Home » Hiring » Preparing Your Résumé for the Hiring Rush

How does one fit their entire career into one neat little document?

Well, that’s one of several mistakes that job applicants commonly make with trying to put their best foot forward with a résumé.

With peak hiring season getting started here in North Carolina, Ronnie Duncan and Adrian West shared a few pointers for best positioning your résumé to land the big interview.

With about 30 years in the talent and services industry, Ronnie and Adrian have seen thousands of resumes throughout their careers, and since 2003, they’ve employed hundreds of instructional designers, technical writers and corporate communication pros through TimelyText.

They know a thing or two about how to catch a hiring manager’s attention in technical documentation or learning and development.


1. Less Is More

Ronnie Duncan


To answer your first question: two pages – at the absolute maximum.

The only reason to have a résumé longer than two pages is if you’re a college professor or scientist who needs to list your publications. In a world with increasingly shrinking attention spans, the way to catch a hiring manager’s attention is by presenting the most information in the fewest words.

Not only is brevity a benefit in holding a manager’s attention, but it also leaves some details for the conversation.

Remember – a résumé is for securing an interview; not landing the job.

“One of the things I tell people is, ‘Just give them a taste,’” West said. “Don’t give them a four-page dissertation on what you can do for them. In the worst case scenario, that’s a legitimate excuse for them to dismiss you.”

West believes a chronological resume that covers up to the past 15 years is the most effective.


2. Time to Slice and Dice!


Once you’ve finished writing your initial draft, go through the document with an eye for superfluous words like “Really”, “Very”, “Just”, etc. If a sentence conveys the same meaning with a word removed, delete it.

 Give the résumé at least two edits, with a focus on shortening it each time. At that point, it’s time to ask a friend or colleague to look over your work, because you’re less likely to notice a mistake in your own writing.

“You cannot edit your own resume – you need to have a proofreader look over your resume,” Duncan said. “You need to have somebody else involved in the editing process.”


 3. Get it Right


Editing isn’t only for length and clarity.

For many hiring managers, misspelled words, run-on-sentences, and grammatical errors are automatic disqualifiers in their process.

“All of them indicate a lack of attention to detail,” Duncan said. “It’s critically important not to have mistakes in your resume. People just toss them.”


4. Show Your Work?


Use that free time created by shortening your resume to create an online portfolio, and place a link or address on your résumé.

A little bit of work goes a long way in creating your very own website with Weebly or SquareSpace, but you can easily upload work examples to your Linkedin profile.

About 75 percent of hiring managers now ask for work samples during the interview process, and what better way to impress them than guiding them to a spiffy little site with e-Learning or technical documents for their review?

 In addition to the work itself, it’s just another opportunity to show your skills and attention to detail.

 5. ATS Optimized 

Adrian West


When it comes to applying for jobs online, chances are slim that someone will actually receive and read through your resume.

Instead, resumes are often submitted through applicant tracking systems (ATS) that extract useful information and store personal data for a recruiter or manager to use when contacting candidates. Those systems lean heavily on looking for keywords and phrases.

Just like website are optimized for search engines, so too should your resume. At the top or the bottom, include a box or listing of every relevant software or tool that you’re experienced with, that would be relevant to the job.

A good rule is only listing tools you’d feel comfortable using within a couple of weeks.

“It needs to be something you feel like you can pick up and use fairly quickly, if you’re putting it on your list,” Duncan said.


6. Odds and Ends


  • It’s always good practice to have a current version of your Word résumé, as well as a PDF version. Adding design flair to your PDF résumé  is never a requirement, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to show off your skills when you have the opportunity.
  • Although you no longer need to list your full address, it is helpful to have at least a city, or at minimum, a geographic area like, “Triangle Area, NC” or “Central North Carolina”.
  • There’s no need to submit until requested, but it’s helpful to have contact information (email address AND phone) available for two trusted references.
  • Don’t write a generic cover letter. Instead, focus on a short, focused statement (just a few paragraphs, at most) on how your specific skills and background apply to the duties and tools of the position you’re applying for.


TimelyText has employed and placed hundreds of instructional designers, technical writers and corporate communication professionals in North Carolina since 2003. Submit your résumé via our homepage, or reach out to info@timelytext.com to discuss how we can help you reach your personal and professional goals!

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