When it comes to your resume, there really isn’t room for second place. You have one chance to make a first impression and when you are striving to do so in a job market that is flooded with qualified job seekers, you must do everything you can to ensure that your resume is as powerful and compelling as possible.
Here are eight trade secrets of professional resume writers that will help you to rewrite your resume to make it irresistible to employers.
1. Create an employer-centered summary section for your resume.
Avoid the outmoded method of including an objective statement. In nearly all cases, the first major section on your resume should be a summary of qualifications. This section serves the same purpose as the “above-the-fold” content of a newspaper. The most attention-grabbing and pertinent information is included right at the top as a way to seize reader interest and induce them to read further. If well written, with little more than a glance, the reader should be able to come away with a clear idea of who you are and how you would fit in their organization and add value. In short, your summary of qualifications should be written to succinctly convey exactly what it is that you offer that will meet the employer’s needs and solve his problems.
2. Write your resume with your ideal job in mind.
Rather than expanding your options, a broad, general resume will screen you out of the positions that you truly want. Unfocused resumes simply confound readers who have difficulty figuring out how you would fit in their company. You have 15 seconds to get your key points across. Don’t waste those 15 seconds puzzling the recipient of your resume who will simply respond by turning to the next, easier-to-read-and-understand resume in the stack.
3. Spend the time to develop a branded profile/summary statement and resume.
What are the qualifications and experiences that the majority of your competitors in the job market have? These are baseline qualifications. While you need to make it clear that you too offer all the baseline qualifications, your summary section should highlight the qualifications and contributions that differentiate you and set you apart from your job search competition. This is what it means to write a branded resume. Showcase and promote the factors that make you unique and make the contribution you are offering to make for the employer more valuable and profitable than the next candidate.
4. Stress accomplishments throughout your resume.
Don’t spend too much time or valuable page space describing routine job functions. The responsibilities you have held in past positions simply describe to the reader what you were meant to perform in your past positions. They don’t tell them that you actually performed those functions or how you did so in a valuable, beneficial way for the company. Instead, your entire resume should be written to showcase your accomplishments and the ways in which you have added value to employers in the past, as a way to illustrate your future potential.
5. Don’t forget the results.
An achievement alone means very little, unless you describe that accomplishments in terms of how it added value in some way. Did your achievement save money for your employer? Make money? Save time? Help improve productivity? If you have trouble with this, read each accomplishment statement and ask yourself “so what?” Your answer to that question is often the result or benefit of the achievement. When you can, always try to use numbers to describe your results, as numbers add credibility to your resume like nothing else can do.
6. Prioritize your experience and focus on the most pertinent.
While there is no fixed standard for this, and you’ll have to make a strategic decision based on the specifics of your background, it is common to go back approximately 10-20 years on your resume and no more. It is the most recent experience that is typically the most pertinent, and your resume is meant to be a marketing document rather than an autobiography. Regardless of the age of a qualification or particular experience, always ask yourself if it is relevant to your current job target. If it isn’t relevant, don’t include it! Doing so simply waters down the focus and makes the recipient wonder if you truly understand the requirements of the position since you are wasting their time with unrelated information.
7. Create an attention-grabbing design.
Don’t be tempted to use a template to create your resume. The design of your resume should be created specifically to accentuate the unique factors in your background, along with the data and accomplishments that distinguish you. Resume templates simply ensure you blend in rather than stand out, and they force you to try to retool your background into a one-size-fits-all format. This is a bad and truly ineffective idea! A creative format that uses design elements in an understated way presents a professional appearance that will make your resume standout and get attention.
8. Make sure your resume complies with current best practices and standards.
Resume styles, format, standards, and expectations change with the times. The best format for you also changes as you gain more experience and refine your career direction. Take the time to learn about your options and the expectations of employers. Don’t just use the old format that you were taught in college 15 years ago. Things have changed and your resume must evolve as well.
Do you still feel at a loss about how to improve your resume, even after reading these tips? If so, consider hiring a professional resume writer. Hiring a resume writer is an investment, but it is an investment that will often pay you back many times over by dramatically shortening your job search, positioning you to win coveted positions, and preparing you with the pitch you need to negotiate top compensation.