Is your resume holding you back?
Is your resume holding you back in your job search? If you have launched an aggressive hunt for a new position and you are not getting the results you had hoped for, the answer could be “yes.” Here are six ways to transform your resume from humdrum to high-octane:
Target your resume Take a cue from business-savvy Madison Avenue advertising gurus and target your resume’s message. Your resume should clearly communicate your career goal at the outset through a resume title (if you are already in the workforce) or an objective statement (if you are a recent graduate or changing careers). On any given day, hiring managers may receive hundreds of resumes, particularly during periods of massive layoffs or if they are advertising multiple jobs online. Your resume probably will not receive a thorough read-through during the initial screening, so make every second count by removing the guesswork about what you want (and are qualified) to do. Your resume title or objective statement should go directly below your name and contact information.
Sample resume titles include: “Award-Winning Technology Sales Representative,” “Multi-Certified Network Administrator (CNA, MCSE, CCNA),” and “Fortune 500-Experienced Administrative Support Professional.”
Sample objectives include: “Recent finance graduate with a strong academic foundation and superior-rated Bank of America internship performance eager to launch banking career.” “Skilled nurse practitioner seeking to leverage medical background and proven interpersonal strengths to transition into pharmaceutical sales.”
Detail your accomplishments In today’s competitive job market, your resume must do more than simply list your employers, job titles, dates of employment, and general responsibilities. In order to compete successfully, your resume must provide highlights not only of what you have done, but also how well you have done it. One way to do this successfully is to provide a brief summary of your overall responsibilities below each job title you have held, followed by a bulleted list of “Key Accomplishments” or “Selected Contributions.”
Responsibilities are everyday duties, like staff supervision, database administration, or operations management. Accomplishments describe specific actions you took to meet or exceed employer goals or customer expectations. Typically, accomplishments describe ways that you improved processes, service, or technology; generated revenues; reduced costs; enhanced efficiency or organization; accelerated turnaround times; elevated profitability; increased customer satisfaction; solved problems; improved staff morale or training; brought in new customers or retained existing business; displaced the competition; or turned around performance.
Quantify your accomplishments Wherever possible, try to quantify your accomplishments by using percentages, dollar amounts, before and after comparisons, or other descriptors. This will help to add validity to your resume by providing concrete evidence of your achievements.
Consider the following before and after example: Before (accomplishment statement not quantified): Identified and resolved challenging technical problems to improve network functioning. After (quantified accomplishment statement): Improved network uptime from 89% to 99.5% (record high). Reversed a long-standing history of network crashes through expert troubleshooting and systems optimization.
Maximize keyword density in your resume Keywords are used by employers to search resumes stored online or in computerized databases. The more keywords your resume contains, the higher to the top of the resume pile it will rise. You may have the precise background and skills a company is looking for, but if your resume does not reflect that through the use of keywords, there is a good chance your resume will not be “found” amongst other more keyword-savvy candidates.
Although not an exhaustive list, keywords can be job titles and job functions (e.g., “computer programmer,” “computer programming,” “retail store manager,” “multi-outlet retail management”); degrees or certifications (e.g., “bachelor’s degree in marketing,” “BA in marketing,” “CPA,” “LPN”); industry jargon (e.g., “ISO 9000,” “Six Sigma,” “JIT Systems”); computer programs/applications/systems (e.g., “Microsoft Office Word,” “Microsoft Office PowerPoint,” “Windows 2000”); and soft-skills (e.g., “creative problem solving,” “team building and training,” “strategic planning,” “customer relationship management”). If you are not sure whether your resume is adequately packed with keywords appropriate for your industry and job target, spend some time researching advertised positions matching your interests. If you see terms or phrases used repeatedly to describe requirements or “desired qualifications” in these ads and you have like qualifications or skills, insert these keywords somewhere in your resume.
Be strategic in how you organize your resume content Your strongest, most relevant qualifications, skills, experience, and achievements should be showcased on page one of your resume. This may mean that you have to get a bit creative in how you present yourself on paper. For example, if you are a recent college graduate without much work experience, then your strongest qualification is your education. Do not save it for the bottom of the resume. Instead, showcase it prominently in the top half of the resume and provide ample detail of your “degree program highlights” by listing not only the degree, but also the classes included in your major field of study. (This helps to add more keywords into your resume as well.)
Here’s another example: if you are looking to return to a career that you abandoned some years ago, then you need to emphasize this earlier experience. One way to do this is to tout your earlier career in a powerful opening “profile summary,” a brief one-paragraph or two-paragraph section immediately following your resume title and objective where you can highlight your previous work experience.
Proofread, proofread, proofread! Your resume should be free of all typos, spelling mistakes, and grammatical/punctuation/capitalization errors. Just one or two mistakes can be enough to eliminate an otherwise qualified candidate from consideration. Be meticulous in your proofreading, and do not be afraid to ask a teacher, friends, or trusted colleagues to review your resume as well.
About the author Karen Hofferber is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and senior resume writer at ResumePower.com. Changing careers? See The Career Change Resume by Kim Isaacs and Karen Hofferber for help.