 30 seconds reviewing your resume.

What does a resume review really look like? One common scenario is that someone reviews your application directly in an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) or similar recruiting software. When this occurs, your application is literally a line item amongst the dozens or hundreds of applicants. The recruiter may view your resume within the ATS to determine which resumes to send to the hiring manager. The recruiter has plenty of applications to choose from. If she chose to view your resume, she won’t linger on it. The recruiter will make a decision and move on.

You’re lucky if someone spends 30 seconds reviewing your resume.

The second scenario is really a continuation of the first one. The hiring manager receives a batch of resumes—via email or through an HR software tool—from the recruiter to review. Even if the hiring manager spends more time reviewing it, your resume is being compared against the others resumes. (When was the last time you compared your resume to someone else’s?) The hiring manager is a busy person, so she makes a decision of who should be interviewed, informs the recruiter, then moves on with her day.

Purpose In Style 

Writing and designing your resume thoughtfully so that it is readable and well-organized is important. Not just because it makes the document easier to read. Consider resume writing to be a demonstration of your ability to synthesize big concepts into a digestible, readable product.

When a candidate sends a three-page resume representing their six years of work experience, they’ve just demonstrated an inability to be concise. When a student drafts a single-space, densely packed resume that looks like a wall of text, they demonstrate an inability to be creative and engaging in their writing. When a career changer provides a resume full of work experience bullets that don’t actually say anything of substance, they demonstrate suboptimal deductive reasoning. These are all negative indicators.

An attractive looking resume allows the reader to make positive inferences about your professionalism and attitude.

Is it unfair to make conclusions about a candidate’s aptitude in brevity, creativity, or deductive reasoning, based on a one- to two-page resume? Maybe. But what else does the hiring manager have to go off of? Furthermore, some candidates will succeed in doing so.

Design Your Masterpiece

Your resume is about your experience and how you present it to the world. How to present your experience can certainly be daunting, especially when venturing into a new career field, like cybersecurity. You can’t control your past experience. (Given the luxury of 20-20 hindsight it’s easy to dwell on what you should have majored in school or what past jobs you should have taken.) You do control how you present that past and current experience.

Every candidate has the same canvas to work with in crafting their resumes. The most experienced candidates do not necessarily have the best looking resumes. The goal of your resume is to make a hiring manager say, I want to talk to that candidate.

A well designed resume allows the reader to easily find the relevant information to come to that conclusion. An attractive looking resume allows the reader to make positive inferences about your professionalism and attitude.

Even if you're not the best fit for the job you are applying for, they may refer you to another role. You have the same one- to two-pages to design your resume as everyone else. Be thoughtful about it. Go forth and design your resume masterpiece.

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