8 common resume questions, answered

Article by Horizontal Team
Apr 12, 2023
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Finding a new job begins with a good resume. Especially in an uncertain job market, having a resume that stands out is essential to landing a role that propels your career. We’ve compiled 8 of the most common resume questions and provided some advice on how to form a resume that won’t get passed over by hiring managers.

Q: Should I refresh my resume or start completely over?

If you haven’t refreshed your resume or applied for a job in a while, this is a very important question to ask yourself. You should start by evaluating the content and format of your current resume. See if it aligns with the jobs you’re applying for. If you are a recent college grad, high school experience is no longer needed. If you’ve been in a role for years, take a look at your accomplishments: You may have more experience than meets the eye! Will minor resume updates properly convey your experience and skills? Could a few changes make it stand out to the hiring manager?

If the answer is ‘no’ or you’re not quite sure, then you may want to start from scratch. Looking for some resume design assistance? Here are some good templates to help you start anew.

Q: Should I include an objective statement in my resume?

To get right to the point: No. However, a summary statement could help make your resume pop! A summary statement can be more valuable since recruiters and hiring managers tend to scan the top half of resumes first. Summary statements are similar in length to objective statements (a sentence or two) and provide a brief overview of your background and how you’re a good fit for the prospective role. Alternatively, you can include a list of skills like what you see at the top of a LinkedIn profile. If you’re unsure of what to include, it’s perfectly fine to omit a summary statement or skills section completely.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the top of your resume is very valuable real estate, and you don’t want to waste it. Show the person on the other end why and how you can be a major asset to their team.

Q: How should I structure my resume?

There are 3 common ways resumes tend to be structured: chronological, functional and hybrid. The chronological resume orders your past job experiences by date, starting at the top with your most recent position and working down from there. A functional resume leaves out the dates completely and only highlights jobs, internships and volunteer positions that relate to the current role. The hybrid approach is a mix of the chronological and functional. Both the functional and hybrid resumes are used primarily when someone is switching careers or looking at entry-level roles.

With that said, many recruiters recommend a chronological resume that includes the most recent roles. This allows the hiring manager to get a good picture of your work history with a cover letter/introduction email to better explain your goals and how your background translates to the position you’re applying for.

Q: Should I personalize my resume every time I apply for a job?

We get it, personalization is a lot of work. But, tailoring your resume to include key words from a company’s job description or website is beneficial. If you aren’t working with a recruiter, applying online has some extra steps. Companies may have technology that filters through resumes, so a hiring manager sees a smaller pool of resumes. While you may not have the exact experience they are looking for, did you do something similar in a different role and just need to edit your word choice? Using key words will get your resume in front of a person. The extra time is worth it.

Q: Should I include a photo of myself within my resume?

Do not include a photo of yourself unless specifically asked for, or unless it fits the type of industry you are in (acting and modeling, for example). A professional headshot can add some personalization, but it can also consume valuable real estate at the top of your resume and increase bias. Additionally, your LinkedIn profile should already have a professional headshot, as it’s likely the hiring manager and others will visit this page if your resume stands out to them.

Q: What about references?

There is no need to say anything on your resume about references. If the job description asks for references, you should have these listed in a separate document. Your resume is about your skills and experience and a reference list can always be created separate.

Q: How long should my resume be?

Brevity is beauty.

Ideally, your resume should be no longer than one page. Depending on the industry you are in (such as higher education), resumes and CVs can be longer than a page. However, for most roles, hiring managers and recruiters will only be scanning or quickly reading through a virtual pile of resumes. Making sure every point on your resume is easy to understand and highlights the value you have brought to other organizations, as well as the potential to bring value to your next one, is essential. When you look at your resume, is it easy to follow? Can you find the most important points right away?

Q: Ugh, cover letters…

Yeah, we know. Writing a cover letter, especially one that is unique to multiple job positions, can feel daunting. To save time and headaches, try crafting a general cover letter that’s easily customizable for each role you’re applying for. You can bold or italicize areas you’ll need to tweak, including the job title and company name and areas where you describe how your goals and experience make you an ideal match.

Need some inspiration? Here are some good cover letter examples.

Alternatively, if a job description does not specifically ask for a cover letter but does offer a contact email address in the job description, a brief personalized message with an attached resume can be the way to go. This can be shorter than a cover letter and relatively easier to write, as it should come across as an engaging, but professional. Note about why the job excites you and how you can add value.

A few bonus tips:

  • After you’ve polished up your resume, translate those skills, experience bullets and educational background to LinkedIn. Often, both recruiters and hiring managers initially look to LinkedIn to find great candidates.
  • Speaking of social media, we recommend going through your social media posts and assuring that the types of content you post, like and comment on would not dissuade a potential employer from hiring you. If not, you may want to think about deleting old posts and making sure your public image won’t damage any chances you have at landing your next great gig.
  • When providing bullet points for past positions, show your value through numbers. How much did your work help increase revenue, or email open rates, or reduce overhead costs, or grow membership numbers or … you get it. Numbers talk.
  • But, like overused work jargon, don’t overuse numbers. Instead, choose your numbers, and choose your words wisely. Remember, you (usually) only have one page to work with, so make sure it looks good!
  • Unless otherwise asked, submit your resume as a PDF. Of course, you can always edit in Microsoft Word, but sending as a PDF will convey polish and professionalism.

Finally, just remember the purpose of a resume is to show how your experience and skills can translate to performing well at the job you’re applying for. Whether it’s the skills, experience or education section, try to put yourself in the hiring manager’s position and ask yourself if what you’re reading matches up to the job description.


Want personal resume and job search help? Get in contact with a recruiter today.

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