Building an effective resume can be a challenging endeavor. There are no hard and fast rules, which can make the process something of a guessing game as you are trying to figure out what will get your resume noticed by a hiring manager or recruiter.
Let's be clear - everybody has a different opinion on what makes an effective resume. Often one person's constructive feedback may directly contradict another individual's, so be warned. Again, there are no absolute guidelines on writing a resume, but if you'd like to learn more about what corporate recruiters have to say what they like and dislike about resumes, you can find the results of an informal survey here.
That said, there are certain guidelines you can follow which can boost your changes. Without further ado... here are 6 Things You Can Do To Strengthen Your Resume Today.
- Spellcheck and proofread. Typos and grammatical errors can kill your chances of getting the job. If you're using a word processing application, there's no reason NOT to use the built in Spelling and Grammar check feature. But even the best digital spell checker won't catch words that are misused but spelled correctly. Manually proofreading the document after letting Microsoft Word do its stuff will help you polish your presentation.
- Consider adding a headline. A recruiter will spend about 15 seconds reviewing a resume to see if it's a match. If you have a clear headline just below your name and address that clearly spells out that you're looking to fill their specific job vacancy, it may encourage the recruiter to keep reading. A header such as "ACCOUNTING MANAGER" for, say, an advertised Accounting Manager role, can grab the reader's attention and frame their reading of the resume.
- Eliminate distracting, unhelpful, or irrelevant information. For example, if you've been a help desk specialist for the past ten years, and you're applying for a help desk job, consider leaving off your prior jobs as landscaper. Same for unrelated hobbies. Including that unrelated work experience may be interesting to you or the reader, but it can also distract and invite unwelcome questions about your career interests and dedication. Similarly, I've seen resumes where a job seeker started their career as an administrative assistant (listed on the resume) and has grown into a senior management role, but listing the earlier job has led the hiring manager to wonder (unfairly) if the candidate is truly cut from managerial cloth. Stay on message.
- Pay attention to formatting. Do your columns line up? Are your tabs working properly? Is the resume attractive, with enough white space? Microsoft Word can be a bear. If you don't know how to maneuver the program well, consider hiring somebody who can help you format your resume. A misaligned column can be interpreted by the reader as careless or sloppy work.
- Highlight accomplishments. Listing day-to-day job responsibilities is a good starting point. But in order to really stand above the crowd, you'd be well served by including good work accomplishments. These demonstrate the value you're capable of adding to an employer. Measurable accomplishments (i.e., increased sales 40%) are great, but also consider including some less tangible achievements which improved your employer's performance – Did you create and implement processes where none existed, or were you able to develop people on your staff?
- Avoid the personal stuff. In the United States, don't include your picture, date of birth, social security number. Likewise, leave out religious affiliation or anything else which may invite illegal or inappropriate scrutiny by an employer. If you're applying for a job involving long hours or travel, and you indicate on your resume that you have 3 children, the reader may start wondering, "Geez, is this person going to miss a lot of work days or have to leave early due to day care issues?"
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.