How many times have you sent your Human Resources resume to recruiters and almost every other company that you could find on job portals, only to never hear from them again?
Is it because your resume did not have what it takes, or is it because the competition is just too high?
A little bit of both.
So what do you do to make sure that you get callbacks and shortlists? How do you beat the cutthroat competition out there?
The key is in that one pager document that you relentlessly send anywhere and everywhere. Our guide to writing the perfect Human Resources resume will tell you how to beat the competition and get you that coveted shortlist in your dream company! You'll find how you don't have to necessarily slog in the same company for years before you are promoted from, say HR Associate to HR Manager. A bit of smart work coupled with some of our advanced HR Resume tricks will ensure that you get what you truly deserve.
This guide will cover the following areas:
Here’s a sample HR Generalist resume that was made using our online resume builder. View the HR Generalist resume samples and go through some sample resumes of Human Resources Manager or Human Resources Associate.
The preview on the right is the original resume, and the left pane shows the final version of the HR Generalist resume.
Do you remember cussing at the recruiter for not even sending you a rejection mail? Was your resume so bad that the HR didn’t see it worth his/her while to send you a letter of regret? Before you blast off a list of Shakespearen insults to the recruiter, consider this: what if s/he didn’t even get a chance to look at your resume?
This happens more frequently than you think. Most companies upon exceeding a particular limit (say 100 employees) start deploying Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to filter out future applications. HRs at most MNCs (yes, including the MNC that you’re targeting) would swear by the ATS.
While this guide will comprehensively talk about how to make your resume ATS-friendly, as far as formatting is concerned, here are a few things which you can do to make sure that your resume is able to crack the ATS
The basic structure of an HR resume is broadly divided into 4 parts:
professional summary, professional experience, core competencies/key skills, education.
Within these 4, there might be infinite variations, ranging from how a fresher or an HR Consultant uses it to how a professional with 30+ years of experience would. There can be subsections, like dividing all HR work profiles into ‘related work experience’ and ‘other professional experience’ for streamlining the focus of their document. Or after education, there can be ‘Training’, ‘Certification’, etc. Usually people post ‘Memberships’ as well, but that should be low on priority. Only if you’ve filled in everything of value and there’s still some space left, then go for it. While we’re at it, any HR Generalist resume is either 1 page or 2. Not 1.5 or 1.75 or 2.5. every inch and word on that document in prime real estate and white space is as big a crime as a resume that exceeds 2 pages.
An Infographic HR Generalist resumes look flashy but can make most ATS go haywire. ATS are designed to parse only basic text. That rules out logos and tables as well. Anything more complex than that and the ATS will simply brush it aside. While the basic information is processed in any case, it helps if you do everything you can to make the ATS’ job easier.
Don’t write ‘CV/Resume’ on the top. As dumb as it sounds, we’ve actually seen resumes with a ‘resume’ in bold for a heading, so let’s skip that. Simply begin with your name, your current/targeted profile below it and your contact details.
Most companies will specify which format they want the resume in (.docx, .pdf, rose-scented hand-made paper, etc.) The job description which you’re targeting can act as a Bible for helping you make the perfect HR resume. More on that later, but for now, take a clue from the JD to decide whether to send a .docx or .pdf. In case of missing information, the ideal format would be a .txt format, but since that’d be one extreme end of the spectrum, you can go for a .pdf with minimal formatting.
Use sans-serif fonts — like Verdana, Tahoma or Calibri (our favourite) — instead of serif fonts like Times New Roman or Cambria that some screening software will actually reject, as Lifehacker recommends. Avoid script fonts completely. Also pay attention to font size and avoid using anything smaller than 11 point font, according to Business Insider. Linkedin recommends avoiding special fonts, font treatments and colors. Stick to fonts such as Arial, Georgia, Impact, Courier, Lucinda, Tahoma or Trebuchet, and only use black color. Avoid underlining words, which can mess up the legibility of lower case letters such a g, j or y.
Margin: we at Hiration go for Narrow margin with 0.5” spacing on all 4 sides. We’ve seen people manually extend the margin of the entire document to fit a point in one line, and that’s just blasphemy. It’s your entire professional life on a piece of paper, wouldn't you want it to look halfway decent at least?
