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Is Your Resume Working for You?

10 Steps to a Killer Resume

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Guest Author Louise Fletcher founded Blue Sky Resumes after leaving a 15 year HR career. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and a member of the Professional Resume Writers Association, the Career Masters Institute and Society for Human Resources Management.

You know the feeling. You spend hours, or even days, creating a résumé. You pore over every word of your cover letter and agonize over what to say in your email. Then you hit ‘send’ and wait. And wait. And wait. No one calls. No one writes. You don’t know if anyone even saw your résumé. When this happens, it’s easy to get dejected and worry that employers are not interested in you. Don’t! Remember, they haven’t met you. They have only seen your résumé and that may be the problem.

An overwhelming majority of job seekers make basic mistakes with their résumés -­ mistakes that ensure that they will not get the interviews they deserve. If you feel as though you’re sending your résumé into a black hole, try this ‘Ten Step Program’ to diagnose problems and get your résumé working for you.

1. Is your résumé the right length?
You may have heard that your résumé should fit on one page. This is nonsense. Recruiter or hiring managers don’t care if your résumé is one or two pages long. But they do care whether it is easy to read and gives key information upfront. Your résumé can be one, two, or (occasionally) even three pages. The only rule is that the length should be appropriate for you. If in doubt follow the (very general) rule of thumb that less than 5 years experience probably only requires one page and more than that may need two.

2. Does your résumé clearly position you as someone who can meet the needs of the employer?
Think of a résumé as an advertisement for a product, only this time the product is you. Just like any other advertisement, positioning is everything. The person who receives your résumé will scan it quickly ­ perhaps for no more than 20 seconds ­ to determine whether you can help her company. Your job is to say quickly, clearly and loudly that you can!

Don’t just launch into a chronology of your career history. Instead, determine your own positioning by spelling out your message at the start of the résumé and giving the reader your version of events upfront. For this reason, you should use the first 1/3 of your résumé to create a compelling personal profile which highlights your key strengths in an attractive, easy-to-read format.

3. Does your résumé begin with an objective?
Don’t start with an objective. Recruiters and hiring managers don’t like them because they focus on the needs of the job seeker rather than the needs of the potential employer. Consider this objective statement: “Seeking a software engineer position with a progressive employer where I can contribute to the development of new technologies and work with bright, committed people.”

This may be very honest but it is irrelevant to the reader, who does not care what you want and only cares what you have to offer. Instead of an objective, try using a positioning statement that clearly and concisely explains what you have to offer.

“Senior Software Engineer with 10 years experience developing leading-edge technologies.”

Now the reader can immediately see your value to the company. (For even greater impact, tailor this statement for each position so that the reader immediately sees a match between his/her needs and your skills.)

4. Does your résumé contain specifics?
You must place your achievements in context by providing specifics. For example, don’t say something vague like “contributed to product design.” This tells the employer nothing about your actual contribution. Instead be specific about what you did: “Conducted market analysis for (name of product) to determine design and mechanics. Led changes to original design spec. despite initial developer objections. Received critical acclaim and sold over 4 million units.” See how being specific makes a difference? This level of detail shows the reader the contributions you have made in the past (and therefore the contributions you can be expected to make in the future.)

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