Like Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai, we’re bringing you the absolute musts and must-nots for résumé creation. Don’t even think about applying for a job before you’ve committed these commandments to heart.
1. Thou shalt customize the résumé to fit the position
I know your time is short and it’s much easier to mail a generic résumé out to all the veterinary clinics within your target area, but that really isn’t a good way to introduce yourself to future employers. Even though it’s a time suck, you need to customize each résumé. (For specifics, see the next commandment.) To increase the personal touch, find out the hiring manager’s name and address your cover letter to this person.
2. Thou shalt do thy homework
Prospective employers love it when job candidates do their research before applying. Before you send your résumé out, research the practice or company where you want to work. Visit the “About Us” page on their website and learn about their vision, mission, values and any other tidbits of information that you can use to your advantage. Find keywords on the site that resonate with you and incorporate them into your résumé. If they’re advertising a position, use information and keywords from the job listing to demonstrate how you’re the perfect fit.
3. Thou shalt not list [email protected] as a contact email
According to the website Behiring.com, 76 percent of résumés are ignored if the email address is unprofessional. All your great work experience can be blighted by the handle [email protected]. Even an address like [email protected] can hurt your chances if the owner isn’t a Denver Broncos fan. My recommendation is to keep [email protected] as your personal email, and give yourself a better chance of getting a call back by creating a new professional email account. It can be as simple as [email protected].
4. Thou shalt not lie
In case you don’t already know this, the veterinary world is a small one. Chances are your potential employer is less than six degrees of Kevin Bacon from somebody who knows your background, so be warned! Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to reporting your work experience. If you lie or exaggerate, you risk not only the new job but the job you already have and your reputation. Just don’t do it.
5. Thou shalt not list an objective
An objective statement—a short paragraph that summarizes what you’re looking for and your strengths and experience—is a dated practice and is no longer of interest to most employers. If you’re applying for the job, then the hiring manager already knows what your objective is. Skipping an objective statement frees up valuable real estate on your résumé for other more important information.
6. Thou shalt not use more than one page; neither shalt thou include thy hobbies, marital status or gender
Speaking of résumé real estate, keep it to one page and don’t include irrelevant personal information such as your marital status, your hobbies, whether you’re a parent, or your gender. Keep it strictly professional. The one exception, IMHO, is if you have something cool in common with the hiring manager. For example, I’m a certified SCUBA diver. If I knew that a hiring manager was also a diver, I might throw my certification on the bottom of the résumé hoping to catch his or her eye.
But the basic rule of thumb? Time is money, and hiring managers don’t have time or interest in irrelevant information or anything on a second page. Keep it succinct and focus on positions held in the past five years, plus any other career experience relevant to the position you hope to acquire.
7. Thou shalt toot thine own horn
Most people don’t like to talk about themselves, but if you want to get ahead in today’s business environment, then self-promotion is key. Appropriate self-promotion is a leadership skill—a way of letting others know what value you would bring to the organization. So sprinkle in a few power words when you describe your accomplishments—The Balance lists hundreds of key power words from which to choose. When it comes to superlatives, however, there can be too much of a good thing. Describing yourself as brilliant, unrivaled and exceptionally innovative is over the top, so use self-promotional words with care.
8. Thou shalt pass the screening software by wielding keywords wisely
Many employers are using résumé applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen applicants for positions. If your résumé doesn’t contain the right keywords, it may rank low for the position or not get matched at all. If you’re applying online, your best bet is to customize the content of your résumé to fit the job description exactly. This means matching plural words, numbers, abbreviations, hyphenations and so on—for example, if the job posting lists “three years of experience” as a requirement, then put “three years of experience” somewhere on the résumé. Not “3 years’ experience,” not “five years in the field.”
I also recommend including both spelled-out and abbreviated versions of acronyms, because ATS bots are stupid and won’t necessarily know that DVM means “doctor of veterinary medicine.” To help it not look dumb, try writing the abbreviation in parentheses like this: “Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM).” You’ll also rank higher if you use the whole year—for example, 2018 instead of ’18. Lastly, most ATS systems cannot scan PDFs, which will result in instant rejection! Use a text-friendly format like Microsoft Word or whatever the listing specifies.
9. Thou shalt make thy résumé scannable in six seconds
A résumé is a snapshot, designed to sell your relevant skills and experiences to a specific employer. It needs to be concise. Job titles, company names, relevant education, dates and keywords must be easy to find because, according to The Ladder, recruiters spend an average of just six seconds reviewing a résumé. Ask a colleague or friend to look at your résumé and see if they can find all the relevant information in six seconds. If they can’t, pare it down or reformat.
10. Thou shalt submit a perfect document
The CareerBuilder website says 61 percent of recruiters will automatically dismiss a résumé because it contains typos. That’s right: One error on your résumé may stand between you and your dream job. Proofread, put it away, proofread the next day, and then have another pair of eyes take a look.
Delivering hard copies of your résumé? Invest in good-quality paper, but don’t use anything colored, busy or textured. Yes, I know the paper with the puppies is cute, but don’t do it.
So there you have it: the 10 commandments of veterinary résumé creation. They may not be chiseled in stone, but ignore them at your peril. And if you heed them, the blessing of your dream job may just be the result!