How many pages: We’ve seen CEOs and senior executives walking around with 20-pages long resumes, carrying their entire life history with them, starting from their cashier job at McDonalds right after college. Dont. Do. That. In our experience, 2 pages in the limit. Usually for people with work experience of 5-7 years or below, a one-pager should suffice. For 10+ years of work ex, you can go for a 2-pager, but that’s it. Most HRs don’t blink an eye before trashing a 5-pager resume in the bin. You think you are being comprehensive and detail-oriented if you mention literally everything you’ve ever done, but honestly, put yourself in the HR’s shoes and you would know what we are talking about. Additionally, boiling down your entire professional career in a 2 pages is in itself a skill. And if an astute recruiter notices that, brownie points for you.
Design: Design is secondary to content in a resume, let that sink in. Focussing too much on the design aspect and compromising on the content is not the way to go. A smooth design will only enable the recruiter to go through the rest of the document – if the content itself isn’t noteworthy, no amount of flashy templates can save you. And while we’re at it, be careful with the flashiness. Unless you’re applying for a Designer profile itself, chances are that too trendy of a template might not make it past the ATS. People are quick to dismiss MS Word, but a handy grasp of that software with its extensive formatting tools can help you deliver a resume that can compete with professional designs. Broadly, you’ve two options:
MS Word: Yeah yeah, we know. You’d rather make your resume on the bark of a tree than go for Word. Which is why there’s Option No. 2.
Hiration’s Resume Builder: With 20+ premium designs and 100+ templates, you’ll find pre-filled sample resumes for almost every profession out there (and we’re adding more as you read this!). Never has the process of making and editing your resume been so much of a breeze. But don’t go by our word. Check out what others have to say as well.
We know, we know. When you ask for help around writing the best Human Resources Generalist resume, how you write your contact details does not exactly top the list. But remember that dreadful ATS we talked about earlier? It won’t matter if you have the perfect HR resume - if the ATS is not able to parse your contact details, your resume will get trashed before you can even blink. Simple.
Most US resumes in general will follow a standard for mentioning your contact details. Avoid writing your complete address down to the flat number: think about it, what is the HR going to do with your address at this stage of your recruitment, when no one knows if you’ll even be considered for the next round? All the instances which require your complete address are valid only post confirmation of your employment. Bottomline: stick with just the area/city.
Have a professional email address. If you’re still using your college email-id 5 years after you’ve graduated, it doesn’t matter if the college is Columbia, it just says that you still haven’t grown up.
Mention the country name only if you’ve had a diverse professional experience spanning multiple continents and you are open to recruiters globally. There’s no need for the same if you’ve worked in a single country your whole life and are not looking to change places.
Skype/imdb/linkedin: provide an external link only if you’re absolutely sure that it will boost your image before the recruiter even before s/he proceeds with the actual document. Adding an IMDb profile for professionals in the entertainment industry is surely a plus point, but linking your resume to a bland Linkedin profile that is more or less a poor cousin of your resume won’t help anyone. A Skype id only makes sense If you’re applying for remote jobs or if the job application specifically asks for a Skype id in the application. Remember, you’ve one page to showcase your entire experience till date, so every word counts. And we mean it.
Are you an HR Executive, an HR Representative or an HR Associate? Which one are you, and which one do you want to be?
Job titles are not sacred keywords written in stone. If you were an Executive earlier but came across an HR Representative profile that you really like, you can go ahead and write HRR right below your name.
Job title is one of the most essential parts of tailoring your resume, and it’s surprising how little attention is generally paid to it. Right beneath your name is your job title. It can be your current profile or last-held title, assuming you are looking for similar jobs. But in case you’re looking to shift industries or profiles, you have some room to play here. Bridging the gap between your existing/previous job title and what particular profile you’re targeting is a tricky task. Not only do you have to pass ATS (more on that), you also have to make sure that you don’t come across as a lying scum who simply changed his job titles to get parsed by the machines. The machines will let you through, but the human recruiter won’t.
That’s where a bit of research will go a long way. Find out keywords from the title/job description of profile you’re targeting and see if anything you did in your entire professional career aligns with that. This exercise will not only help you narrow down the title to that one phrase that will get you more hits than any other, but it’ll also help later on when you’re preparing points for your work ex and you want each word to count. That’s right. Say this out loud before you proceed working on your resume - each word counts. And in this case, especially what comes right below your name.
