Archive for January, 2007

January 28, 2007

10 Resume Tips

I haven’t written in this for a while. Spending too much time with my little one. And of course too much time on my career search. Over the past 4 months, I think I’ve revised my resume about a million times – no thanks to the Career Center. And I have come across many resume tips that I thought were great.

I summarized the top ten below. So here goes…another top 10. There might be 11 here, but do I have to mention to proofread, proofread, spellcheck, spellcheck, grammar, punctuation, capitalization….Be meticulous in your proofreading, and do not be afraid to ask a teacher, friends, or trusted colleagues to review your resume as well.

1. Ditch the modesty.
Yes, you are selling yourself!!! Getting a job is simply an exercise in selling. Most people aren’t born salesman and are too honest. Remember that you are a solution to the hiring manager’s problem. So ditch the modesty. Of course, littering your resume with buzzwords that don’t accurately reflect your work experience or fabricating work experience or overselling yourself may work against you. Tell your story and try to be true to who you are, what you can do, and where you want to go.

2. Detail your accomplishments.
In today’s competitive job market, your resume must do more than simply list your employers, job titles, dates of employment, and general responsibilities. In order to compete successfully, your resume must provide highlights not only of what you have done, but also how well you have done it. One way to do this successfully is to provide a brief summary of your overall responsibilities below each job title you have held, followed by a bulleted list of “Key Accomplishments” or “Selected Contributions.”

Accomplishments describe specific actions you took to meet or exceed employer goals or customer expectations. Typically, accomplishments describe ways that you improved processes, service, or technology; generated revenues; reduced costs; enhanced efficiency or organization; accelerated turnaround times; elevated profitability; increased customer satisfaction; solved problems; improved staff morale or training; brought in new customers or retained existing business; displaced the competition; or turned around performance.

Responsibilities are everyday duties, like staff supervision, database administration, or operations management. Focus on accomplishments. So read your old performance reviews. Remember the acronym S.T.A.R. which stands for SITUATION, TASK, ACTION, RESULT. So when you walk into an interview, your resume can lead the person into a discussion about the situation, the tasks you identified, the action you took and the results.

3. Measure your results.
Quantify your accomplishments Wherever possible, try to quantify your accomplishments by using percentages, dollar amounts, before and after comparisons, or other descriptors. This will help to add validity to your resume by providing concrete evidence of your achievements.

Think about your performance, and apply numbers where possible, using percentages, dollar signs and time quantifiers. If you have increased profitability or decreased costs, list these accomplishments. If you exceeded a goal, note the original goal. If you didn’t hit your target, don’t mention it, but use the number you did attain. Saving $100 million is still an accomplishment, even if the goal was $200 million.

Consider the following before and after example: Before (accomplishment statement not quantified): Identified and resolved challenging technical problems to improve network functioning. After (quantified accomplishment statement): Improved network uptime from 89% to 99.5% (record high). Reversed a long-standing history of network crashes through expert troubleshooting and systems optimization.

4. Cite Recognition.
If your employer has recognized you with an award, cite it on your resume. Give an indication of the award’s criteria so the recruiter can see why you were selected and what you accomplished.
If you were chosen to receive additional training or head special projects, these can also be considered accomplishments. But make sure any award you cite is based on merit. “An award for working 20 years with the company just means you sat there for 20 years and is not an accomplishment.

5. Show progression
If you’ve been promoted, your job titles are likely to reflect your career advancement. If you’ve been with 1 employer for many years, list each job title separate with their respective accomplishments.

6. Show adaptability.
These are transferrable skills you have from job to job. In one job, you might highlight analytical skills. In another, project management skills or people management skills. This may even include different industry experience.

7. Bolster experience.
If your resume looks a little bare, including relevant internships can show additional experience. Avoid being typecast (sounds like Hollywood!) if you’re trying to shift gears or move in a slightly new direction. Recruiters may be concerned that adjusting to a new work environment may be more difficult for someone who doesn’t have that exact experience. So look for volunteer work and other activities/projects where you interact with different people can show that you are comfortable in a variety of settings and that it won’t be difficult for you to adjust. Providing additional relevant information such as professional organizations, leadership and civic activities also can add credibility.

