Writing a Resume that Works
Regardless of how many times you’ve searched for a job, assembling a winning resume can be a challenge. If your resume is going to open any doors for you, it has to look professional, provide proof of real results and be concise enough to capture a hiring manager’s attention in just a few seconds. Although you’ve reached a point in your career where you have achieved a significant level of experience and skills, the key is packaging these assets effectively so potential employers are interested.
Brevity and Punch
You’d be surprised how many people, even experienced managers, subscribe to the old-fashioned formula of writing a laundry list of job duties for each position they’ve held. Some candidates do themselves a disservice by creating lengthy resumes detailing every aspect of their careers. While you’ve no doubt accumulated years of experience, the key is to showcase your value by providing unmistakable evidence that you did things well. Think about what you would want to see on the resume of a management-level candidate for a position with your firm and use this as a guide. Your resume should be long enough to sufficiently communicate your qualifications, yet concise enough so the result is a quick snapshot of what you have to offer. A general rule is one page for entry-level and less-experienced candidates and up to two pages for executive-level applicants. Using a summary at the top – three lines at the most – that showcases your most relevant skills and ties them to the position you’re seeking will help drive the reviewer to continue reading.
Create the ‘Wow’ Factor
Companies want candidates with the initiative and ability to make an immediate impact. Without stretching the truth, summarize your achievements at previous jobs to illustrate how you enhanced revenue, improved processes or reduced costs. Quantify these results with a percentage, amount or dollar figure – this will illustrate a bottom-line effect. For example, instead of writing “Managed database-building project for customer service department,’ you might say “Initiated and managed creation of database that reduced response time by 35 percent.’ Try summarizing your background with details that illustrate how you solved a significant problem. For example, let’s say you managed the redesign of the company’s website in your last job. If you just write that, it’s less impressive than something like this: “Led initiative to redesign company’s external website with significantly reduced resources by collaborating with multiple departments and outsourcing where appropriate. New site launched one month early and more than $250,000 under budget.’
Make sure the successes you highlight relate to the position for which you’re applying. The days of crafting only one version of your resume are gone; tailoring a resume to different jobs will help make it stand out from the competition.
Bridge the Gaps
It’s never a good idea to try to cover up gaps in your work history. Just be honest about them. For example, if you were laid off due to a restructuring, indicate that. Maybe you then took the opportunity to launch your own business, consult, pursue continuing education or perform charitable work until you signed on full time with a firm. List these activities on your resume as well in appropriate categories.
Another approach is to address any lengthy breaks in your cover letter. Be sure to put a positive spin on it but be truthful.
Consider the Format
Research by our company shows that the overwhelming majority of executives prefer a reverse-chronological resume. Its main advantage is that it gives employers exactly what they’re looking for: an easy-to-follow synopsis of your work experience and professional achievements.
If you’re trying to transition to a role that’s different from what you’ve been doing – for example, you’re parlaying your product knowledge and sales-management experience into a senior-level marketing job – you might consider a hybrid, or combination, resume. This presents information primarily in a chronological format, but includes a section that lists skills and attributes to draw a parallel between past experience and aptitude for the new position.
In addition, remember that your resume is an extension of you . Pay attention to the details so it communicates the best possible impression through an organized, professional look. The format should be readable and uncluttered, with no less than 10-point type. To maintain a business-like appearance, print your resume on heavier bond paper in white, ivory or light gray. Believe it or not, many people simply rely on their computer’s spelling checker to make a resume error-free. This may catch the blatant typos, but be sure to then proofread it yourself, and ask another person to do the same. Others will be able to spot mistakes or ambiguities that you miss when reviewing your own work.
Finally, don’t list references or state that they’re available on request. It’s assumed you’ll provide them if asked.