The Resume That Stays in Play - Three Rules for an Attention-Grabbing Resume

Joe Turner

Sometimes your resume can hurt you more than help you. In today's job-search market, you are often competing against large numbers of candidates, and your resume has to be good enough to make it past the first screening.

The first people to view your resume are often lower-level staff looking for a quick way to weed candidates out of consideration. You can minimize the chances of your resume being eliminated during this round by following three simple rules.

1. Less is more.
Don't tell too much. Your resume should read like a billboard, not an encyclopedia. A good resume should leave the prospective employer with a desire to know more. They will be likely to call and phone-screen you. So don't fill in all the details just yet. Save that for the interview. Do, however, paint a big picture of who you are and what you can offer.

For example, you may have worked for several years at your present employer. Certainly you could fill up several paragraphs with all that you've done. Instead, think of the one or two most critical projects, duties, or functions that you provide. List the most important and give them no more than a sentence or two each.

Here is an example:
May 2003 to Present: XYZ Company, Their City, CA
Senior staff design engineer.
Products designed/Projects involved: A, B, C.
Description of most important project and results.

Description of second most important project and results.

Skip the hobbies and personal information. Avoid mind-numbing detail that will cause a reader's eyes to glaze over. One page is ideal -- two pages only if you are a 15- to 20-year veteran with a significant growth and promotion history.

2. Use more keywords.
You want the search engines to flag your resume for closer examination. Do this by including several keywords that are relevant to your job and your job skills, as well as specific industry words that may be appropriate. Also, include the names of major companies you worked with or for, as this often is important to employers. Include those in the "experience" section, as appropriate.

Here are some examples of keywords: International Standards (ISO), Flash, MBA, copy edit, CPMs, medical device, Dreamweaver, and search engine marketing (SEM).

Some candidates add a separate "keywords" section at the bottom of digital-format resumes, or others list keywords as part of a "skills" section. These are possible catch-all areas specifically for the search engines to recognize.

3. Be specific.
Don't just tell them what you did. Move beyond that and tell the benefit of your accomplishment. A good way to do this is to include several specific ways you helped your employer make money or save money. Identify measurable results; use numbers. Remember, the only benefit you can bring to the table is past performance. When you interview (either phone or in person) this is what will be discussed.

Think of all your jobs in the past and bring forth examples of some of your best work. How can an employer think of you as a problem solver? If at all possible, try to "monetize" your accomplishments (state them in terms of money). At the interview, you will be prepared to enlarge upon these successes.

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