Why Your Resume Stinks (And What To Do About It Now)

Gail Belsky career change

There's nothing like a 90-minute session with a resume maven to point out how little you know about your own accomplishments-or how lame you look on paper. I knew I needed help, but when Miriam Salpeter, a job and social media coach, began her critique, my head started spinning.

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Everything about my resume screamed: Discard before reading.

My laundry list of prior jobs included descriptions of my duties, but said nothing about what I actually did or achieved. As Salpeter explained, I was leaving that for employers to try and figure out -- and who was going to bother?

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The Challenge: Proving Your Accomplishments On A Resume
With some professions, showing accomplishments on a resume is easy: "Increased revenue by X percent." As a journalist looking to transition to another field, I would have to find other ways to demonstrate my value. On the resume I showed Salpeter, I stated that I helped to re-launch a national magazine. Her response was: "So what?"

Blunt, but spot on. What did I actually contribute? What was the result? What skills did I use that would translate to other professions? I had to start from scratch.

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Here Are The Steps Salpeter Laid Out For Me
Make sure the job fits before applying: The first thing I needed to do was to copy the job descriptions for positions that I was interested in and highlight the parts I had experience with. If I couldn't highlight at least 80 percent, I shouldn't apply.

Use the ad's exact words: Whatever words employers used in their job description, I had to use in my own descriptions of prior jobs. Applicant tracking software scans for keywords, so including them increases the odds that an actual human being will see my resume. Employers won't think I'm a parrot, according to Miriam -- they'll think I'm a good match.

Focus on accomplishments, not what you did: Every job experience on my resume should show not just what I've done, but also what my effort produced. And every item should be bulleted ... no running text.

Be selective about what you showcase: The point of a resume isn't to list everything you've done; it's to show prospective employees what they want to see. I needed to create movable parts that I can swap in and out depending on the position. Or, since I'm interested in a few different fields, have a basic resume for each one.

It took me five hours to rewrite my resume.

At first I couldn't figure out how to connect my previous positions to the one I was applying for, but once I began using the employer's keywords as my guide, it became easier. If an item wasn't relevant, I deleted it. In the end, I looked remarkably like the person in the job description.

I sent off a job application. We'll see what happens. But I feel much better about my chances now that my resume actually says something.

What does your resume say about you? Does it list accomplishments, or just actions?



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Gail Belsky

Contributor

Gail Belsky is an editor, writer and project manager for online and print. She has held senior positions at Time Inc., Working Mother, and Parents magazine, and has written for such websites as CBS MoneyWatch.com, CNBC.com Health.com, Prevention.com, and WorkReimagined.org. She is the author of The List: 100 Ways to Shake Up Your Life.

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SN

Hi. Thanks for the tips.
I think even the formatting of a resume is very important as it provides the necessary information in a logical, easy to read sequence. A resume, well crafted with lots of open space, a clear, easy-to-read font such as 12 point Arial, and easy-to-find and skim information, would likely entice the employer to read on. With electronic publishing very much a part of the business world now, see to it that you print you resume on high quality paper. http://1stsalary.blogspot.in/2012/08/how-to-create-great-resume.html

March 02 2013 at 8:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Karen Southall Watts

We're discussing this over at LinkedIn. Here's what I said:
The article is a nice basic beginning and the point about matching your resume language to the ad or posting is essential. There are a couple of things to also keep in mind:
* Don't do things that will date you or your resume--objectives and "references upon request" are old fashioned
* Remember that HR functions much of the time as a gatekeeper and most HR people hate functional resumes (not that you should never use them) so getting your resume into the right hands or inbox is key
*If you're in a field that is hard to quantify, like journalism, consider a hyper-linked resume that leads to samples of your best work

February 09 2013 at 2:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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