If you're still writing your resume the
way your mama did, you may want to rethink your career strategy.
Employers now demand more out of job candidates, and having
a resume that stands out can make the difference between getting
the job and getting a form letter.
"In recent years, competition has become
more stiff for jobs, requiring applicants to be as concise
and to the point as possible," says Holly Rodriguez, a resume
More specifically, keywords are playing
a role-especially since most employers are using technology
to organize them.
"Resumes need to be written to include
keywords which are relevant to the industry to which the candidate
is applying. Most resumes are put through an online system
(either from a job board or company website) and are searched
by keywords in candidate database systems," warns Kathy Sweeney,
a resume writer with more than 20 years of experience.
So while you may have been taught how to
write a "killer" resume when you were in school, but that
same document may not be cutting it in the current job market.
Here are some must-haves to make sure your
resume is up to par.
Think objectively. If you're still
using that old objective that goes something like, "To find
a job that enables me to utilize my talents and educational
background," it's time to rethink your objective. In fact,
you may not want one at all.
Instead of stating your objective under
a title of "Objective," you can instead state the position
you want as a title under your contact information and include
a profile below. In the profile, describe your strengths and
skill set in about three to four sentences. Start each with
an adjective, such as "dynamic leader" or "creative director."
Sweeney, who is a past president of
the National Resume Writers' Association, says she doesn't
use objectives unless it's for a recent grad with no work
experience. "There is a big difference between objectives
and profiles," she says. "Objectives say "'This is what I
want,' while profiles say, 'This is what I have to offer.'
I use profiles for 99% of my clients."
She adds that profiles should include
keywords that are relevant to the position the job seeker
is targeting. For example, an accountant may use terms like
accounts payable, accounts receivable, general ledger entries,
or financial statement preparation.
Take action. Older resumes simply
highlight your job responsibilities. New ones do that in a
more effective way by starting each phrase with an action
verb. You should not only list your duties by beginning each
sentence with words like spearheaded, coordinated and directed-you
should list accomplishments (these can be bulleted) in the
Even if you did something as simple as
answering phones, you can phrase that into something like,
"Respond to customer inquiries." "When you remove words such
as I, the, and, for, you have much more space to describe
successes," says Christine Richardson, Director of Career
Services at Cazenovia College in New York.
She uses the following sentence as an example:
I was in charge of the whole department during the evening
shifts. This can be more succinctly written by saying: Managed
department's evening shift.
"There are fewer words, more descriptive
words and the tone is more professional," she notes.
Toot your own horn. Speaking of
your accomplishments, it's important to note them. Once you
list your job responsibilities, note some accomplishments
Did you raise sales or boost employee communication?
List it! Employers want to know what you did in your job and
how you went above and beyond to better the organization as
While you may not have measurable accomplishments
like those in sales, who can list the percentage of business
wins, think about anything you did and make it stand out.
Sweeney says it's better to list accomplishments under each
position, rather than noting them in another section that
sums up your career-span perks.
"Employers want to know 'where' the
achievement happened in the candidate's job history. An individual
should have more accomplishments in recent positions than
in positions several years back," she adds. "The reason? It
shows progression in responsibility and growth in each job."
Keep it short. Old resumes used
double spacing and large margins to fill up the page-or pages.
Today's resumes are short and succinct, and only career veterans
generally require two pages. "A new professional is usually
able to put all pertinent information on a one page resume,"
says Richardson. "I warn job seekers not to confuse the length
of their resumes with perceived experience."
Sweeney says it's okay to go to two
pages if you have more than five years of professional experience.
"Anything over two pages is overkill, unless someone is requiring
a curriculum vitae for higher education, research, etc.; in
that case, the more information, the better," she says.
You should also keep it short when listing
your duties and accomplishments by using short, punchy sentences.
And keep each position's text to a similar size. If you've
done more in your current position, make sure less significant
jobs in the past still express your skill set. You can even
convey your skills with a short list of core competencies
such as Direct Mail Marketing, Business Development or Benefits
Administration. These would be areas within your career or
industry that you specialize in.
Stay relevant. While it's great
that you got that 4.0 GPA, it may not be so applicable if
you're a mid- to senior-level professional. That's why I always
advise clients to keep their extracurricular activities and
educational information to the point. New grads will want
to note if they graduated summa cum laude, while it's not
so vital for the VP of Operations to list.
Coached the little league team? Unless
you're applying for a career in the baseball industry, it
will carry little weight on your resume. Instead list professional
affiliations and any career-related training you've had. It's
okay to list your technical expertise, too, but do keep in
mind that knowing how to use Microsoft Word is pretty much
You can highlight some extracurricular
activities in your cover letter, but be sure to keep it in
tone with the job you're looking for. "The point is not to
overwhelm the resume reader, and provide enough information
to draw the reader's attention," Richardson adds. "Remember,
the goal of a resume is to obtain an interview."