Seven Keys to Writing a Better Resume

Summer is here, and for most of us that means finding a job. Job hunting can be a stressful time, but a powerful resume can make your hunt quite a bit easier. Typically, a hiring manager will read your resume for a few seconds, so you don't have long to impress them. A good resume can be the difference between being called for an interview and not being called at all. (Read more about acing your next job interview in this article.)

Here are some keys to transforming your resume into an effective job hunting tool:

  • Be honest: This might seem obvious, but I've run across too many resumes that stretched or broke the truth and came back to bite the job seeker. Write your resume as if a former coworker will be reading it. Remember, the only purpose of a resume is to get you to an interview, and most any interviewer will be able to get to the truth pretty quickly. Honesty can get you a good job now and a good reference later.
  • Use proper grammar and spelling: Nothing screams DON'T HIRE ME quite like a poorly written resume. Misspellings, bad punctuation, and other grammatical errors will kill your chances of making it to the next level. Another hint is to use the past tense in describing your experience. It's subtle, but using the past tense sends the message that you've done these things and are ready for new challenges.
  • Be brief: Hiring managers will only spend a few seconds glancing over your resume, so unless you're applying for a tenured professorship keep your resume to one or two pages. Forget about extraneous stuff like hobbies, marital status, and high school. Instead, keep things focused on your skills, experience, and accomplishments. Also, use formatting techniques like bullets and (limited) bold facing to help guide the hiring manager to those items you want highlighted. Keep it brief, and more of the good stuff will get read.
  • Tailor the resume to the job: Your resume should not be set in stone. Adjust it to match the job listing or industry as closely as possible to increase your chance of getting that interview. Use all the keywords and buzzwords from the classified ad, and make sure each item in their job requirements is addressed in your experience section. Include accomplishments and skills that a relevant to the job, and exclude anything that would be a distraction. Show them how close you are to being their perfect candidate!
  • Focus on accomplishments: Companies hire people to get things done, or to solve problems that they have. Make your resume stand out by showing the things you've done and the problems you've solved for other companies. Also, don't forget to BE SPECIFICIncreased sales 147% in first quarter is more of an eye-catcher than Responsible for sales growth in first quarter. In a non-sales job, Reduced application processing time by 80% is a great example of an effective productivity-oriented accomplishment. Remember, companies are hiring to solve their problems, so let the job opening be the first problem you help them solve!
  • Use action words: Sentences like Responsible for xyz or Supervised abc don't wow anybody. Remember, companies are looking for people to solve their problems — show them what you've actually accomplished by using action words. Words like supervised, responsible, and coordinated are out; words like created, built, and solved get the job done.
  • Use a cover letter: OK, I'll be the first to admit I hate doing cover letters. However, the cover letter gives you another chance to summarize your accomplishments and how well you match up with their requirements. Again, be sure to tailor your cover letter for the job. Generally, the few seconds spent reading a resume are also spent on the cover letter, so it will buy you some extra time that just might get you that interview.

Unlock your future,
Professor Cram