May 22, 2003
20 tips to a top-notch resume
Special to NWjobs
Today's job market requires a highly effective resume to capture the employer's attention. Based on the survey I conducted of 600 hiring managers, here are 20 ways to help you improve your online resume.
- CONTENT! KEYWORDS! Since most employers sort resumes electronically, keywords and specifics that demonstrate your abilities, your accomplishments, and your past experiences are crucial to getting their attention.
- MARKET YOURSELF WELL Begin with a summary of qualifications encapsulating your most marketable skills and experience into 4 - 6 sentences.
- DEMONSTRATE RESULTS Employers like proof that you can do the job. Note the action performed and conclude with the achieved result, noting how your employer benefited. Use numbers and percentages to show how money or time was saved. Example: Coordinated the annual conference, adding new speakers and innovative programs, which resulted in a 17% increase in attendance and an 18% increase in revenues.
- BE BRIEF AND CONCISE One page, short and to the point works best. Be a skillful editor, deleting the portions which are not relevant or least helpful to your securing a particular position. Emphasize your most recent experience, the last 5 - 7 years. Cover in detail the major job duties performed.
- BE TARGETED Focus every resume to the job title being applied for. It's much more effective to create a different resume for each job title (i.e., one resume for Trainer, another for Program Director) and incorporate only the information pertinent to doing that job.
- VISUALLY APPEALING A crammed, cramped resume often goes unread. The formatting of a resume must be kept readable, sharp and professional. Make sure sentences are concise and that there is adequate white space between points. Note: The NWjobs online resume posting program accepts only text. When formatting is complete for your printed resume, save one version as "text only" before pasting it into the system. See the previous article on How to submit a resume and apply online at NWjobs for more information.
- BE CLEAR No vague generalities. Say exactly what you mean, using the smallest number of words to make the point.
- BE ACCURATE State your skills, qualifications, and experience as positively as possible without exaggerating or misstating the truth. If your job responsibilities are not adequately described by your job title, indicate your abilities with appropriate terms (i.e. Events Coordinator, instead of Staff Coordinator). List job titles, employers, and dates/years of employment.
- USE ACTION VERBS Start each sentence with a descriptive action verb - such as established, managed, organized. They add power to your sentences. Never use "I" on the resume, only short impact sentences. Example: Designed the company's new marketing flyer.
- BE COMPLETE Spell out names of schools, cities, abbreviations, and titles completely, since employers may not recognize abbreviations or acronyms.
- MAKE POINTS QUICKLY Complete sentences are not necessary in resume writing; it is better to use simple descriptive statements to make a point. Be sure any technical terms are understandable to non-technical personnel.
- JUSTIFY EXPERIENCE In all your sentences, use past tense words since they imply that you "have done it" before. This reassures employers you can do it for them.
- BE PERFECT The resume you send out must be flawless. No mistakes or typos, especially in e-mails. Typos are HR manager's chief complaint and they insist they won't hire offenders.
- PROOFREAD CAREFULLY Don't trust computer spell checkers. Read every word out loud to be sure it is correct.
- AVOID GRAPHICS Complex designs are distracting to the reader. Lines, boxes, shadings, fancy borders or clipart should be avoided as they cause major errors when sent electronically.
- DON'T INCLUDE PERSONAL STATISTICS It is no longer considered professional or wise to include information about marital status, gender, height, weight, health, or to insert a picture on your resume.
- NO TAG LINES Employers know you'll provide references if they request them, therefore it is not necessary to put "References upon request" at the end of your resume.
- DON'T ADVERTISE NEGATIVE INFORMATION The resume is the wrong place to advertise that you were laid off, fired, or had an extended illness. Never state why you left a position; simply list the dates of employment. Don't mention what salary you want to receive.
- BE CURRENT Update information every six months. Keep resumes current on the job boards you use. Utilize e-mail alerts to learn of promotions or new opportunities.
- FINAL TEST Does your resume get results? Does your resume clearly and quickly communicate to employers that you can do the job? Do your strengths come across? Does everything support the job you are targeting? Should anything be removed? Are employers calling? If not, rework, get professional help or check out several resume books to help you improve yours. Good ones include Winning Resumes (John Wiley, 2nd Edition 2003), by Robin Ryan; and Resume Power (Mt. Vernon Press; 2003) by Tom Washington.
Robin Ryan has appeared on Oprah, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, CNN, CNBC and is considered America's top career coach. She is the best-selling author of: 60 Seconds & You're Hired!; Winning Resumes; Winning Cover Letters, and What to Do with the Rest of Your Life. She's the creator of the highly acclaimed audio training program Interview Advantage and The DreamMaker. Robin's passion is helping people find better jobs which she successfully does through her career counseling practice where she offers individual career coaching and resume writing services. A popular national speaker, Robin has spoken to over a thousand audiences on improving their lives and obtaining greater success. To purchase products or contact Robin visit her Web site at www.robinryan.com.
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