An Objective section in a 2018 HR resume is dead. We’ll just misappropriate a JFK quote here along the lines of ‘ask not what the company can do for you, but what you can do for the company’. It’s a good rule of thumb to place yourself in the recruiter’s shoes while you are in any resume-related dilemma. An objective section won’t serve the recruiter any purpose. So you can do xyz, good for you, but how does that benefit the company? It helps if there’s clarity regarding that, and it helps if that clarity is right on top. Our advice is to begin the resume with a summary section containing a gist of your professional career till date.
Mentioning an objective in the top section, when you most certainly know that the recruiter will look at the entire document for 6-10 seconds in the first glance, at max, is a risky endeavour. Instead, present a crisp summary of your professional career. In our opinion, a summary is the only place where you can write in a paragraph form – the entire resume otherwise should be in bullet points. The summary section becomes even more important when you’ve only been asked for a resume (and not a cover letter as well). In a cover letter, you can better elaborate your intentions of joining the company. You can leave all that to the humble CL. But in your resume, ditch the objective, go with the summary, and then, as Bob Dylan said it, don’t think twice, it’s alright.
How do you decide what all points to write? How do you take a call on which work profile and which achievement makes the cut? That’s where the profile which you are targeting comes in. Go through the Job Description to see what all skills are required by the company, and then try to align your existing achievements along those lines. Rephrasing will play an important role in getting you that coveted shortlist - your resume should look like it’s a response to that job ad, that you are the one-stop solution for the problems listed in the JD.
Here again, while formulating each and every sentence of the summary section, try to bridge the gap between what you’ve already done and what the profile you’re targeting expects from you. Try this tool wherein you can paste a job description and the tool analyses the frequency of the words used there to generate a word-cloud. Agreed, you won’t be able to use most of them outright, but it would come in handy here in the summary section, and beyond. 5-6 lines is what you should ideally be targeting, nothing more. Don’t be specific w.r.t to your achievements in this section itself (by specific, we mean don’t go about spouting numbers and clients here itself), unless you’ve a 2-page behemoth littered with achievements and you’re forced to pick a few. For most 1-pagers, usually reserve a separate bucket/heading (more on that) of Key Achievements under every work profile. Only mention the specifics of an achievement if it was indeed noteworthy, otherwise leave that for the relevant work ex.
Here's a sample summary of an HR Generalist resume:
What are some basic key skills in a Human Resources Generalist resume?
Some people choose to have the Key Skills as a separate section, some prefer to align this with professional summary. This is where you have a chance to dump all your keyword-based research. But careful though! Don’t go overboard. Mention only those skills which you think have been substantiated in the points below. You might be able to fool the machine, but your task is not to pass through ATS, it is to get shortlisted for an interview. Sooner or later, any discrepancy in this regard will come up, and you don’t want that.
It’s ironic that the entire process of shortlisting resumes is based on keywords but they sure don’t get that much attention. It depends on your ability to rephrase your existing achievements in a way that the keyword somehow figures in, without blatantly stuffing it with keywords and making it too obvious.
And while we’re here, MS Office as a skill doesn’t count.
What we forget is that ATS, while being a machine, is, at the end of the day, operated by humans alone. A recruiter while looking to quickly fill a vacancy might type in the name of a particular software or tool that he’d want the candidate to be an expert in. It’s your job to not only anticipate what all terms and phrases the recruiter can use to narrow down his/her search, but also to sleekly incorporate the same in your resume.
Also, soft skills don’t count either. A recruiter won’t search for ‘team-player’ or ‘creative’. These words are there in the JD but when it comes to adding them in your resume, they are at the bottom-most level of priority. When it doubt, place yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. Do what you can to make his/her job easier.
Additionally, making a list of core competencies in a resume allows you to easily swap keywords in and out when applying for different positions.
Here's a list of some sample key skills for an HR Generalist's resume
Research the HR industry to frame points for your Human Resources resume and find if the norms are around functional resumes or reverse chronological ones. The same depends on whether you were handling ad-hoc projects or contracts, or whether you were working in public services your whole life.
A common mistake that might be ignored is mentioning the date of joining before the employer name. That’s an ATS blunder you can’t afford. The order goes along employer name > job title > date and location.
So how do you go about framing points for your HR resume?
