September is International Update Your Resume Month.

Back to school season is the perfect time for adults to take stock of their professional positioning and re-evaluate their approach to career planning: to prepare to “make the grade.”

Being proactive about your career goals is a critical, but often overlooked, element to long-term success and fulfillment.  The job search process can be stressful, to say the least. When we find ourselves gainfully employed, preparing for our next move falls farther and farther down the list of priorities. But professionals need to consider how important it is to be well-positioned for, well, just about anything. You never want to have to turn down a job opportunity because you were not prepared. Worse yet, find yourself ill-positioned to meet unforeseen market changes or face a downsizing. Don’t get caught with your professional pants down.

On the flip side, perhaps you are already on the verge of looking for something new and mustering up the courage and motivation to go after a more fulfilling or better-paying position. A new resume can be the confidence boost you need to put your job search into action.

Whatever the case, resumes are the key marketing tool in the promotion of professional potential. Job seekers need to take care in preparing a resume that will help them stand out among the crowd.

Below are the top ten tricks of the trade developed by professional resume writers to move you to the head of the class.

1. Start with a prominent header. Your name and contact information should be clearly visible and repeated on the top of every page. The same header format should also be carried over to your cover letter. Make it easy for a recruiter or hiring manager to recognize your document among the rest. Study tip: Be sure the phone number listed in your header is one at which you can actually be reached. There is nothing more frustrating to a potential employer than having to leave multiple messages. Or hearing the dreaded: “This mailbox is full.”



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As you can see from the above comparison shots, Jane’s name was barely distinguishable from the other text on her first resume. The document could get lost in a sea of paper. The revised version shows a prominent, professional header that takes minimal space, yet makes Jane’s resume easily identifiable among a pile of applicants.

2. Use position specific language. It is important to highlight your skill set as it relates to your targeted position. Potential employers are more in tune with experience and accomplishments that demonstrate a return on investment in the targeted field of a particular industry, as opposed to being impressed that you are good at sales, finance, hospital systems and furniture design. As the old saying goes, “A jack of all trades is an expert in none.”

Thanks to the advancement of ATS (Applicant Tracking Software), your resume is likely to pass through a series of automated filters before being seen by the human eye. These robots that read your resume eliminate approximately 75% of applicants. Incorporating key words relevant to your industry and target posting will help your electronic document gets past electronic filters and onto someone’s desk.

3. Demonstrate value with results-oriented detail. Your resume should be a snapshot of your greatest career accomplishments rather than a laundry list of job responsibilities. Describe your achievements in a manner that makes it easy for a potential employer to understand your return on investment.

Which of the following candidates would you rather hire onto your finance team?

Example A:

  • Determined cost of operations by establishing standard costs and collecting operational data.
  • Reconciled transactions by comparing and correcting data.
  • Maintained database by entering, verifying, and backing up data.

Example B:

  • Oversee the development of a $130M revenue plan for multiple lines of business on an annual basis.
  • Advised senior management to utilize third party alternatives for specific internal product support services that resulted in over $355K in savings.
  • Streamlined automation of capital and maintenance request procedures resulting in annual savings of $200K.

Knowing how you translated job duties into decreased expenses or increased revenue is more meaningful – and certainly more valuable – to a potential employer.

4. Quantify your success. While we are on the topic of accomplishments, be sure to lend credibility to your successes with dollar amounts, percentages, and numerical data whenever possible.

Take the bulleted list from our last example and remove the numbers:

  • Oversee the development of annual revenue plan for the direct auto line of business.
  • Advised senior management to utilize third party alternatives for specific internal product support services.
  • Streamlined automation of capital and maintenance request procedures.

Notice how this second grouping makes it more difficult to understand a candidate’s true value. The onerous of communicating a clear ROI for the target position rests with the candidate. Make it easy for potential employers to select you. Clearly communicate the positive impact hiring you can have on their bottom line.

5. Include an Executive Summary. Give them your best stuff right out of the gate. Capitalize on the first section of the page with a powerful Executive Summary to capture the readers’ attention and keep them wanting more. This approach is a distinctly better first impression than a simple career objective stating that you are seeking XYZ job. Objective statements are redundant as the act of applying for the position shows interest. Moreover, it can take you out of the running for another position for which the potential employer may be considering you.

A strong summary should be just that – a summary – of your resume and professional history. Use a professional tone and communicate your expertise clearly and succinctly.

6. Make it visually appealing. Lead the readers eye with consistent formatting and intentional spacing. Your resume is a marketing tool. Use it as such. On average, recruiters take less than 7 seconds to glance at a resume. Create visual interest with consistent formatting and good use of white space.

 These BEFORE and AFTER samples demonstrate how formatting changes alone can alter the readers’ focus on key skills and qualifications. For this marketing professional, no new content was added, rather existing text was reorganized to present a more succinct story of what he had to offer the world of promotions. 

7. Leave off any private or superfluous information. Do not include your birthdate, heights, name of your dog, or even a photo on your resume. Studies show 88% of resumes are rejected when a photo is included. You should also exclude unnecessary sentences such as “References available upon request”.

8. Show off accomplishments made outside of the office. Including affiliations and volunteer experience with professional or service organizations is a great way to demonstrate positive personality traits as well as establish common ground with the reader. Use caution, however, and only include extra curricular activities that demonstrate a meaningful skill and/or commitment to your community. Reporting that you like to ice skate on the weekends is not resume-worthy. Volunteering to coach the Special Olympics figure skating team is.

Study tip: Only include organizations in which you are a member or have some form of active involvement. Your resume should not include a listing of organizations that you only lend financial support to.

9. Speak in your own voice. Your resume is written representation of who you are and what you have accomplished. It needs to be a true and accurate reflection of you. Never exaggerate or falsify information on your resume. Doing so can wreak havoc on your career.

10. Proofread. Once your resume is complete, proofread it for both content and formatting errors. Then check it again. And again. This document is representation of your professional self. It tells a potential employer who you are and what you bring to the table. Nothing will land you in detention faster than a typo.

A well-written resume is your greatest tool for telling your professional story. Make sure you are using the space you have effectively. Reel them in with visual appeal, catch their attention with meaningful and relevant accomplishments, and maintain their respect with error-free content.

Take time this Fall to move to the head of the class. Take control of your future and champion your own career growth. If you need help acing the exam, consider using an expert to create your compelling career brand on paper. Costs for resume composition are reasonable and you can have a final document in hand within ten days. Get the confidence and courage you need to unleash your potential. Call Professional Courage today at 216-403-5243.