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Ten Tips for a Trashproof Résumé

1. Make sure your résumé has a focus. The employer wants to view the top of your résumé and clearly discern what kind of job you are looking for. This gets accomplished through the use of a “summary,” “profile,” or “objective” section, or simply a job title you place at the top. If you do not do this, many busy employers will put your document aside and simply look at the next one in the pile.

2. Avoid repetition of language. Make sure you are not using the same words over and over. In a sophisticated document, each sentence begins with a different verb and no sentences repeat or resemble each other, even if job responsibilities where identical with two different employers. Doing so allows you to be perceived as a person with good communication skills—an important skill for every job.

3. Eliminate old and irrelevant jobs. A résumé is not an autobiography. Often the skills we used on our first jobs were simplistic and trivial to what we are capable of doing now. In addition, know that employers will look at the dates of your oldest job entry to attempt to figure out your age. If you think you’re at a place in the lifecycle where discrimination is possible, don’t help them out!

4. Make your résumé visually attractive. Use all the great stylistic options available in today’s word processing programs. Include bold-faced type, italics, underlining, bullets, and stacked indentation. For conservative industries, use a standard font style like Times New Roman or Arial.

5. Evaluate your job titles. Are your job titles standard and understandable to the outside world? Do you have titles that are properly reflective of your actual level in an organization? If not, add, in parenthesis, a comparable title that will make things clear.

6. Don’t make trouble spots prominent. A common problem is employment gaps and short time periods at several jobs. Minimize these potential negatives by pulling the dates on your résumé into the body of the text rather than in a column that draws attention to them.

7. Ditch cliched language. If you have used wording like “Seeking a challenging and responsible position…” or “Results-oriented professional” or “potential for growth and advancement” know that there are thousands of other résumés out there that sound just like yours. When language gets that stale and overused, it not only loses its impact, it turns people off.

8. Exclude personal information. Hobbies and interests do not belong on a résumé unless they are related to the job you seek. Do, however, include membership in relevant professional organizations and interesting volunteer work.

9. Focus on accomplishments. The most powerful and impressive résumés share accomplishments as well as responsibilities. Tell your reader how you saved your employer money, made things more efficient, took the initiative to revamp a weak system, and did work far beyond your job description.

10. Organize sections to your advantage. Which comes first the “Education” section or the “Professional Employment” section; the “Technical Skills” section or the “Employment History”? The rule is that there are no rules so put your best stuff near the top of the first page.

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