Write for Humans and Technology
For many job searches, the first “gatekeeper” you must impress is not a human; it’s the technology that screens applicant documents for keywords related to the position. It is imperative, then, that you scrutinize each position description for the words and phrases that reflect the core competencies and qualifications desired by your target employer. Keep this keyword list close-at-hand as a “cheat sheet” that ensures consistency in any communications materials you prepare.
(Note: Remember that simply “stuffing” keywords in your documents isn’t going to achieve your goal. Once your resume makes it past the computer-screening process, this document must impress the human gatekeepers — an audience that isn’t impressed by keywords alone. Your resume must also be a well-written narrative that distinguishes you from other candidates, and persuades the reader that you are worthy of an interview.
Speak the Language of Your Prospect
It is important to speak the language of your prospective employer. How can you learn an organization’s language? By carefully reviewing their job description, websites, newsletters, executive speeches, and any other marketing materials. In short order your research will show themes and language patterns. Once you have learned this language you can reflect (without copying) these commonly used words and phrases in your resume, cover letter, and interview conversations. “Speaking their language” demonstrates that you already fit into their culture — giving you an edge over candidates with “canned” applications.
Is Your Resume “Dressed For Success”?
A well-designed resume will both attract a prospective employer’s attention and make a lasting impression. What’s more, attention to design elements will provide functional benefits — helping readers to efficiently find the information that is most important to them. Aesthetic benefits also accrue from the consistent use of appropriate typography and formatting. (How do you know what’s appropriate? For a general appraisal — and proofreading against errors in spelling and punctuation — share your draft document with business-minded family or friends. Better yet: Get advice from someone who reviews a lot of resumes, like a recruiter or HR professional.)
Guidelines For Resume Length
Perhaps you’ve heard that your resume can never be longer than one page. Yes, concise language is important — but if your qualifications and accomplishments require more space, by all means take what you need to tell your story effectively. Ensure that you’re including all pertinent information regarding your background and skill set as it applies to this job and this employer. If it’s relevant, include it — even if your resume exceeds one page.
(Note the design-related exception to this guideline: If your text doesn’t reach at least the halfway mark on your resume’s last page, reformat the text and/or layout to achieve a more balanced look.)
Formatting — General Guidance
How should you format your resume? The good news is that there is no single plug-and-play format that is “correct.” (So you do have considerable latitude in presenting your credentials.) However, all these choices can make the resume-preparation process both time-consuming and confusing. Here are some resume tips to keep you on track…
- Show your career path in reverse chronological order, with most recent experience first.
- List name of employer/company, job title, and dates of employment.
- Avoid passive language. Start each sentence/line item with an action verb (sold, achieved, captured, etc.). But don’t use the same verb over-and-over again!
- Show results! Don’t just list “Did this”; include “Did this in this way and achieved this result.” (If you have quantifiable metrics for your achievements, use them!)
- Remember, there is not just one format that is “correct”. However, you must be sure to maintain consistency in whatever format you choose. (Using bullets? Make sure spacing and tabbing are consistent. Using punctuation at the end of your job descriptions? Be sure to use punctuation on all of them. Spelling out the months and using a 4-digit year? Make sure to list all months and years in the same fashion.)
Make Your Resume the Best it Can Be
Let’s be honest: There are many job-search factors (timing and personal connections, for example) that will not be in your direct control. Fortunately, you do have control over your resume; so why not make it the best it can be? Apply the resume tips mentioned here, and you will demonstrate that there is something about you that sets you apart from all the rest.
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