notebook with reminder to update resume format

It’s often been said that you only have one chance to make a first impression and, when applying for a job, your resume is that first impression.

Think of it as your initial “handshake” with a potential employer.

Here at Aviation Personnel International (API), our role as recruiters or “headhunters” is to read hundreds of candidates resumes every year to determine whether their capabilities will meet the needs of the business aviation organizations we support. Therefore, we need to be able to quickly scan a resume and locate the relevant information.

With that in mind, it’s important to realize that it’s not merely what your resume contains that will help you become a potential candidate; it’s also how it’s structured.

How a resume is laid out or formatted quickly tells us a candidate’s story and what he or she is capable of. It helps us answer the question, “Do you have the qualification to do the job–and do it well?”

As you may likely know, a resume is a marketing tool that should be “polished” and updated yearly—regardless of whether you’re actively on the job hunt. Contrary to a lot of people’s thinking, resumes aren’t only used to help secure an internal promotion or a new job—they’re necessary if you’re applying to speak at a conference or join a committee. Your resume content should also serve as as the foundation for building and/or updating your LinkedIn profile.

(Speaking of content, my next post will be all about resume writing, so stay tuned!)

Formatting is Everything

Below are some very basic resume formatting tips to ensure that your resume is readable and, most importantly, scan-able. These are my personal recommendations—all with the goal that a HR recruiter or hiring manager will take notice.

  • Template. Select a Microsoft Word resume template based on a chronological format (vs. a functional format), which is the norm in our industry. This means starting with your most recent employer and working backwards.
  • Margins. I like to see a one-inch standard margin.
  • Page Length. Resumes that are no more than two pages are preferable, so you have to be concise.
  • Fonts. The font you use for your resume is more important than you think. Select a font that will open on any computer and alter the template fonts as needed. I recommend using Arial or Times New Roman, as they are most commonly used in the business world. Whichever one you choose, make sure the font size is legible for reviewers of all ages (e.g., no less than 11 pt. for Times New Roman and no less than 10 pt. for Arial).
  • Photos. Please reserve your headshot photo for LinkedIn or other electronic sites, not your paper resume.
  • Your Name. Your first and last name should be in a larger font than that of the text, so it jumps off the page. And, if you’ve earned your Ph.D., MBA or Certified Aviation Manager (CAM), don’t forget to include the appropriate professional designation(s) after your name.
  • Your Contact Info. Directly under your name, list your address, city, state, zip code, mobile phone number and your personal email address (not a work email address). We want to know the city where you currently live, so we can assess your ability to relocate, if needed. For example, if I live in San Francisco and I’m applying for a position in New York City, that’s a flag. Not necessarily a red one, but I’m going to want to know up front how geographically flexible you, as a candidate, will be.
  • Summary. I’m always asked my opinion on whether I like to read an “objective” at the top of a resume. My preference is for a short, introductory paragraph called a “Summary of Qualifications” that highlights your background. (Again, more on this content-related advice in my next post).
  • Employment. Beneath your “Summary of Qualifications” header, create a “Professional Experience” section that lists (in chronological order, starting from most recent to oldest) your relevant professional experience. Note that this section title sounds a lot more professional than “Work History.”  Here are three more formatting tips for the employment section:
    • List the name and location of each employer in a different font, but be sure to format your fonts consistently (e.g., the name of every company should be in same font).
    • Include the dates of employment, but not the months, unless you were only employed for one year.
    • Create a section under each employer that is a short, a four to five sentence description of the company.
  • Education. List the post-secondary schools you attended, the degrees you attained and any special awards and honors you earned.Examples of education include: Darden School of Business, the USC Safety Course, NBAA’s Certified Aviation Manager and a Bachelors, Masters or Ph.D. Note: It’s not important to include the dates of your education, which is something we see only with very young, just-out-of-college candidates.
  • Training. Here is where you shoulddocument your formal aviation technical training or professional training, such as leadership – or aviation-related training you received (e.g., FACTS, MedAire, international procedures or even a culinary institute).
  • Skills/Technology: It’s great to see language skills and/or any aviation-related skills or technology that you might have that could be relevant to the position, such as Flight Operations Software (FOS).
  • Personal Information. At the bottom of resumes, we often see personal information included, such as “married with two kids, non-smoking, avid runner,” etc. I suggest leaving this line off because it may cause you to stand out too much. Leave personal details and interests for your discussion with the interviewer.
  • References. To me, the line “References Available Upon Request” at the bottom of a resume is largely unnecessary, as it’s a given that you’ll be asked to provide references during the interviewing process. Just be sure that you have a nicely formatted list of references to deliver to potential employers upon their request. You should shoot for three professional references and at least one personal reference.

Once you’ve assembled your resume outline, it’s time to write the content that’s tailored to the specific position that you are applying for. In our next post, we’ll focus exclusively on how to write your resume content. Stay tuned!

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