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Bruzzese: Make your resume relevant and readable

While hiring managers in many industries say they’re getting more and more applications as the number of people looking for work grows, they’re very blunt when it comes to what gets a candidate tossed without a second glance: a bad resume.

But what exactly constitutes a “bad resume” depends on the hiring manager. Some cite pet peeves such as a candidate including too many personal details or providing a vague description of past job duties. Others say that any spelling or grammatical errors mean automatic rejection.

Still, there appears to be one area they all agree on: As the number of resumes grows, they have less and less time to peruse them, so it’s critical resumes be clear, concise and targeted.

“I read somewhere that it takes someone about 30 seconds to decide if they’re going to keep reading a resume or not,” says Diane Gallo, chief human resources officer for Vistage International Inc. in San Diego. “I’d say that’s probably true – you’ve got to show me right away that you’ve got a transferable skill set.”

So instead of focusing on your experience with a certain company, Gallo wants to know how the skills you used on that job can be put to work for her company, which focuses on executive development.

As for pet peeves, Gallo says she wants to see a font size “that doesn’t need a magnifying glass” to read (10- to 12-point is good), and a resume that is eye-catching with a good use of white space. And she doesn’t care “if you were married to the same wonderful woman for 25 years and have two beautiful daughters” because “I can’t ask you about those things anyway.”

Gallo also says that it bugs her to have someone write in the third person, which sounds too much like a biography, and considers it a “red flag” when she sees resumes with the same return address for different candidates. “It means it’s a resume service sending out a mass mailing, instead of really targeting for a position at our company,” she says.

While Gallo’s company has about 135 employees, there are currently only six workers at Increo Solutions, a startup company in Mountain View, Calif., which has developed software to give professionals feedback on their work.

Increo’s CEO Kimber Lockhart says that she’s so crunched for time she reads resumes quickly and may not even notice spelling errors “unless they’re really bad.”

“Experience is the number one thing I’m looking for, but I do have a sense of aesthetics when I look at a resume, so I want to see a clean font, a clean layout and no more than a page and a half long talking about the things I care about,” she says.

Both Gallo and Lockhart say they’re seeing at least a 25 percent increase in the number of resumes coming in for each position as well as greater diversity and experience in those job seekers.

“It’s really not a bad strategy sending a resume even if you’re not an exact fit,” Gallo says. “I actually found someone who didn’t fit the job I had, but I think the person might be a good fit for another job.”

Ranelle Rubin, practice manager at Hall and Wrye Plastic Surgeons in Reno, Nev., sees a red flag when a candidate “has job-hopped without reason or moved geographically a lot without a good reason.”

“It’s important that a person say why they left a position, or I’m going to wonder if they were let go because they didn’t do a good job, or they just take a job because they need it and will soon leave it when something else comes along,” Rubin says.

She says she often asks open-ended questions, and may ask candidates “to convince me it’s going to be worth my while to train them.”

Anita Bruzzese is the author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy … and How to Avoid Them” (www.45things.com). Write to her c/o: Business Editor, Gannett News Service, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.

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