Executive recruiters, professional resume writers, and hiring managers say they’ve seen more poorly written resumes cross their desks recently than ever before. So before you waste time, money and postage and, most importantly, squander employment opportunities and tarnish your reputation in your industry – with a deficient resume, here are 10 tips for writing an effective resume:
Tip # 1: Cite your accomplishments, not merely job descriptions
Hiring managers are seeking candidates who can help them solve a problem or a need within their company. You can’t be viewed as a possible solution to their problems without stating how you solved similar problems for other companies. Focus on what you did in the job, not just on what your job was. There is a subtle, but important difference. Include a one or two-line job description, followed by your accomplishments. Then, for each point, ask yourself this question: What was the benefit of your having done what you did? Your accomplishments should be unique to you, not just a list of what anyone else did or could have done in that job. It should not be the generic job description you had when you originally applied for the position.
Tip # 2: Quantify your accomplishments
The most frequent resume mistake is to load it with general claims and too much industry jargon. A resume is a marketing document designed to sell your skills and strengths rather than just portray a bio. By including and highlighting specific achievements that present a comprehensive picture of your marketability, you’ll engender greater confidence in hiring managers and be called for many more interviews. Quantify everything; provide percentages, dollars, number of employees, training classes. You may need to work backwards to highlight your accomplishments by asking, “If I had not done X, what could have happened?”
Tip # 3: Cater your resume to your industry
Marketing, advertising, and design professionals have creative license to be more distinctive and use flair in the way they design their resumes. Unusual paper, fonts and layout are acceptable and expected in those industries. However, conversely, the real estate industry won’t be impressed and may indeed be turned off by distinctive resume design. In this sector, it’s better to err on the side of being conservative. Your accomplishments, error-free writing, grammatically correct, clean, crisp type and paper will make the impression for you.
Tip # 4: Update all information
If you’ve been in the market for a while, it’s important that you update your information to ensure its relevance to today’s market. Job descriptions dating back many years are a red flag. A resume is not intended to be your biography, but a recitation of what you’ve done lately and how your skills will benefit their company. Providing information from the 70’s is hardly relevant and can work against you.
Tip # 5: Avoid including irrelevant information
Recruiters and HR specialists agree that listing personal information isn’t appropriate or necessary on an executive resume, and including your photograph is the worst offense of all.
Your resume is the one phase in your job search over which you have total control. Based on the strength of that document, you’ll either be selected for an interview from among hundreds of other candidates, or passed over. Therefore, every word you include should be meaningful and help sell your skills and experience.
Tip # 6: Replace your “Objective” with a “Career Summary”
The Career Summary should be designed to give a brief overview of who you are and what you do.
Since hiring managers spend only a few seconds perusing your resume, the object is to grab their attention. Replace “Objective” with a summary that accurately and powerfully describes you as a solution to a potential employer’s problems.
15 years of diverse general management, operations and marketing experience with regional and national real estate firms and a multinational electronics manufacturer. Wharton M.B.A. with particular expertise in:
- Real-estate asset, property and turnaround management, leasing, marketing and operations.
- Financial planning, capital investment budgeting and pricing.
- Strategic planning, business development and market analysis.
- Recruiting, training and management of interdisciplinary work teams
Tip # 7: Avoid Referring to yourself as a consultant
Many candidates use the term “consultant” to describe their current work status. Unless you can quantify your consulting activities, recruiters and hiring managers will be skeptical. The consultant title tends to be poorly received on a resume unless a specific task and result are stated and the consulting project is for a recognizable concern. If, for strategic reasons, you use the term “Consultant”, describe the projects specifically and provide what the results were (i.e., did you increase sales and by what percent over what period of time? Did you improve processes? What were they before and what were the results? Did you save the company money, and how much over what period of time?) These details will help provide greater insight into your “Consultant” role.
Tip # 8: List employment dates
Many people leave off graduation and employment dates to avoid possible age discrimination. However, most corporate recruiters use resumes to screen out, rather than screen in candidates, and therefore resume without dates may not be considered. From a recruiter’s perspective, candidates eliminate dates on their resumes for only one reason: to hide information, such as a history of job-hopping or a long period of unemployment. As an alternative, focus only on the last 10 or 15 years of your professional experience.
Tip # 9: Do the hiring manager’s work for them – format your resume wisely
No matter how much time and effort you put into writing your resume, it won’t get a thorough reading the first time through. It usually gets skimmed quickly for a matter of seconds. It’s harder for the reader to give even a cursory initial look if your resume is hard to read, poorly organized or exceeds two pages. Use wide margins, clean type (at least between 10-12 points), clear headings, a logical format, bold and italic typeface that helps guide the reader’s eye. Selective use of bullets calls attention to important points.
Tip #10: Network! Network! Network!
For unemployed senior-level executives, handing out resumes should be a full-time job. The majority of senior-level positions are filled through networking, so contact absolutely everyone you know in addition to recruiters who are in a position to hire you or share insights. Networking can include personal business contacts, people you’ve worked for, people who worked for you but have moved on, vendors and sales representatives with whom you’ve dealt in the past five years, and even people listed in the alumni directory of your alma mater. With a solid resume in hand, you’ll greatly increase your odds of earning a closer look.