6 Steps to a Great ResumeSix Steps to Developing a Great Resume

by Karen Hofferber

Is your resume holding you back? If you have launched an aggressive search for a new position and you are not getting the results you had hoped for, the answer could be “yes.”

Here are six ways to transform your resume from humdrum to high-octane:

1. Target your resume. Take a cue from advertising gurus and target your resume’s message. Your resume should clearly communicate your career goal at the outset through a resume title or headline. On any given day, hiring managers may receive hundreds of resumes, particularly if they are advertising multiple jobs online. Your resume probably will not receive a thorough review during the initial screening, so make every second count by removing the guesswork about what you want (and are qualified) to do. Your resume title should go directly below your name and contact information.

2. Detail your accomplishments. In today’s competitive job market, your resume must do more than simply list your employers, job titles, dates of employment, and general responsibilities. A great resume provides highlights not only of what you have done, but also how well you have done it. You can include a brief summary of your responsibilities below each job title you have held, followed by a bulleted list of “Key Accomplishments” or “Contributions.” Responsibilities are everyday duties, like staff supervision, database administration, or operations management. Accomplishments describe actions you took to meet or exceed employer goals or customer expectations. Typically, accomplishments describe ways that you improved processes, service, or technology; generated revenues; reduced costs; enhanced efficiency or organization; accelerated turnaround times; elevated profitability; increased customer satisfaction; solved problems; improved staff morale or training; brought in new customers or retained existing business; displaced the competition; or turned around performance.

3. Quantify your accomplishments. Wherever possible, try to quantify your accomplishments by using percentages, dollar amounts, before and after comparisons, or other descriptors. This will help to add validity to your resume by providing concrete evidence of your achievements.

4. Maximize keyword density. Keywords are used by employers to search resumes stored online or in computerized databases. You may have the precise background and skills a company is looking for, but if your resume does not reflect that through the use of keywords, there is a good chance your resume will not be “found” amongst other more keyword-savvy candidates in ATS searches. Although not an exhaustive list, keywords can be job titles and job functions, degrees or certifications, industry jargon, computer programs, and soft skills. If you are not sure whether your resume is adequately packed with keywords appropriate for your industry and job target, spend some time researching advertised positions matching your interests. You can paste several job ads into a word cloud generator such as Wordle and see which terms appear most frequently. You can then incorporate your matching keywords in your resume.

5. Strategically organize your resume’s content. Your strongest, most relevant qualifications, skills, experience, and achievements should be showcased near the top of page one of your resume. This may mean that you have to get a bit creative in how you present yourself on paper. For example, if you are a recent college graduate without much work experience, then your strongest qualification is your education. Showcase it prominently in the top half of the resume and provide ample detail of your “degree program highlights” by listing not only the degree, but also the classes included in your major field of study.

6. Proofread. Your resume should be error-free. Just one or two mistakes can be enough to eliminate an otherwise qualified candidate from consideration. Be meticulous in your proofreading, and do not be afraid to ask a teacher, friends, or trusted colleagues to review your resume as well.

About the author: Karen Hofferber, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), is senior resume writer for ResumePower.com and coauthor of The Career Change Resume book. Visit ResumePower.com to learn more about resume services to jump-start your career.