Resume Writing Tips
1. Make sure your resume has a focus. The employer wants to view the top of your resume and clearly discern what kind of job you want. This gets accomplished through the use of a “summary,” “profile,” or “objective” section, or simply a job title you place at the top. To omit this section is to miss a critical opportunity to convey your most powerful value proposition. Furthermore, if you do not do this, the default assumption will be that you are most qualified for and seeking a position similar to your last.
2. Keywords are critical. Resume keywords are nouns or noun phrases. These keywords form the foundation of a company’s job description and they are the competencies considered most relevant for a successful employee. For example, for a marketing job, words like Campaign Management, Customer Loyalty, Direct Response Marketing, and Product Launch, are examples of keywords. Typically there are one dozen or more important keywords that should be strategically placed within a resume.
3. Focus on accomplishments. The most powerful and impressive resumes 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.
4. Eliminate old and irrelevant jobs. A resume 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!
5. Make your resume 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.
6. 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.
7. 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 resume into the body of the text rather than in a column that draws attention to them.
8. Ditch overused 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 resumes out there that sound just like yours. When language gets that stale, it not only loses its impact, it turns people off.
9. Exclude personal information. Hobbies and interests do not belong on a resume unless they are related to the job you seek. Do, however, include membership in relevant professional organizations and interesting volunteer work.
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.
11. 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.
12. Include technology skills. With the exception of executives and a few other occupations, most candidates should include a technology skills section. This is where you list the software you know how to use. If you are proficient in one or more applications, you can indicate that as well. Here are a few examples: Excel, PowerPoint, Project, SharePoint, Salesforce, Visio, QuickBooks, Oracle, Hyperion, SQL, Agile, and Java.
Resume Help for the Experienced Candidate
Remember the last time you laid eyes on your resume? Perhaps it was five, eight, or more years ago. In your quest for new employment you will now “update” the document by simply inserting an entry for your most recent position. STOP RIGHT THERE.
In the high-stakes game of job search, a resume updated this way is the equivalent of pairing a trendy pair of pants with a shirt that screams 1980’s. (Reality check: The clothing won’t look good and neither will the resume.) The experienced candidate needs to take a critical look at his or her resume and be ready to rewrite, or omit, as much as necessary.
Edit, Edit, Edit
- If your education section is still at the top of the document, it shouldn’t be. In the marketplace of employment, experience always trumps education. Unless you are a brand-new graduate with virtually no work history, lead your resume off with the experience section.
- Does your resume still include an “activities” or a “personal interests” section? This was acceptable when you were a young person—it may have even helped fill up the page—but that space is valuable real estate now and you’ve got better things to share.
- Ditch your GPA from eons ago, a list of courses that date back more than 10 years, and outdated or obvious computer skills.
- Pare down your prior employment entries. The write up of your most recent jobs should be more extensive, and occupy more space on the page, than jobs further back in your history.
- Create a summary or profile section, if you don’t already have one. Whereas the resume for an entry-level candidate typically includes a general objective describing the opportunity desired, experienced candidates should have a more sophisticated beginning that brands them. Lead off by telling the reader who you are:
10 Years of Experience in Fortune 500 Environments
- Don’t limit your resume to one page. Veteran employees often have enough relevant accomplishments and long enough work histories to warrant two pages of text.
If you would like professional help in building a resume that will get you noticed, visit the resume writing and cover letter writing page to learn how easy and fast the process is. Call, email, or use the contact us page to get a quote.