Resumes Are About Substance Over Form

Most of my ideas for articles come directly from interaction with clients and candidates. Either they have an issue they are dealing with or they ask for advice on a particular topic. I then take those issues and topics and write an article.

Recently a candidate mentioned that she was on her third or fourth revision of her resume. She said, “Every time I meet with someone they have a different recommendation.” She would then change her resume. After reviewing all three side-by-side, the content wasn’t dramatically different but the format was. It seems that most of the comments were on format. The people talking to her all gave her advice on the format they preferred. Few discussed the content, beyond wordsmithing it or moving a bullet point from A to B.

They were all concerned about the wrong thing. A resume is not FORM OVER SUBSTANCE. It is  SUBSTANCE OVER FORM. Granted, there are some basics to a resume form that need to be adhered to. I have written other articles on this, and our job search workbook (This Is NOT The Position I Accepted) goes into great detail, including 5 examples of problem resumes, illustrating why they are poor and probably ended up in the trash.

I believe there is only one unacceptable resume and that is the functional resume. I advise all candidates to never use one. For me, and many other recruiters, it screams out “I’m hiding something.” Other than that, stick to the basics in the book or what I have discussed and you will be fine.

As a recruiter, I am looking at the content not the form. I’m interested in my client and finding that exceptional person for the position. For me, that gets to the content or substance of the resume.

I’m looking for:

1) Are the basic box checking kind of things my client insists on present? For example, location, function, industry, size of company, scope or responsibility, education, span of control etc.  (For more read, How Recruiters Read Resumes In Less Than 10 Seconds).

2) Is the  vital information included on the resume enough for me to make a decision? (CLICK HERE to watch a 4 minute video on Vital Information Missing From Most Resumes).

3) How does the person’s background align with my company’s needs?

4) Does this person’s bullet points or accomplishments dovetail, or at least focus around, what my client is seeking?

5) Does the candidate’s track record of accomplishments show growth and increase with their increase in responsibility?

These are all substantive issues. As long as I can easily read the resume and quickly capture these points I don’t care about the format.

I wish more candidates would spend less time on format and more time on accomplishments and provide the vital information recruiters, HR, and hiring managers need to make a decision about their qualifications for a position.

If this article was helpful to you, please pass it along so others can benefit as you did. Consider adding the link on Facebook or your LinkedIn status,  write a tweet on Twitter, email it to friends or to your network. Helping others is the key to networking.

Our LinkedIn Job Search Networking group is FREE to join and has over 3,500 members. There is a wealth of excellent information there to help you in your job search. CLICK HERE to join.

I welcome your thoughts and comment on this article.

Brad Remillard


About the Author

Brad Remillard is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Brad is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.


  • By snapwebsolutions, June 8, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

    It is definitely true that resumes should always be about substance over form. It is what is in the inside that counts.

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