Having worked for Nonprofit HR for two months now, I have finally developed a greater understanding of how talent acquisition works. Staffing is a challenging yet rewarding profession that requires patience, wit, and strong analytical skills. Several of my friends have come to me seeking advice on how to improve their resumes and become more marketable out of college. I give them the same advice that I would give to any job seeker, regardless of their age or profession. The majority of resumes that I review contain flaws that detract from a candidate’s overall appeal. These faults are often a product of misconceptions about the application process. In order to improve your odds at securing employment, you must take into consideration the following three suggestions:

Honesty is Key

Job seekers often say or imply on their resumes that they are still employed, even when they are not. This is likely due to prevalent advice that suggests that an unemployed person is less appealing to a hiring manager than one who is not currently working. I cannot speak for all employers but, in my experience with nonprofit staffing, I know that I am unlikely to pursue a candidate who appears to be employed. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to verify each individual’s employment status that I come across. Job seekers would be well-advised to be sure that their resumes reflect their current situation. Regardless of your reasoning for including this information or not, the truth regarding your employment status will undoubtedly surface at some point during the interview process. Your honesty will serve you better in the long-run than a “white lie” will at the outset; honesty is essential in developing trust, without which it will be nearly impossible to secure the job.

Cut the Clutter

Resumes are an opportunity for job seekers to summarize their past accomplishments in a concise yet engaging format. They should be visually pleasing and not require much effort or thought to review.  On any given day, I browse through at least thirty resumes. The last thing that I want to do is to have to dig out a magnifying glass to identify a prospect’s greatest accomplishments and most relevant skills. To improve your odds at securing employment, you should construct your resume looking through the employer’s eyes. Remove irrelevant experiences and emphasize your greatest accomplishments first.

Experience Outweighs Education

While this last suggestion may seem targeted towards recent college grads, it can be applied to just about anyone with a degree. When browsing through resumes, I am more interested in a prospect’s experience and whether or not they graduated from an accredited university than their specific area of study or academic concentration. In the nonprofit world in particular, job seekers are drawn to organizations for several different reasons. Education can supplement experience but doesn’t usually determine a job seeker’s fit within a specific industry.

For a more in-depth “how-to” on putting together an effective resume, see Resume Writing 101.