8. Demonstrate your value using keywords & action verbs.
Keywords are used by employers to search resumes stored online or in computerized databases. The more keywords your resume contains, the higher to the top of the resume pile it will rise. You may have the precise background and skills a company is looking for, but if your resume does not reflect that through the use of keywords, there is a good chance your resume will not be “found” amongst other more keyword-savvy candidates.

Companies don’t really care about your life story, they want to know if hiring you will be valuable to them. Keywords are words that have got to show one can produce results and also are words that help you standout in keyword searching online. Present key phrases like “driving gross” or “increased efficiency” in a prominent way, so that they stand out when the resume gets past the computer and is viewed by human eyes.

A prospective employer wants to be able to determine within 10 seconds what value you bring to the table. These include “communication skills,” “problem-solving,” “team work,” “leadership,” “resource optimization,” “image and reputation management,” and “business development”. “You need to communicate the things that you do in a positive, active way. Using strong phrases like “led a team” or “built a team” instead of “worked with a team” can make a subtle but important distinction to a recruiter. Even phrases such as “igniting revenues” and “motivating and leading a dynamic staff”.

Although not an exhaustive list, keywords can be job titles and job functions (e.g., “computer programmer,” “computer programming,” “retail store manager,” “multi-outlet retail management”); degrees or certifications (e.g., “bachelor’s degree in marketing,” “BA in marketing,” “CPA,” “LPN”); industry jargon (e.g., “ISO 9000,” “Six Sigma,” “JIT Systems”); computer programs/applications/systems (e.g., “Microsoft Office Word,” “Microsoft Office PowerPoint,” “Windows 2000”); and soft-skills (e.g., “creative problem solving,” “team building and training,” “strategic planning,” “customer relationship management”).

If you are not sure whether your resume is adequately packed with keywords appropriate for your industry and job target, spend some time researching advertised positions matching your interests. If you see terms or phrases used repeatedly to describe requirements or “desired qualifications” in these ads and you have like qualifications or skills, insert these keywords somewhere in your resume.

9. Target and Match Your Resume
Match your resume to the job description. Use a career goal or objective. Highlight the work skills that qualify you specifically for the job that you’re targeting. Look at ads for similar jobs at other companies. Each industry has its own jargon, and becoming familiar with a wide range of ads will help you see which keywords are showing up in ads over and over again. Tailor your resume to the wording and responsbilities in the job description.

Take a cue from business-savvy Madison Avenue advertising gurus and target your resume’s message. Your resume should clearly communicate your career goal at the outset through a resume title (if you are already in the workforce) or an objective statement (if you are a recent graduate or changing careers). On any given day, hiring managers may receive hundreds of resumes, particularly if they are advertising multiple jobs online. Your resume probably will not receive a thorough read-through during the initial screening, so make every second count by removing the guesswork about what you want (and are qualified) to do.

Your resume title or objective statement should go directly below your name and contact information. Sample resume titles include: “Award-Winning Technology Sales Representative,” “Multi-Certified Network Administrator (CNA, MCSE, CCNA),” and “Fortune 500-Experienced Administrative Support Professional.”

Sample objectives include: “Recent finance graduate with a strong academic foundation and superior-rated Bank of America internship performance eager to launch banking career.” “Skilled nurse practitioner seeking to leverage medical background and proven interpersonal strengths to transition into pharmaceutical sales.”

10. Formatting = KISS but be strategic in how you organize content.
Keep it simple. Don’t go overboard with the format or resume design or think you need fancy HTML. Text is best and and choose a format that works for you. Let your accomplishments in each bullet speak for themself.

Your strongest, most relevant qualifications, skills, experience, and achievements should be showcased on page one of your resume. This may mean that you have to get a bit creative in how you present yourself on paper. For example, if you are a recent college graduate without much work experience, then your strongest qualification is your education. Do not save it for the bottom of the resume. Instead, showcase it prominently in the top half of the resume and provide ample detail of your “degree program highlights” by listing not only the degree, but also the classes included in your major field of study. (This helps to add more keywords into your resume as well.)

Here’s another example: if you are looking to return to a career that you abandoned some years ago, then you need to emphasize this earlier experience. One way to do this is to tout your earlier career in a powerful opening “profile summary,” a brief one-paragraph or two-paragraph section immediately following your resume title and objective where you can highlight your previous work experience.