Rachel Zupek, CareerBuilder.com / MSNCareers.com, July 2009
By now you've
heard several times that the job market is competitive and
it's more important than ever that you stand out to employers
through your cover letter and résumé.
about to hear it again.
"While it is
always important to have a remarkable résumé, a bad economy
makes it even more important," says Kathy Sweeney, a certified
professional résumé writer for The Write Résumé. "With this
situation in mind, it is more important than ever to communicate
the value you bring to a potential employer."
Here are a
few pearls of wisdom: Communicating your value to an employer
is not done by crowding your résumé with words like 'results
driven' or 'motivated.' It won't be done by compiling a laundry
list of only job duties, and it sure as heck won't be done
by sending out one standard to résumé for every application.
No, in fact, none of these mistakes will help pave your way
for an interview, but you can bet they will aid in digging
your own career grave.
So what is
the easiest way to grab an employer's attention? Simple: Spell
things out for them.
function of a résumé is to get a candidate noticed in an effort
to gain interviews," Sweeney says. "It is a marketing document,
in which a candidate sells his or her value to the employer.
If the meat of the résumé is simply job duties, it will not
do the job seeker any favors."
If you need
help creating your high-definition résumé, here are five common
résumé errors you might be making, and how you can make things
crystal clear for employers:
aren't quantifying results
often don't know the difference between quantifying results
and just stating a job responsibility. A job responsibility
is something that you do on a daily basis and a quantified
achievement is the result of that responsibility, Sweeney
"In this tight
economy, employers want to know whether you can make or save
them money," Sweeney says. "By quantifying results, you show
the next employer the results you have been able to obtain,
either in dollar figures, percentages or comparative numbers."
To truly impress
an employer, you need to highlight situations where you went
'above and beyond' your normal job duties. If you developed
a process or procedure that reduced time in completing a certain
task, finished a project 10 days ahead of schedule or recommended
a way to cut costs, included those in your résumé, Sweeney
says. All of these can be calculated out to show dollars saved
for an employer.
2. You didn't
We hear a lot
about using keywords in our résumés and letters, but many
job seekers just don't get it. They don't know what they are,
where to find them or how to include them in their résumé.
usually found in the job description for an available position.
Keywords are not 'team player' or 'good communication skills,'
Sweeney says. Keywords are specific to the position. For an
accountant, for example, keywords might include 'accounts
payable,' 'accounts receivable' or 'month-end reporting.'
goal from an employer's perspective is to drill down to the
least amount of candidates possible for interviewing purposes,"
Sweeney says. "Keywords are utilized to trim down applicants
to the most qualified candidates."
3. You buried
did list some accomplishments on your résumé, but they are
mixed in with your job duties. What good is that going to
do you? This method will not allow an employer to quickly
assess your ability to produce results, which is ultimately
why they want to hire you.
"If a candidate
buries his achievement in a job description, nothing is going
to stand out. A job seeker needs to outline what his duties
are, as those are what most often match the job posting,"
Sweeney says. "On a job posting, you will see duties listed.
For instance, 'Candidate will be charged with creating relationships
with customers and selling XYZ product line.' However, job
postings will never say, 'Must produce at least $5 million
per year in revenue.' While it is important to list that you
'develop relationships and sell products' as a job duty, you
need to separate your daily functions from your results, as
employers do not want to 'wade through' your job descriptions
to identify your achievements."
In order to
make your achievements stand out, Sweeney suggests listing
the job duties first in paragraph format, and then incorporate
a bulleted area below the paragraph entitled "key accomplishments"
to list your achievements.
4. You didn't
include a summary
a summary on your résumé is one of those steps that many job
seekers forget to take -- and if they do remember, they usually
include the wrong information. Your career summary should
portray your experience and emphasize how it will help the
prospective employer, Sweeney says. It should be very specific
and include explicit industry-related functions, quantifiable
achievements or your areas of expertise.
"You will lose
an employer's attention if this section is too broad," Sweeney
says. "Know the type of position you are targeting and use
the keywords that relate to it based upon your background."
résumé isn't targeted
The best way
to make things clear for an employer is to target your résumé
to the company and its open positions. If your résumé is generic,
it makes the employer have to guess at the type of position
managers do not have time to figure out what position will
best suit a candidate," Sweeney says. "Let an employer know
where you fit into their company."
target all areas of your résumé to match what the employer
is asking for -- if nothing else, change the summary as it
will be the first area read by hiring managers, Sweeney says.
"Look at what is important in the position posting. Then,
tweak your profile and perhaps some of your position descriptions
to match your qualifications to the position," she adds.
Now that you've
got your HD résumé, you need to put it in front of the right
pair of eyes. Don't just post it to a job board and wait for
something to happen. Utilize your networks, post on social
and professional networking sites and answer questions on
industry forums or blogs in a well-thought-out manner, Sweeney
have a great résumé, but if no one can find it, it defeats
the purpose," Sweeney says.
is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job
blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search
strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CBwriterRZ.
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