You are what you write. I recently did a search on resume tips on a popular search engine (that starts with a “G”) and to no surprise found more than 37 million pages dedicated to some form of tips for resumes. Everyone has an opinion and I am no different. As I coach, though, I have seen literally hundreds of resumes and have come to a conclusion about their content. Resumes that paint a picture of a personality and tell a story about accomplishments have a higher probability of attracting interest and actionable attention. Moreover, if you are in the market for a new job, a stellar resume demands that you take the time to succinctly but creatively portray your abilities in quick but compelling fashion.
So, grab your keyboard and get to work.
1. The resume is about your character, personality, and ability. Give it life by using action words that paint a picture of who you are and what your value is.
2. Excite your audience. Do not make the resume a boring recitation of the tasks that comprise the jobs you have held. No one cares. And no one will hire you based on the job functions. They will only hire you if you fit the bill, can move the needle, and suit the organization’s culture.
3. Be creative and convincing. Do not just list your jobs like some accounting table. Use storytelling techniques to weave the facts about you and the most interesting and important accomplishments of your career.
4. Take the high road. Sure, you may have had challenges in your career. You have had bosses that bossed, but surely you have had leaders that have led. In every phrase and every sentence keep the tone upbeat and reflective of your positive attitude about your success and the great job you have done for your bosses and employers.
5. Make the resume fit each opportunity. No two jobs are exactly the same, so don’t use the same resume for every position that looks interesting. Take the time to digest the job spec and tailor the resume appropriately. I know it may feel like a lot of work if you are sending out dozens a week, but if you take the time to target, your chances of snagging an interview are greater.
6. Employ the three E’s. Experience goes first in reverse chronology, Education second, and Extracurricular activities last. When a hiring manager looks at a resume, they want to know where you have been, “experience.” Next they want to know where and what type of “education” you have under your belt. And last, help the hiring manager understand what else you have accomplished by way of your professional affiliations, pro bono work you have done, and any notable awards you received that can have bearing on your performance and abilities.
7. Leave out skills, hobbies, and references. There is a time and place for everything. It is assumed that you know how to use a computer, can enter text through a keyboard, and are able to build a presentation. Don’t waste valuable real estate telling folks you have computer skills. And forget the hobbies. You are not going to be hired because you can play hoops or effortlessly drive a ball out of a sand trap. Lastly, if they want a reference, they will ask.
8. Grab their attention with your cover letter. It should not be a repeat of the resume. Say something startling and provocative that opens the door to your resume. Study the job spec and the company. Is there something you can add to the firm that no one else can? Is there some factoid about you that can be the wedge that leverages you into an interview? What is the one most important value that you bring to the table? Put it in the cover letter.
Even though the economy is on the mend, the job market is still in the recovery room awaiting further medication. You need to have the best possible resume because you are competing with thousands of other people. Help yourself by looking distinguished, unique, and savvy. Words count, so make yours!
Gerry Corbett is the PRJobCoach at prjobcoach.com and CEO of Redphlag LLC, a strategy consultancy. He has served four decades in senior communications roles at Fortune 100 firms and earlier in his career in aerospace and computer engineering with NASA. He has a B.A. in public relations from San Jose State University and is a member of the International Advertising Association, National Investor Relations Institute; Arthur Page Society, National Association of Science Writers, and International Coaching Federation.