After my daughter was born, “Get in shape!” topped my list of New Year’s resolutions. Eight years and some 20+ extra pounds later, this pesky to-do item still taunts me. I blame it in part on my love of everything “ito,” as in Fritos, Doritos, etc.So if you’re looking for get-fit advice, I’m the last person you’d want to consult. But if your resume is in need of a shape-up, I can help!
Follow the suggestions below and I guarantee that with a bit of effort, you’ll start 2009 with a more “lean and mean” career marketing tool that can help you win the employment race.
Trim the fat. Is your resume loaded with flowery language? Does it suffer from “adjective-overkill?” Are there chunks of text screaming for white space? Is it guilty of bad resume lingo, fluff fillers, or information overload? Any of these things can weigh down your resume. My colleague and mentor Kim Isaacs is so masterful at eliminating excess on a resume that I affectionately refer to her as “the slasher.” See her article on how to write a concise resume.
Do sweat the small stuff. Ask any professional resume writer, hiring manager, recruiter, or HR executive for the #1 mistake they see on resumes and chances are they’ll answer with at least one (if not all) of the following: misspellings, grammatical errors, punctuation gaffes, capitalization blunders, and typos. There is no faster way to send your resume to the trash than failing to proofread meticulously. If proofreading isn’t your strong suit, then hire a pro.
Beef up the content. A common problem I see on resumes is weak content, which can creep in on virtually any area of the document. For example, does your resume begin with a cliché-ridden and “me-centered” objective (like “Seeking a challenging position with a growth-oriented company offering advancement potential”) instead of a powerful qualifications summary? Or is the experience section heavily focused on your responsibilities (what you did), but with minimal examples of your accomplishments (how well you did it) for each job? Are you missing strategic sections, like a list of your key skills or a technology summary? Have you maximized keyword density on your resume (crucial if you want employers to find you online)? With most resumes typically given only 15-30 seconds on the initial read-through by a prospective employer, strong content will help propel you to the interview pile vs. the circular file.
Go the distance. Another misstep I see almost daily when I review resumes is accomplishment statements that only go half-way. For example, I recently ran across this bulleted accomplishment on a corporate trainer’s resume: “Implemented ‘Service Excellence’ staff training program, which increased customer satisfaction scores.” This isn’t bad, but it leaves the reader hanging. By how much did customer satisfaction scores increase? Did this individual develop and/or conduct the training program? How many employees participated in the training? How long did it take for customer satisfaction to increase after the training was completed? By including just a few more details, the revised accomplishment statement is much stronger: “Designed and delivered ‘Service Excellence’ training program to 500+ employees, which increased customer satisfaction scores by 35% within two weeks.”“But wait,” you might be thinking. “Isn’t that just going to make my resume even longer?” Great question. Yes, fleshing out your accomplishments may mean adding a few more words, but that’s where judicious editing comes into play. You shouldn’t be trying to cram every single thing you’ve ever accomplished onto your resume. Only include stand-out achievements that bear the most relevance to the positions you are targeting. So while you’re boosting the impact of these key accomplishments, you’ll also be looking to cut less-essential statements. (That employee picnic you planned may have been a big hit, but if you’re not looking for a job where event coordination is important, then rethink this content). You can also combine similar accomplishments into a single hard-hitting bullet point to preserve space. And here’s a final tip on editing: if you are unable to quantify or explain the benefit/result of something you did, it probably should be cut from your resume.The bottom line is this: scrutinize each of your achievements to ensure that they are resume-worthy and that they go the distance.
Make your word choices more “muscular.” On a resume, every word counts. If you rehash phrases like “responsible for” or “duties include,” you will lull the reader to sleep. The same goes for repeating lazy verb choices, like starting every other sentence with “managed.” Use dynamic language and varied, powerful action verbs to keep readers engaged. Get intimate with a thesaurus to reveal synonyms that might work for you.
Present a “buff” appearance. A beautifully designed resume is the equivalent of six-pack abs. Conversely, a resume with too little white space, margins set too tightly, too many or too few bullet points, inappropriate fonts, or text set too large (amateurish) or too small (headache-inducing) can be likened to the dreaded “spare tire” and dimpled cellulite that none of us want. Even if your content is strong and your spelling and grammar are flawless, a poorly designed or lackluster presentation will hinder your resume’s effectiveness.So print out this blog, power up those laptops, and by all means pass the Pringles – this is probably the only shape-up resolution that you can achieve in a single weekend and with no calorie-counting required.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Senior Resume Writer, ResumePower.com