Five Ways to Make Your Resume Work for You

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If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to land a new job this year, avoid making the mistake of ‘dusting off’ a previous version of your resume and add merely adding your most recent work history.  Set yourself up for success by following these five steps to make your resume shine. 


Cut-out clichés.  When tasked with reviewing resumes in previous roles, the number of clichés used was shocking.  ‘Team player,’ ‘hardworking,’ and ‘self-starter,’ are just a few vague terms often used.  Dale Carnegie said, “Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.”  Instead of stating, “results-driven,” for example, use actual examples that are evidence of how you drove and accomplished specific, stellar results.  Recruiters and hiring managers are more interested in specific success stories than non-descriptive, canned language.

Tell your story in two pages.  While this is easier for prospective job candidates who are new(er) to the workforce because they have less work experience, it is just as important for seasoned, senior professionals with decades of experience.  Dale Carnegie’s 14thHuman Relations principle, ‘Get the other person saying, “yes, yes” immediately,’ is more easily accomplished when resumes are refined.  Moreover, recruiters are extremely busy, so make it easy for them to see how special you are in a succinct manner—no more than two pages total. 

Close the gaps.  Unexplained gaps are a red flag for recruiters.  During time periods where there may have been a lag in your career, briefly list activities you may have participated in such as special projects, volunteering, sabbatical, travel, etc.  Dale Carnegie said, “No matter what happens, always be yourself.”  Being completely honest about any gaps provides proof that you are honest, which appeals to recruiters and hiring managers.  If the activity was unique, it will make you stand out among competing candidates.

Write it right.  Colloquialism is usually appropriate for verbal communication at work and home, however a resume should be grammatically correct without any typos.  Such mistakes send an immediate message to the recruiter or hiring manager that you are sloppy; careless or worse yet, don’t know how to speak proper English!  Instead of trusting Spellcheck, ask a wise and articulate friend to review your resume for any faux-pas. 

Make it easy to read.  ‘Arouse in the other person an eager want,’ Mr. Carnegie’s 3rd principle, underscores the importance of a resume’s format and flow.  A recruiter looks at resumes frequently, sometimes for hours on end.  Longs blocks of chunky text look more like term papers than professional resumes.  You can make your resume visually inviting by using bullets, brief paragraphs, simple fonts and some bolding to break-up sections.  The critical success factor at play is scan-ability; e.g., if you are deemed a possible job candidate by a recruiter, she may share your resume with other department-specific parties before scheduling an interview.  The easier it is for those eyes to scan your resume, the faster they can hopefully concur that you are in fact a strong candidate.

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