By: Lynda Grossman
Writing a Resume That Commands Attention
It’s common instinct when it comes to writing resumes – You want to make sure you haven’t missed anything so you write down all of it….and it turns out to be 4 ½ pages.
But what do employers really want in a resume? Brevity. Relevance. Accomplishment. Perfection.
Keep It Brief
As one senior executive recently told me, “Resume is French for ‘summary,’ which I’ve always interpreted as giving the highlights of one’s career. People who go on and on in the resume are the ones that drive me nuts! If you can’t write a summary, how will you ever write a concise memo that gives me what I need to know quickly and efficiently?”
The resume won’t get you the job. The resume is the summary meant to entice the employer to contact you. So, use words that count. Avoid passive phrases and phrases without meaning such as worked with, responsibilities included, and involved in. Use power words to start your phrases. Created, spearheaded, led, directed, delivered, collaborated, initiated, to name a few.
Keep It Relevant
Think like an employer. What language do they speak? What is the industry terminology that they will be looking for? Also, be sure to talk about accomplishments that they can relate to. Don’t include skills or experience that aren’t going to demonstrate transferrable skills to the new environment.
Eliminate your objective. Employers see past the empty words of how you hope to “contribute and grow in a top-notch company.” Instead write a brief summary to entice the reader to continue on. List keywords that will grab attention (and of course, are indicative of your experience).
Focus on what you have that is relevant for the job or job category you’re applying for. Applying for more than one type of job? You may need more than one resume.
Another point on keeping your resume relevant is how far back you go with your experiences. Employers have a ‘what have you done lately?’ mentality. Times change. Technology changes. If you have a great deal of experience, keep it to the last 10 -15 years.
Stress Accomplishments and Results
Your resume is your marketing tool, not a complete account of every task you’ve ever been assigned or every responsibility that is included in HR’s position description. When you think about what an employer wants to know, think about the results you’ve gotten for relevant skills or accomplishments. How have you increased revenue, decreased costs, improved systems and processes, initiated change or earned recognition?
Provide details that give context. Supervising 20 people is different than supervising 2. Raising $20 million is different than raising $2000. Include numbers that give a sense of the size and magnitude of the responsibility.
Employers have plenty of stories to tell about the typos and spelling errors they have found. Remember that your resume is your best example of your attention to detail and your ability to express your thoughts concisely. In an age when an employer may be getting a couple hundred resumes for a given job opening, one missed spelling error can be the reason to eliminate someone. Sometimes spellcheck is NOT your friend – in my experience one of the most often missed errors tend to be word usage errors – for example, perspective v. prospective.
A few other quick reminders:
- Concentrate on content first. While format is important to readability, don’t overthink it. Bill Gates has it correct when he says “Content is king.” Unless you are in graphic design, your spiffy format isn’t what might get you the interview. It is the targeted content that will.
- Choose a format that will allow the busy reader to get through it quickly and easily. Put dates in the same place (I prefer the right side of the page); Be consistent in your formatting – bold, underline, alignment, etc.
- Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) differ from the human eye in that they can only look for what they were told to look for. They can’t interpret what you’ve written. Keywords that are relevant to you and to the job are what can help to get your resume noticed.
Are you an employer who reviews resumes? What would you add to this list? Are you a job seeker who recently received feedback from an employer on your fabulous resume? Share your thoughts with us on our blog at innovateicc.com.
Looking for more tips for your search? Go to innovateicc.com to see other blog posts and video blogs.