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May 1, 2010
Three Ways to Perfect Your Résumé

We’re taught from an early age not to judge a book by its cover. Although this is a general rule of thumb, if you prefer not to pre-judge someone, in practice, judgments are often made quickly  -- when a "cover” is all you have. In the job market, this is your résumé.

Writing your résumé is scary. You have to contemplate your best qualities and express them in a clear and engaging way. One page must contain information that makes a potential employer want to interview you.

When you approach résumé writing from a place of passion, instead of fear, you’ll get a fresh perspective on the process. Don’t just display your work history; connect with the person reading about your professional experience. Here are three questions to ask when reviewing your résumé.

Would you want to read it?

The format of your résumé is the true first impression. Before an onlooker reads any words, he or she gets a sense of your organizational style. Do you use an easy-to-read font? How do you separate sections? How do you present your contact information?

The person inspecting it has many other résumés, cover letters, and personal advertisements to read. If your document looks overwhelming, it makes the employer’s job easier -- he or she gets to put it in the “no” pile without concentrating on the text. To ensure that your résumé lands in at least one “yes” pile, eliminate long blocks of text.

Make someone want to take a closer look at your résumé. While you need to be specific about your qualifications, the one page that showcases your skills needs to have visual appeal. A glance at the document should cause intrigue. Every word on the page should highlight your personality in a succinct way. Don’t be afraid of white space. Wouldn’t you rather read short, informative text than excessive, vague descriptions?

What makes you unique?

When job hunting, you may think about how to express that you match a position’s specifications. Instead, shift your focus to what makes you stand out from the crowd. Assume that everyone applying for your desired job has the skills that the employer wants. What personal experiences make you different? What distinctions or awards have you earned at past jobs? What knowledge or abilities make you special?

If you write that you have great time-management and customer service skills, would anyone applying for the job say they don’t have great time-management and customer service skills? You want to show that you have the necessary experience to handle the job, but you’ll distinguish yourself from other candidates if you demonstrate in a personal way that you have what it takes to rock the position.

Have you proofread each word?

Although résumés are read quickly, glaring errors are still problematic. When you’ve designed your document to look fresh and easy to read, mistakes are easily noticeable. The tiniest error can make your résumé look sloppy -- or worse -- make you look careless.

Another aspect of proofreading is viewing the document from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about you. If you state that you worked for “XYZ Company,” but do not give any details about that organization, how is that listing going to benefit you? Your résumé should directly promote you as the best candidate for the job. Omit or revise any words that do not support that goal.

Now is not the time to be shy. Make bold statements, have confidence in your intelligence, and get noticed. One of my favorite inspirational quotes pairs well with résumé writing: It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.

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Stefanie Flaxman corrects business, marketing, and educational documents in 24 hours. She’s a writing consultant and the founder of Revision Fairy® Small Business Proofreading Services. Check out her free report and subscribe to Small Business Writing Consultant Blog to get free business writing advice. Don’t forget to say hello on Twitter!

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