Write short succinct points and use the Princeton formula to frame points. A+P+R=A.
Keep this template in mind while you’re framing points. This will help keep your information concise while leaving out the flab which otherwise gets hard to weed out. When you only have one line to sensibly link these 4 parameters, it can sure be a head-scratcher at first but the final output is worth it.
Keep the keywords in mind when you’re done with the first draft and are polishing your points.
There are two things to keep in mind here:
A) Buckets/Subheadings: Once you’re done with one particular work profile, let’s say there are 10+ odd points. Now, go through the points again, group similar ones together and assign a heading/bucket to it. Why? Do anything you can to make the recruiter’s job easier, that’s why. Instead of spending time on each point, the recruiter only has to go through the buckets. If the buckets are interesting or relevant to the profile, only then it’d make sense to go deeper into the points. Try to align the buckets with the key skills that you mentioned for your Core Competencies for greater overall coherence.
Here's a snapshot of buckets in action. Below you'll see a bunch of odd points scattered in the professional experience profile of an HR Generalist resume. 95% of the HR resumes that we come across will mostly be along similar lines:
Sure feels like a big bland wall of text that you don't want to see even remotely around you, right? Surprise surprise, the recruiter going through your HR resume feels the same. The points are all immaculately framed but not even a fraction of readers will peruse through the same. Now have a look at this:
Everything is the same, but simply grouping the points together makes a wall of a difference. You can go further ahead and bold a few critical keywords and phrases within each bucket to make it even jazzier. Trust us, just this simple addition will make your HR resume better than 95% of the rest.
B) Cause-effect: We talked about incorporating 4 parameters in each point. How you place them in a sentence is the cause-effect relationship.
The power verb shouldn’t be random but something that goes with the other three factors. The accomplishment in the end should feel like it organically flowed from the project/assignment you did. If you can manage that across your entire HR resume for all the points, believe us, you’ve mastered what 99% of job applicants are simply not aware of, or are too lazy to do it.
If you'll look at the points above, you'll notice the cause-effect in most of the points. It might not be possible in every point, obviously. But even striving for the same will be a gamechanger. Another option is to have a separate ‘acquired skills’ section within each work profile, like another bucket of sorts. The opportunity cost of this would be the space that could have been utilized to highlight your accomplishments. You can take a call on that. Just keep in mind that blindly fulfilling the keywords criteria is not a solution either. Overall coherence is a must as well.
The education section for a Human Resources Generalist resume can be pretty basic, right?
Yes. And no.
Remember ATS? It’s always there, waiting for you to commit a mistake so it can trash your resume.
The basic details remain the same. Just to make sure you don’t bungle that up as well, here’s how to go about it:
[Sidenote: While there's a separate section on ATS right below, there's one thing we'd like to clarify while we are here. There's a high probability of each ATS being programmed differently, as per the requirements, understanding and well, mood of the recruiter. Case in point, many ATS can’t differentiate between Master of Business Administration, Masters of Business Administration, Master’s of Business Administration and MBA.
We know, we know. It's silly. And unfair. But you can go cry in the corner if that would help. Or, you can take up your Bible, the Job Description, see which nomenclature has been used by the company, and then accordingly follow just that. It's like using Mac for the first time - simple and effortless, once you know how the damned thing works.]
But this is not it. Remember that for a single HR vacancy, there are thousands of people vying for that role. And when the battlelines are drawn that deep, you can’t afford to take it easy. To further elucidate our point, have another look at the sample education section of an HR resume above, and then look at the following:
You can see which one delivers more impact. The point is not to fill the resume with fluff. The point is to be better than the rest. The question is, are you? If not, the bigger question is, how can you be?
We mentioned in the beginning the break-up of a resume into 4 broad sections. In addition to the Education section, you can have additional sections on Training, Certifications, Additional Achievements, etc. Try not to club your certifications with your education - it’s better if the Education section exclusively contains your academic details, so that everything else can be grouped under different sections.
What about hobbies or interests? Again, let’s go back to our previous mantra. Place yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. A bit of research can help as well. Check out the website of the company which you are targeting. Usually, organizations participate in various competitions and nurture dedicated teams for the same. Hypothetically, if you see on the website that a company has been participating in tennis competitions and has been playing against other organizations for years, lo! As luck would have it, you’re a budding tennis player as well. In that case, go ahead and mention the same in glowing letters. But let’s face it, this probably won’t be possible in every case. What do you do then?
