Ever since I launched ChatWithTony.com a couple of months ago, as a way to give back to the industry, and even more since I made a public offer to help the 4,300 affected State Farm employees find new roles, I have a LOT of career conversations with fellow insurance pros. Usually to the tune of 20 to 30 a month. During those conversations, I listen to what they want to talk about, try to advise them on where to go next, and offer to open some doors to get them moving in that direction. After all, what good is having 5,000+ LinkedIn connections unless I can use them to help people. I always offer to take a look at their resumes to try to improve them, and that’s what today’s article is about.
I’m an insurance nerd and a careers nerd. I’ve had 7 jobs in 8 years, and I’ve done a LOT of interviewing and submitting my own resume. Because of that, I’ve learned some things along the way… Here’s my best advice on preparing your resume to get you that call back for your next insurance job!
1. Repeat after me: One page, one page, only a single page:
I know it’s painful. I would much prefer to have a six page behemoth of a resume that tells EVERYTHING I’ve done in my insurance career and answers any question a hiring manager might have. But that’s not how things work. At most insurance carriers, resumes get screened by an Application Tracking System (ATS), what I lovingly refer to as the Black Hole of Resume Doom. Every resume checks in. Very few ever see human eyes. The ATS likes one page resumes and generally hates longer resumes. Even if your resume is one of the lucky ones, and it successfully escapes the gravity of the Black Hole, and it lands on a recruiter’s desk, research tells us it gets 6 seconds on average. If the recruiter isn’t sold in 6 seconds, the hiring manager will never see it. In other words, the second page (and beyond) will never get seen by human eyes. Unless you have 30 years of relevant experience and are applying for an AVP or higher role, keep it to one page.
This is how you think people perceive your long resume, but sadly it doesn’t work that way:
2. Your name and contact info on top:
The top of the resume should include your name in bigger letters, followed by any major designations (CPCU, CLU, MBA, RPLU, etc). The next line should have your contact info including City, State, Zip, Cell Phone and Email ONLY. Do not include your mailing address. The company is not going to snail mail you an invitation to interview! They’re not even going to mail you a rejection letter, it’s automated and goes out via email. Make sure you include your name. As crazy as it sounds I’ve seen a couple of resumes without names…
3. Summary/Skills sections on top are useless:
There might potentially be a time when a summary section might be useful, but chances are it’s not helping you, and it’s only taking up valuable space and making it hard to fit in a single page. Skills sections are always useless, full stop, no exceptions. Here’s what you do, write your skills section and print it out. The delete it from the resume and try to make sure those skills are reflected in the Professional Experience section of the resume. In other words, it’s just like Kindergarten or Freshman English: Show, don’t tell. Show me your skills, don’t tell me you have them. For example instead of listing “fast learner”, show me in the actual jobs you’ve done how you learned fast and ended up training others your second year.
4. Chronological is king, forget topical:
Your resume should be chronological. If you graduated in the last five years, then you can have the Education section first, then the Professional Experience. If you graduated more than five years ago, then the Professional Experience should be on top. Essentially, keep in mind that the resume will probably only get about 6 seconds of attention (if you’re lucky), and it’ll be read starting at the top, so keep the most important things you want them know at the top.
5. Almost everyone does the Professional Experience section wrong:
Most people list each job and use the bullet points to list the job description, that’s not very helpful. Believe me, recruiters know what claims people do and what underwriters do! What they really want to know is what you achieved in each role, quantified if at all possible. If you don’t have exact numbers, that’s ok, estimating is ok (Note from Carly: You should be keeping track of your achievements regularly, so that you have these numbers available when it’s time to update your resume! If you’re not, start the habit now!). This is where you get the chance to show your skills. All the skills you had written in the skills section, make sure they come across in your Professional Experience section.
6. Newest jobs belong on top, and they get more bullet points:
Your current (or latest) job should be at the very top of the Professional Experience section, and it should have five or six bullet points. Then, prior jobs should have three bullet points. If you do it backwards and have a bunch of bullet points on older jobs, you make it look like you’ve been demoted and doing less important work now than you did in the the past, needless to say that’s not the message you want to communicate.
7. Multiple jobs in the same company can be made into a consolidated entry:
Tony worked as a Senior Medical Claims Representative for Nationwide/Allied, then as a Commercial Farm Underwriter for Nationwide Agribusiness, then as a member of the Financial Leadership Rotation Program at Nationwide, and finally, as an Inside Sales Manager at Allied. If you’re not super familiar with the Nationwide Insurance family of companies you might not realize that this was all within the same large enterprise and might come to the conclusion that he can’t keep a job and changed companies every year! The reality is that each role was a move up from the previous role, and the company invested in him and rewarded him with new opportunities. In cases like this, where you’ve had growth within the same enterprise, it’s ok to consolidate it into one combo entry showing your overall time in the company and the different roles you held, but making it clear it was at the same company is paramount.
8. KISS Principle:
That’s right, Keep It Simple Sara. Insurance is still a conservative industry, and your beloved video resume, highly graphic designed resume in the shape of a fancy restaurant menu or your own resume version of Insurance Paradise just won’t work (for now).
I’m still cool with reviewing resumes for fellow insurance pros, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and be patient, I’ve gotten busy lately, and my response time has suffered.