Effective resume writing skills will land you the dream job you’ve always longed for. I’ve got some great tips for preparing a resume for success.
Lessons in Effective Resume Writing
Before I begin this discussion about what it takes to write a strong, effective resume, let’s define the one goal of a good resume is.
An effective resume is the one that gets you a personal interview.
That is a resume’s sole purpose.
Your resume alone is unlikely to get you a job, but if it can get you in the door…that’s what you want.
Your resume should pique the employer’s/recruiter’s attention right away and make him want to meet you.
With that goal in mind, here are the steps that will give you a resume that gets your foot in the door.
Six Steps to Preparing a Resume
Step 1 – Keep it short.
This is very important. Your resume should be one page – one and a half pages, max.
Remember, a resume is a snapshot of what you have accomplished, not an encyclopedia. Recent research shows that the average reader spends less than six seconds reviewing a resume. So, if you have a resume longer than two pages, you run the risk that the employer won’t read any of it.
You don’t need to use complete sentences – in fact short ones are better, and bullets, when appropriate, are even better. You can convey a lot of information with bullets in very little space. And bullets help the reader move quickly through your resume without missing important information.
But it’s also important to take the time to look through all your skills, qualifications and experience with a critical eye. Ask yourself: What doesn’t really fit for this particular job you’re applying for?
Then begin cutting and editing until you’ve created a short synopsis of your background that is relevant to the job. I’m not asking you to throw away any material. You can keep it for future interviews when the employer asks you more about yourself.
By providing the recruiter a concise snapshot of who you are and how you can contribute to the company, you are also showing the type of employee you will be. Less is more.
Step 2 – Tailor your resume to every job opening
This is not difficult to do in the age of computers – and it is essential that you take the time to do it.
I’m not suggesting that you totally rewrite your resume. But take a close look at the job description. Note the specific qualifications and skills they’re looking for – particularly noting the ones at the top of the list. These are the most important to that employer. If you have those skills, make sure you mention them at the beginning of your resume – the very top of page one.
Follow that with 3-4 bullet points of relevant skills. If you do that – within one second you’ve caught the reader’s attention.
She may even spend longer reading the rest of your resume. And if you continue to look strong as she continues to read, you are much more likely to be contacted for a personal interview. That’s what you want!
When I write resumes for clients, I ask them to send me a job description that interests them. This makes the job of creating a strong resume much easier. I have a target. I know what the employer is looking for. I can pinpoint those skills, highlight the relevant qualifications – and voila, you’ve got a killer resume to present.
By the way, it’s not easy to write your own resume. Sometimes you can overlook or discount your strongest skills or forget about work accomplishments which should be included. Contact me and I’ll be happy to give you some guidance.
Step 3 – Keep it simple and professional.
By that I mean “the look.” Choose an easy-to-read, professional-looking font like Times Roman or Ariel.
Don’t choose an ornate font like Old English or something weird like Bradley Hand. You’ll stand out alright, but not in a good way.
And don’t use a bunch of different fonts – it’s distracting and unprofessional. You want a clean, professional look. Keep it simple.
Step 4 – Quantify accomplishments; use action verbs.
It’s more meaningful and memorable to a recruiter if she reads “increased product sales by 12% in first year as sales manager” as she races through your resume.
So quantify your accomplishments whenever possible. It makes you stand out from others by adding a bottom line impact to your experience.
It’s also stronger to use action verbs in your resume like “provided, managed, designed” vs. the conditional tense such as: “My responsibilities included managing, providing, designing, etc.”
You want your resume to present you as an organized, capable, action-oriented individual with relevant skills and accomplishments that have directly affected the bottom line (if possible).
If you can’t quantify results, don’t make it up!
Step 5 – Have adequate white space.
By this I mean, white space around your words so your resume has a clean look and is easy to read.
To get this look, use bullets vs. sentences to highlight your experience.
Indentations can also help break up blocks of type. You want a resume that is pleasing to the eye and easy for the reader to scan and pick up all the important points about your background.
You don’t want a resume that is crammed margin to margin with black type.
Remember, your goal is to catch the reader’s attention and encourage her to move through your resume. If she is repelled by the look of your resume, you won’t get the personal interview – and that is your ultimate goal.
Step 6 – Never lie or embellish. Check for misspellings and typos.
This step really covers two important areas. The first is: never lie, overstate or embellish anything in your resume. You will be caught. It’s simply not worth it.
At worst you will be fired. At best your reputation will suffer. People will no longer trust you. As I said, it’s not worth it.
And it’s not necessary. You have a lot to offer. Present your skills and experience as clearly and concisely as you can. And then make sure the skills you mention are what the employer is looking for and you’ll be fine.
The second part is check and recheck your resume (and cover letter) for misspellings and typos before you send it off. I would usually add: check for grammatical errors – but it’s acceptable to use incomplete sentences and bullets to shorten your resume. So, your grammar may suffer a bit in the shortening. This is okay in a resume. It is not okay in your cover letter.
Back to spelling and typos: it speaks against your professionalism and shows your lack of attention to detail if there are any typos or misspellings in your resume. It is worth the time and effort to carefully review your resume.
In summary, here are 6 steps we’ve covered to create a strong, effective resume:
- Keep it short – readers typically spend less than six seconds reviewing a resume.
- Tailor your resume to fit the job description – it takes minutes to rewrite a resume and will make a huge difference in its appeal.
- Quantify your accomplishments when you can. It makes your resume more memorable.
- Keep it simple – you want a professional looking resume. Stay away from fancy type and too much type.
- Have adequate spacing – your resume needs to be easy to read and inviting.
- Never lie or overstate – and check for typos and misspellings.
Remember: an effective resume is the one that gets you a personal interview.
In my experience writing many resumes, if you follow the above steps your chances of getting that personal interview are greatly increased.
To your success! Contact me if you need some help.
Let's ChatI'd love to help you market yourself or your business. Please fill out the form below to contact me and I'll get back to you within one business day.
Comments or questions are welcome.