Let us clarify this point through an example:
The above is an instance of a hobbies/interests section of a sample Human Resources Generalist resume. Most of the applicants just add a Hobbies section for the sake of it. And what happens when the recruiter sees it? They go 'Hmmm. Ohhkaay.' You bet they do.
But now have a look at this:
Bottomline: simply adding the Hobbies/Interests section while making it look like you’re just adding it to fill empty space won’t serve any purpose. If you really want to demonstrate your interests in addition to your professional achievements, go on and show how they’re important for you. Just adding ‘photography’ under a Hobbies section is worthless. Add a line to further showcase just how exactly you are passionate about it. It always helps for the recruiter/organization to know that you’ve other healthy interests.
For your training and certifications, make sure you add the year and certifying authority as well. Other sections can range from Publications (especially in academic profiles), Memberships (of pan-country organizations and non-profits), Conferences, etc.
We’ve seen a norm where people reserve a separate section of Key Achievements consisting of ALL the achievements across ALL the profiles in their career till date. The downside of that approach is that each achievement of yours ends up becoming just a point in the list. An alternative approach can be to place the achievements only under the relevant work profile. Consequently, the reader gains an understanding of the context in which the achievement was garnered as well, thus enabling an enhanced appreciation of the same. You can have a separate bucket/sub-heading of Key Achievements for each work profile.
Till now, we’ve given you a vague idea of a mystical entity called ATS which you should be wary of. But the ATS is much more than that. Once you have figured out how it works, you can use it to your advantage and gain an edge over thousands of other aspirants all vying for the same role that you are. To give you an idea, an ATS on an average rejects 75% of all candidates ( source)
It’s always better to write your resume while keeping both the machine (ATS) and the person (HR) in mind. Don’t forget - an ATS is only as functional and as effective as the HR behind it. So how does an ATS really work?
The software begins by removing all formatting from the resume. That’s right. All your designs and graphics and flowcharts are first stripped down and then the ATS begins to break down your resume - hence the reason why we mentioned that design is secondary to content in a resume. Subsequently, it will scan for specific keywords and phrases. Where do these keywords come from? Yep, you guessed it right. The job description. Like we earlier stated, almost all the words in a JD can be construed as keywords which can be used by an HR to screen and shortlist candidates. The ATS will break down your resume into individual categories: Education, Contact Information, Skills and Work Experience. The desired skills and keywords are then matched against your resume to determine your potential value to the organization. Resumes with the highest scores relevant to the specified keywords/phrases will be moved up for further review.
Now you know how it broadly works. But how to trick the ATS into ranking you higher than everybody else? The answer to that can range from tiny pointers to a comprehensive breakdown of your resume in accordance with ATS requirements.
Do away with the headers. Make sure even the contact information is not in the header/footer.
Mirror wording from the actual job description. If the job description of a cloud-based developer requires expertise in a specific set of tools, platforms or technologies, make sure that your resume has those keywords (without lying blatantly, goes without saying)
Use acronyms and spelled out form of titles, professional organizations, certifications, and other jargon. If you are proficient in search engine optimization, for instance, include the acronym SEO as well. You don’t know which keyword the ATS has been programmed to scan for. Using both allows you to cover all your bases. We’ve seen an ATS processing ‘MBA’, ‘Master in Business Administration’, ‘Masters in Business Administration’, ‘Master’s of Business Administration’ differently. Which is why we earlier stated that the JD is the Bible for your resume. Swear by it.
You can repeat important keywords which are relevant to your profile multiple times while avoiding keyword stuffing just for the sake of it. Remember, your task is not to get past the ATS, it’s to get that high-profile job. Even if you’re shortlisted, it won’t matter if the HR sees your resume stuffed with keywords without a thought for coherence or comprehension.
Use bullets rather than paragraphs to describe your work. Try to make sure that a point does not exceed a line - in case it does, you can split it into multiple points or sub-points. The idea behind the same is simple: when you’re forced to write your accomplishments in a single line, you automatically weed out all the fluff. There’s no other way to ensure the same than to maintain the cause-effect relation in every point as per the ARPA formula we highlighted earlier.
