We could all agonize for hours or even days over every little point in our resume. What should I say, how should I say it, do I even know where to begin? But what we really need is a checklist to go by, something to compare our resume to and find out if it will withstand the test of the ‘hiring powers’ that be. Below you will find a checklist of what you need to ensure you create a resume they can’t say no to.
1. An Attractive Format. Too much white space or not enough white space is distracting. This is the first thing a recruiter notices about your resume it’s appearance is critical. Does it look well organized and is the layout easy to read.
2. Please no objectives. I will probably preach this until the end time or until styles and trends change but objectives are no longer used and will only serve to hurt your chances. Objectives are limiting and all about you. What you need is a powerful, branded career summary that explains what you can do for the company, because let’s face it that is what it’s about these days.
3. Hard skills vs. soft skills. Use words that a recruiter would type in to a search bar to find you. When I’m doing a search on Monster.com to find a potential candidate I’m not using the words great communicator, excellent verbal skills. I’m using software engineer, database management, accounts receivable, outside sales, business-to-business sales. Use the right terminology.
4. Give them your sales pitch. Create an opening statement that sells YOU. Basically a resume is your best sales pitch to a potential employer. You are showing them why they should give you a chance. Wow them with a killer introductory statement. Have you ever won an award? Are you a visionary leader? Draw them in with something unique that they don’t hear every day and something that describes YOU! Award-Winning and Top-Producing Sales Executive
5. How do you want to be viewed? Tailor your resume to the position you want. Complete customization is the best way to go. Look at the job description and then take everything you have done that applies to that position and emphasize it on your resume. You are customizing your resume to the specific position you want. There is no better way to knock the recruiter over the head with “Hey, I’m the perfect candidate”.
6. Keywords. Research, research, research my friend. If you don’t know what industry specific keywords are for the job you are trying to obtain research them. Although, if you’ve worked in the industry you should know what they are… they’re that technical jargon that you talk every day. Put that in your resume! Keywords are what will get you pulled up to the top in search results and keywords are what recruiter’s eyes are scanning for when they are giving your resume the initial 7 second review.
7. Wow them with the ‘good stuff’. Give them your biggest and best achievements, quantify them whenever possible, and really provide the details that are relevant to the position. If you increased revenue by 300% I would most certainly be leading off with that important fact!
8. Challenge, action, results! This is a resume writer’s secret weapon. Take each bullet point and ask what was the challenge I faced? What action did I take to address that challenge and what was the result of that action? Then take those answers and create a powerful statement. Use this formula for each bullet and you are well on your way to an amazing resume.
9. Be truthful. Coming from a background where I have a degree in Public Relations I tend to put a positive spin on everything. Putting a positive spin on something and misleading your audience are two completely different things. Be honest, but do it in a creative, attention grabbing way.
10. Go on, brag a little it’s okay. The biggest problem we run in to with clients is their inability to want to market themselves, brag about themselves or speak positively about their own achievements. I guess in the world we live in we are just so critical on ourselves constantly pushing ourselves that we forget all the great things we’ve achieved in our career. Well this is one instance where it is more than okay to pat yourself on the back. Go ahead, you deserve it!
11. Be assertive. Do not speak in first person with an I in the front of your sentences or in third-person. Here are some examples:
First person with the I: I managed 12 people in my department.
Third person: Mr. Jones managed 12 people within his department.
Assertive 1st person without the I: Managed 12 direct reports within the graphic design department.
12. Steer clear of these sentences. More than any other resume issue I literally loathe the use of these statements. I cringe every time I see them:
Duties included; Responsible for; Able to; Skilled in; Successful in; Ability to…
Those sentence starters are resume killers. Instead be DIRECT, use action verbs, and create dynamic sentences that follow the challenge, action, result format and are accomplishment-based.
13. Know which style works best for you and why. Are you trying to hide gaps in employment or job-hopping? Then a chronological format is not best for you. You should go with a functional or combo format resume.
14. Use bullets, but in moderation. What we normally see is a shift to one side or the other. Most people either have no bullets on their resume or have way to many, in fact I have seen resumes where every single line has a bullet. Use moderation my friend… everything is good in moderation. Too many bullets makes the resume look chaotic and no bullets makes it look disorganized and too long.
15. Shake it up! Here’s something you don’t hear often: Use a different font then Times New Roman. It is so boring and everyone uses it. You want to stand out even in the smallest ways so try spicing it up by using a creative yet professional font. Try tahoma, bookman, garamond, or verdana. But be mindful of font sizes some fonts in size 12 are too large for a resume and you should downgrade to size 11 while others are too small in 11 and should be used in a size 12. Just be mindful of what you are using and always print the document before sending off electronically to ensure that it is easily readable.
16. Page length. In most cases a resume should either be one full page or two full pages. One and half pages just doesn’t look as good as two full pages. Play with margins and font sizes or go back and add additional accomplishments to make the resume the length you need to look best.
17. Go back and check for grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Having someone else go back and look at it will help a lot too. You can never go wrong with having a second eye review your resume and cover letter.
Take each of these points into consideration when creating your new resume and use it as a check off list once you’re done to make sure you have included everything you need to make a resume they can’t say no to.
Jessica Holbrook is a former Executive Hiring Manager for Fortune 500 companies and President/CEO of Great Resumes Fast. She creates powerful, customized, and targeted resumes that are guaranteed to get her clients interviews. For a free resume analysis visit http://www.greatresumesfast.com or for a free phone consultation call 1.800.991.5187.
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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I want to thank you so much for offering these free and insightful tips. I just forked over $300 to JobFox for a professionally written resume, but when I do get an interview, I may sign up for your interview coaching service.
I, too, am thinking of starting my own business and I wish you the best with yours.