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21 Ways to Improve Your Resume

by Robin Ryan

Your resume is critical to your job search success. It must be a highly effective resume to capture the employer's attention in today’s market. Here’s what employers recommend, based on a national survey conducted with 600 Hiring Managers.

1. EMPHASIZE RESULTS!
This was the top survey response. State the action you performed and the achieved results. Include details about what you increased or decreased. Use numbers to reflect, how much, how many, and percentage of gain or reduction. Stress money earned or time savings. Example: Managed the project for implementing a new tracking system that resulted in a 17% decrease in cost overruns.
 
2. BE TARGETED.
Offer only the specific qualifications you have to best perform the job advertised since employer screening will eliminate any broad scope or generalized resumes submitted. State the desired job title, i.e. trainer, and make all content relevant to performing that job. Best practice tip: use a customized resume for different job titles even if you are qualified for several (i.e., one resume for Trainer, another for Administrator) stressing only the information pertinent to doing that specific job.
 
3. USE KEYWORDS!
Employers who sort resumes electronically look for keywords. Be sure to include potential keywords for job duties in your resume. Example: state purchased, bought or procured inventory (instead of bought inventory). If the employer searches using the keyword “procured” your resume will come up.
 
4. SHOW BUSINESS SAVVY.
Only submit resumes created in the Microsoft WORD software, which is the business world’s standard. Many home computers use a mini-word processor version called WORKS, which is not compatible and can’t be read by many employer computers. Whenever possible always mail a hard copy of your resume after you have submitted one electronically since you would never be informed if the electronic version wasn’t readable.
 
5. ADD A SUMMARY OF QUALIFICATIONS SECTION.
Employers find this highly desirable in the survey. Encapsulate your most marketable skills and experience into four to six sentences so this section is a mini-verbal business card that details what you are bringing to the new employer.
 
6. ONE PAGE IS BEST.
Employers stated resumes get less than a 15-second glance, so concise and to the point worked best no matter what level position the candidate applied for. Cover in detail the major job duties performed noting results achieved. Be a skillful editor, deleting old portions or anything not relevant or helpful to your securing a particular position and at the level you seek. No vague generalities. Say exactly what you mean, using the smallest number of words to make the point.
 
7. VISUALLY APPEALING.
The formatting of your resume must be kept readable, sharp and professional. Make sure sentences are concise and that there is adequate white space between points. Many online resume-posting programs eliminate italic and bold formatting, bullets, and fancy fonts so use Arial font, 12-14 point size. Lines can trigger page breaks so avoid any graphic design. Printed resume should include bullets, bold, italicizing to improve speed-reading and comprehension.
 
8. DO NOT LIE!
Employers stated that over 50% try to exaggerate their skills, which is almost always uncovered during interviews and reference checks. State your skills, qualifications, and experience as positively as possible without misstating the truth.
 
9. USE A CLEAR JOB TITLE.
If your job responsibilities are not adequately described by your job company title, indicate your responsibilities as the title with appropriate terms (i.e. IT Systems Analyst, instead of Tech lll).
 
10. USE ACTION VERBS.
Start each sentence with a descriptive action verb — such as directed, organized, established, created, planned, etc. They add power to your sentences. And, never use “I” on the resume, only short impact sentences. Example: Designed the company’s new marketing flyer.
 
11. BE COMPLETE
No abbreviations or acronyms Spell out names of schools, cities, business terms, abbreviations, and titles completely, as employers may not recognize the exactly what the letters stand for.
 
12. MAKE POINTS FAST.
Complete sentences are not necessary in resume writing; it is better to use simple descriptive statements to make a point.
 
13. JUSTIFY EXPERIENCE.
In all your sentences, use past tense words since they imply that you “have done it” before. This reassures employers you can do it for them.
 
14. BE PERFECT.
This was employers’ number one stated mistake job hunters make in the survey. The resume must be flawless. No spelling errors, mistakes or typos, especially in emails. Many HR managers insisted they would not hire offenders. PROOFREAD CAREFULLY. Don't trust computer spell checkers since a correctly spelled word like sea, would go unnoticed by your computer but would be incorrectly used if you meant to say “see.”
 
15. MAKE IT READABLE.
A crammed, cramped resume often goes unread. Make deletions wherever necessary to achieve a readable product. Use white space; use bullets to highlight key points; and eliminate redundancies.
 
16. AVOID GRAPHICS OR GIMMICKS.
No FedEx arrivals -- no employer cared and it’s very costly to do. Artistic designs, color inks, clipart, are distracting to the reader and should be avoided.
 
17. DON'T STATE SALARY.
Employers were annoyed by job hunters who put previous salary in resumes or stated desired salary in resumes. Better to state solid accomplishments and leave salary negotiations until you are offered a position since your expectations may well be lower than what employers are willing to pay.
 
18. NO TAG LINES.
Employers know you'll provide references if they request them, therefore it is not necessary to put "References upon request" at the end of your resume.
 
19. DON'T ADVERTISE NEGATIVE INFORMATION.
The resume is the wrong place to advertise that you were laid off, fired, or had an extended illness. Never state why you left a position; simply list the dates of employment. Don’t mention what salary you want to receive.
 
20. UPDATE OFTEN.
Keep a current resumé updated semi-annually so you can apply for promotions or new positions at a moment's notice, not missing any potential opportunity since your resume wasn't up-to-date.
 
21. FINAL TEST -- ARE EMPLOYERS CALLING?
Is your resume getting results? Are employers calling on appropriate jobs you are qualified (not over or under) to perform? If not, rework, or get professional help to improve yours. Eliminate anything in it that does not support the job you are targeting.
Your resume must clearly and quickly communicate to employers that you can do the job, and make your key strengths easily apparent.
 

 
© Copyright 2005 Robin Ryan. All rights reserved.
Robin Ryan is considered America's top career coach with over 1000 TV and radio appearances including Dr. Phil Show, Oprah, Fox News, CNN. She is the best-selling author of: What to Do with the Rest of Your Life; 60 Seconds & You're Hired!; Winning Resumes; and Winning Cover Letters; and also the creator of the DreamMaker, Interview Advantage and Salary Negotiation Strategies Audio Programs. Robin has a busy career counseling practice providing individual career coaching, resume writing services, interview preparation and salary negotiations consulting to clients nationwide. A dynamic national speaker, Robin frequently teaches audiences how to improve their lives and obtain greater success. To purchase her books and audio training programs or learn more about her coaching services call 425.226.0414, email RobinRyan@aol.com or click here: www.robinryan.com.

 
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