Top Secrets of Expert Resumes
It seems no matter how good we have it, we all want a better job.
That means keeping track of job listings, networking, tracking down leads, analyzing potential employers and scheduling interviews. But these depend on other people, word of mouth, and the quality and quantity of job postings available at any given time.
Only your resume gives you total control over how you're perceived by potential employers. It doesn't have to be a passive job listing with subjective information on why you think you're a great and wonderful person (which of course you are).
You need a high-impact career marketing piece that takes full advantage of the paltry 10-60 seconds of attention most resumes receive.
Perhaps you don't think of you're a very good writer, and just don't like "writing about yourself." You're not alone: even published authors and top-flight executives who visit my office tell me they have trouble writing a decent resume. They also tell me, "My resume isn't perfect, but I'll explain myself in the interview."
However, you may be the perfect candidate for a position and still not get the interview, for no other reason than your resume. Resumes are typically used to exclude people from positions more often than include them; whoever is left in the "potential" stack gets called for an interview.
The bottom line? What employers want to know from each "person" sitting on their desk is: What can you do for me? How can you fill this job effectively? Why should I talk to you?
1. Use a profile to focus on keywords.
Pre-digest your information; boil it down to keywords related to essential skills and abilities. These can be as basic as sales, marketing, client relations, target marketing, project management, budget planning or forecasting.
Once you have these items, group similar words together and list your level of proficiency, for example:
- Skilled in sales, marketing and new business development, including full responsibility for account acquisition and management.
- Proficient in total project management, from technical staff training to product design, development and rollout in major national markets.
- Comprehensive experience in finance, accounting and C-level audits, including strategic planning, team training, quality control and client relations.
This gives you total control over how you're perceived by employers. Without this section, you're basically a victim of your work experience and education, and what if your most recent experience isn't related to your current career goals?
2. Consistently market your skills and abilities.
Steer clear of fluff words such as "Self-motivated, hands-on professional with an excellent track record of ..." Let's face it. The first two items in this sentence could be said about almost anyone. As for your track record, let the employer decide if it's excellent by reading about your abilities (on top) and your duties and accomplishments (under the Employment section).
This can be the most difficult task on any resume, and it has to be written just right. If it's subjective or contains ideas that can't be verified through education or experience, then don't include it, or you'll lose your credibility. Consider getting advice from a certified professional resume writer who typically won't charge for a review.
3. A Title or Objective?
Think of a basic Title or Objective for the top of your resume.
This is typically very brief, just one or two words: SALES / MARKETING or ACCOUNTING / FINANCE, or something as simple as EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP. Give the reader some idea of where you're coming from, and generally where you want to go, without blocking yourself from consideration for other positions.
4. Employment and Education sections
Now your writing must consistently verify, support and quantify what you've stated in your Profile section. Help the reader actually see you at your last position by spelling out daily duties most relevant to your career goals. Quantify how many people you supervised or trained, explain types of clients you work(ed) with, computers utilized, and most important, results.
What are/were your achievements? Give facts and figures like budget amounts, how much you've saved the company over how long, awards, recognitions, etc.
Avoid the ubiquitous "References Available upon Request" at the bottom of your resume. If employers really want references, they'll ask you. Consider "CONFIDENTIAL RESUME" at the top of your resume, and/or stating this in your cover letter. Always respect the reader's intelligence!
Research the company's brochure, annual report and job advertisement, if any, and tailor your resume as much as possible to the position.
Although personal networking is the best way to get a job, an excellent resume can open doors all by itself, and is still required in many networking situations. Of course, a brief cover letter should be targeted to the hiring authority whenever possible.
Tell employers what you know about their operation, and why you want to work specifically for his/her company. Make them feel like they're the only person getting your resume. Consider this: a resume that's only slightly more effective than the one you have now could help you get a job weeks, or even months faster than your old resume.
Resume writing is an art form in itself, and there are few hard and fast rules. You need a complete, professional job search strategy, and your resume must be a key part of that strategy. When you implement these ideas in the next update of your resume, you'll almost certainly get more interviews.
For your free resume analysis, send in confidence to Careers@Execareers.com.
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Steven Provenzano is President of ECS: Executive Career Services, a former corporate recruiter and author of six career books, most recently Top Secret Executive Resumes. He has written more than 4000 resumes and will analyze your resume free of charge and provide feedback.
He has appeared on CNBC (four times), CNN/fn, WGN, ABC/NBC in Chicago, on numerous radio programs and in major newspapers such as the WSJ.
Steven is a Certified Professional Resume Writer/CPRW and Certified Employment Interview Professional/CEIP. His work is endorsed by Chicago Tribune Career Columnist Lindsey Novak, and top executives at such firms as Motorola, Inc.