Over the past 25 years I’ve helped countless co-workers, supervisors, fellow-students, my own students, friends, and family figure out what to include in a resume. I’ve also personally helped a few dozen people get hired based on a resume we wrote or rewrote together.
After researching what works today (as part of updating my own resume), I decided it was time to write a blog post answering that question for you.
The Most Effective Resumes are those that clearly articulate how your particular skills and experiences align to the selection criteria defined by the job opportunity announcement. You must focus on quality over quantity. Always tailor your resume to the job opportunity you are applying.
- One resume showing you meet the criteria listed is better than 1,000 that do not.
Study Job Opportunity Announcements Find and review multiple job announcements similar to the position you’re looking for. Read them even if they aren’t in the geographical region you want to be in. Take notes on what experience, skills sets, education, training and certificates are important in that occupation. Put your primary focus on the “requirements,” “skills” and “qualifications” sections. Write down keywords as you go.
Pay Attention to Keywords Whether writing anew or dusting off something you have already written, stop and think about what keywords must be included for your resume for it to show up when the potential employer electronically searches 100-1,000 resumes to cull out 20-40 for their own eyes. You may be the most qualified person for the position, but you will surely be lost in the electronic ocean of applicants unless you have included the appropriate keywords.
- Keywords Communicate Multiple Qualities
- E.g. “analyst” may equate to experience collecting data, evaluating effectiveness, and/or researching and developing new processes.
- Base keywords on knowledge, skills, and abilities the employer listed as necessary.
Each keyword you include may have tremendous power and deliver a huge message.
Write Concisely Picture yourself faced with hundreds of resumes for one position. You’re not going to read them all fully. You’ll quickly skimming through and eliminating candidates who are CLEARLY qualified. Look at your resume and ask:
- Will the hiring manager see the key credentials within 10 to 15 seconds?
- Does the top quarter of the page sell me as worth contacting?
Make The Sales Pitch! Your resume must effectively sell your qualifications.
Display key selling points (prominently) at the top of the first resume page. Also, directly and clearly explain how you’ll do for them what they need done.
- Say a medical equipment company listed curriculum development for operator training as a requirement. If you have both curriculum development and medical equipment experience, spell out how that makes you a better deal than the next applicant. Tell them you have the ability to use your technical experience to build curriculum in far less time and at a lower cost than someone who’ll have to learn what your already know from your work experience.
Don’t Oversell If you are highly qualified with a killer resume…that is not producing interviews, shake it up. You may want to include every detail of your work experience, but you may be answering too many questions before they ever meet you. A resume should provide just enough bait to get you an interview. How hard you worked for something is not a reason to put it on your resume. The hiring manager for a health care insurance sales company doesn’t care if your biggest success story and favorite bullet reads:
“Developed slope equation saving bent pyramid; now standard in all pyramid construction”
- Review every line and ask is this relevant to the person choosing who gets an interview.
Use Numbers to Highlight Your Accomplishments If you were a recruiter looking at a resume, which of the following entries would impress you more?
- Sold insurance policies.
- Sold average of 25 new policies monthly (9 more than division’s monthly goal).
The second version carries more oomph because it uses numbers and time to quantify the accomplishment.
- Provides context so they understand degree of difficulty and scope of each task.
Think Money All organizations are concerned about money. Even federals and state organizations have budgets. Find a way to articulate how you saved money, earned money, or managed money in each of your listed areas of work/other experience.
- Recommended new Internet Service Provider; reduced online costs $750 over 2 years
- Wrote cold call script that has brought in more than $47,000 in donations to date.
- Managed college band’s annual student travel budget of $7,000.
Time is Money. Regardless of size, organizations are constantly looking for ways to save time, work more efficiently, and meet deadlines. Use your resume to show that you can save time and manage time well. This can be a true attention getter and makes for quality conversation in interviews.
- Facilitated all payroll activities, ensuring employees were paid as expected and on time.
- Assessed incidents and performed interviews; composed reports within 48 hr. deadline.
- Suggested procedures that decreased order-processing from 10 minutes to six min. each.
As your time is money too, I’ve selected the most powerful and helpful hints that have helped many people get hired in the past. Keep in mind, what is written on the resume is only part of the hunting/hiring process. The ways you identify, select, approach, communicate with, interview with, and follow-up with prospective are all equally important components to a successful hunt. I will do my best to post about each in the near future. Until then, be well and leave a comment to this post if you can offer something of value.
Written by Seth Haigh
SOURCES: The sources I’ve researched (recently) include resume guides and hints published/posted by various hiring authorities at multiple large corporate, private and government agencies. I also sought and received feedback from some of the HR Reps and hiring authorities I am acquainted with.