Take advantage of cloud services like Wordle and TagCrowd. Once you upload any JD on these portals, it analyzes the frequency of each word and gives you the results. This analysis will be useful when you are trying to figure out which keywords to use, where, and how many times.
Avoid or minimize usage of creative words and descriptions. Adding a 3-line point saying how you are a team-player who prioritizes organizational goals serves little purpose to the HR. Instead, use the company’s website for help on keyword guidance. If a firm has a track record of being environment-conscious, you’ll be better off to include the volunteer work you’ve done for the environment or organizational memberships you have that are in similar domains.
Include your address. Locations may even be included as keywords in the screening process.
Avoid using graphics, logos or tables.
Avoid special characters (bullets are okay though) and serif fonts like Times New Roman or Cambria. Instead, go for sans-serif fonts like Calibri or Tahoma while keeping a minimum font size of 10.
Begin with the name of the employer instead of the date or location in your work experience
Whether you want to completely revamp your existing cv or whether it’s been ages since you last updated it, a master CV is ideally the way to go. It solves multiple purposes: you’ll have a single document with EVERYTHING you’ve ever done. You aren’t supposed to filter the content at this stage. Just write down everything you’ve ever done, in whatever language you see fit. Make sure you’re periodically updating the document as well. As per most of our client interactions, it’s quite easy to simply forget what all you did in a particular profile. Months and years pass and when you’re suddenly in need of an updated resume, you draw a blank as to what is it that you actually did.
If you have a master CV with a comprehensive list of all your achievements, you can then take out points and tailor your resume as per the requirements of the job you’re targeting. Think about your experiences (past and present) including education, coursework, jobs, internships, activities, honors, publications, language skills, overseas academic experiences and community service projects. This is not the time for editing points or looking after the language. No one’s going to see your master CV but you. It also solves the most common problem that procrastinators deploy – that you won’t proceed unless you have the perfect point on paper. You’re not looking for perfection at this stage. It’s just a giant info dump of all your experiences – your job is to keep it updated and pull out points from here for tailoring/rephrasing it as per the job requirements you are targeting.
And the last step is important. Recruiters can figure out if you spent some time on your resume or even looked at the JD, or whether you simply selected a dozen listings from a job portal app and hit ‘send resume’. The latter’s not attractive at all. The former is what gets you shortlists.
This single document will stay with you forever and can exceed 2 or 5 or 10 pages. It won’t matter. It ensures you have a single place that lists all your achievements. From here-on, it’s simply targeting what jobs you need and picking out points from this document to boost your chances of getting shortlisted.
And if that’s not enough, your master CV is going to help a lot in your interviews. Interviews are mostly resume-based, and to avoid being sloppy when it comes to answering those questions, your master CV will have points with proper context. It might sound implausible, but there have been thousands of instances where people blank out while answering questions from points straight out of their resume. That raises multiple doubts, from your ability as an effective communicator, to even writing the document on your own in the first place.
Research is something that’d go a long way in ensuring that. Go through multiple JDs of your profiles to shortlist terms/phrases that are to be expected. A rule of thumb is that pretty much everything that’s mentioned in the JD is a keyword. It’s your job to filter out terms that can go in your resume without looking like you simply plagiarised it.
A few other common pointers include not using first-person pronouns, going easy with the articles (a/an/the - losing an article now and then will make it more crisp), not using full-stops in the end (since resume points are not complete English sentences), excluding personal details (though its extent can vary; recruiters in US are forbidden from asking any personal information whatsoever – age, gender, religion, marital status, etc, while others elsewhere ask for passport details as well).
And lastly, proofread. A dozen times. And then some more. Grammatical errors are an instant turn off for most recruiters. If you can’t make a one-page document, about yourself, error-free, how can one expect effective delivery of organizational goals from you? Send out your resume to friends, family and other professionals in your network for a peer review. It’s possible that being too close to your resume means you won’t be the most reliable judge of its quality. Let the people in your network assume that role.
To revisit the most critical points of building a professional Human Resources Generalist resume that really gets you what you want, build a resume template that you can customize for each new vacancy. Once you build a master list of all your skills, experience, and achievements, it'll be easy.
Sell the benefits. Start with details in the job description, then plug in wins from your career so far.
Got some questions or tips on how to make a great HR Generalist resume? Give us a shout in the comments section!