Six Tips to Rock Your Resume

by Turner, Joe Tuesday, December 04, 2007
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Is your resume holding you back from a great opportunity?

As a recruiter, I've seen thousands of resumes over the past 15 years. The majority of them didn't make the cut and needed major revisions.

The stakes are higher today because the job market has intensified and employers are getting more selective. Having a poorly written resume can put you in the rejection pile. Don't let your resume hold you back.

Here are six easy steps to really rock your resume and motivate hiring managers to call you:

  1. Apply the Top Third Rule
    Place your key selling statements up in the top one-third of your first page. Your resume gets about 20 seconds of eyeball time before your reader has made the decision to either continue reading or to pass. Grab attention early and place your most dramatic 'sales pitch' as close to the top of page one as possible.

  2. Focus
    It's unbelievable how many resumes today lack a simple "Objective" at the very top of the page. A title of the target job will suffice. Lacking this, your reader will wonder just what job you are applying for and will require further digging. Erase all doubts and focus your resume with an "Objective."

  3. Add Keywords
    Everyone talks about keywords but few actually include them. Adding a separate keyword section will increase your odds of a computer flagging your resume on a keyword search. Just as important, a separate keyword paragraph will provide a convenient scan area for the human reader who needs to pre-qualify your hardcore skills. A separate keyword summary will satisfy both requirements and help your resume pass that 20-second test.

  4. Brand Yourself
    This is an area that's been getting a lot of play on the web lately, but it's an old concept. It's just starting to make its impact in the resume arena. "Personal Branding Statement", "Unique Selling Proposition" and "Value-Added Statement" are terms for the same thing. Once again, with regard to that 20-second rule about making a first impression, an employer needs a quick and memorable method to distinguish you from 100 or more other candidates. A personal branding statement is ideal because this one sentence says 1.) who you are 2.) your greatest strength and 3.) your biggest benefit to the employer.

    Here's an example:

    "Seasoned CFO, strong in streamlining and automating financial and accounting procedures that have saved my employer over $400,000 to date in consulting and personnel costs."

    Place your branding statement at the top of your resume just below your objective. The impact of a hard-hitting statement like this will quickly distinguish you from your competitors with similar skills.

  5. Answer the Question, "So What?"
    In today's competitive job market, skills alone will not sell you. Too many job seekers focus on their own needs when they should be tuned to the radio station "WIIFM". Realize that today's employer's first question is, "What's in it for me?" A good test for your resume is its ability to answer the question, "So what does this mean for the employer?" after each item in your work history.

    Example:

    "Provide and direct financial, cash flow, and tax impact analyses as they relate to the existing portfolio and new acquisitions."

    After answering the "So what" question, we've added this:

    "Saved $75,000 in annual outside consulting fees by providing and directing financial, cash flow, and tax impact analyses as they relate to the existing portfolio and new acquisitions."

    Imagine how differently an employer will react to the second statement above by providing a clear benefit that's important to them. Modifying your resume to include some of your achievements can make it come alive to sell you rather than reading like a dull laundry list of job duties.

  6. Lose the 'Razzle-Dazzle'
    Unless you're in advertising or marketing and this is an integral part of your job, stay away from Flash, frames, graphics, photos of yourself and out of the ordinary symbols. Also, watch out for heavy use of color and bolding of text. It can annoy your reader by serving as a distraction, a real no-no. These elements don't always convert well to an employer's computer database. A good rule of thumb: if it doesn't convert to ASCII text, avoid it.
Summary

Stop telling and start selling. You have less time than ever to generate interest from an employer flooded with too many resumes. Make these six changes and your resume will not only ROCK, you'll get calls from hiring managers wanting to know more.