Make Your Resume A Competitive Advantage

By Joe Stein

Make Your Resume a Competitive Advantage
 
 
The resume has been the recognized primary method for indicating interest in a position for years. There is still, however, a lot of bad resumes floating out there from Job Seekers.
 
I am in the process of concluding the search for a HR professional and first hand had the chance to read some truly awful resumes…and these were from HR Professionals! As I was reading these documents, I thought to myself how a good Resume could be a relatively easy way to differentiate yourself from your competition. So, in this week’s issue, let’s take a look at some common mistakes that Job Seekers make and also how, with a few quick tweaks, your resume can become a real winner and provide you with a competitive advantage.
 
The primary job of the Resume is to get you an interview. Once you have an interview scheduled, your resume will then serve as the guide for the Interviewer to travel through. It is very important that you are familiar with your Resume once it is written. You will be called on the details of your Resume in your phone screen and/or interview so make sure you are an expert on the document. Think of your Resume as an introductory sales letter, you want to grab the potential customer’s attention and secure an opportunity to speak in person where more information can be presented to secure the sale. Too much information presented early, however, and you may just disinterest a customer before you have a chance to formally meet them.
 
Common Resume Mistakes:
 
  • Spelling Mistakes – A common mistake Job Seekers make is thinking that spell checking their document with their software’s tool is all that is needed. Please consider that if you misspelled a word but it is an actual word, it will not be flagged by the software. Spelling errors of this nature will cause a Recruiter to question your attention to detail or your true interest in the position since you did not take the time to send a correct document. If you find that you have sent a Resume out with an error(s), send a corrected Resume with the tag line “Updated Resume” rather than specifically pointing out the mistake.
 
  • Grammatical Errors – For many positions you will need strong written communication skills. A resume that has a grammatical error(s) will most likely find you in the regret pile. Carefully read through your document, and then have a friend or family member read your resume for the benefit of a 2nd set of eyes.
 
  • Incorrect Information – In this category I don’t mean a fraudulent resume. That is ethically wrong and should automatically prevent you from gaining employment with the prospective employer. This category is when a Job Seeker submits a Resume and then wants the prospective employer to change the address or phone number, or realizes that they mismatched or inadvertently misstated their employment dates. Consider always maintaining an updated Resume whether or not you are in an active job search mode. This will allow you to easily respond to a position that interests you without having to rewrite a document under time constraints.
  • Too Lengthy of a Resume - You will want to be concise with your resume. Other than in rare occasions, your resume should be no more than 2 pages and in many cases can be written on 1 page. The rule of thumb is usually that someone who has fewer than 10 years of experience should use a 1-page Resume. Your goal of shrinking the resume should not come as a result of using a microscopic font. Use a Times New Roman font no less than 10 point. A mistake individuals make is to place information that should be in your Cover Letter in their Resume. You should always use a Cover Letter to accompany your Resume. Job Seekers also tend to go back too far in their work history (primarily emphasize the last 5-7 years), or place information in the document such as personal hobbies, activities, etc. that are irrelevant and unwanted by the recruiter in a Resume. There is also no need to conclude by stating you have References…of course you do…you won’t be hired without them. 
 
  • Too Much Information – Avoid going into any detail regarding why you have left (or want to leave) an organization. Leave that explanation for the interview, which will give you the best opportunity to place your departure in the best light.
 
 
How to make your resume a winner:
 
  • Choose the best format for your Resume. In the vast majority of occasions, this should be a Chronological Resume where your last or present position is listed first. You can also consider a Functional Resume where you select key skills and place your experience under each skill set. Individuals who lack experience in a specific field but want to display transferable skills or would like to hide gaps in their employment generally do use this format. A Hybrid resume combines both Functional and Chronological Resumes. This is where a Job Seeker writes in a Functional Resume format and concludes the document with a brief listing of their work history.
 
  • Use Microsoft Word. This is the recognized format for a Resume. If a Recruiter would like it in another format, they will inform you in the posting.
 
  • Write the document using a professional layout. Unless you are a graphic artist, you will want to maintain a basic professional format. Many winning layouts can be found either on your word processing software or by purchasing an inexpensive resume-writing program. A document with some white space and a basic font on a professional grade ivory colored paper is generally preferred. Most of business is conservative in nature; your Resume should reflect this mindset. If you are sending a hard copy, print on a laser printer, or inkjet with a new black cartridge.
 
  • Make it easy to read. Recruiters will give your resume, at most, an initial 15-second review to determine if they should go forward. If you have a large amount of narrative text, and your accomplishments and reasons for applying are not immediately recognized, you will be placed in the regret pile. This is an area where many Job Seekers have a large misconception of what a Recruiter does when reviewing resumes. Typically, a recruiter has many open positions in which they are responsible for sourcing and screening resumes. Depending on the position and the economy, there is generally a sizable applicant flow for a position. A Recruiter has limited time and will usually become very frustrated by Resumes that are poorly written. I like the use of bullet points, which allows for a reader to quickly grab the information they desire to review.
 
  • Have a Resume for each method of communication. Recognize that an online-posted Resume is entirely different than a Resume written for hard copy. Be very careful when cutting and pasting your regular Resume to an on-line resume bank. Very often your tabs, bullets, italic and bold words, and fonts are not represented correctly when you do not write specifically for on-line posting. My recommendation is that you have a hard copy/e-mail template and also a resume posting resume template.
 
  • Sell Yourself. Your resume must positively display to the reader how you will make an impact in the organization. Recruiters are attracted to individuals who have made significant accomplishments and have achieved strong results. Create a “Summary of Qualifications” where you will make very clear in a concise manner your skills and experience. Focus on achievements and not duties. This summary is generally the 1st place that a Recruiter will read and may be the only area that is read if your Resume is not written well. This summary section should consist of 4-6 sentences that provide an overview of your experience, achievements, and skills. Be very clear in your achievements providing objective data such as productivity, quality, or budgetary victories whenever possible. It is important to sound talented but not arrogant so avoid using words like “I” “me”, or “my”. Recruiters like to see numbers, whether it is in a percentage, or a raw number. Use objective numbers to grab the reader’s attention. You should also use action verbs whenever possible such as directed, organized, created, developed, etc.
 
  • Write using keywords. Target your Resume for each position you are seeking. Some people customize their Cover Letter for each position they apply for, but few do this for their Resume. Recruiters will NOT read every Resume in their entirety, so you need to interweave key words regarding the position in an attempt to catch the person’s attention. Use the job posting/advertisement as your guide to what is important in this position. While being truthful regarding your history, weave the key points about the job into your resume. This will be very important if the Resume is electronically screened prior to reaching the Recruiter. This electronic screening is done by keyword search and if your Resume lacks the key words needed, you will not be looked at further.
 
 
Your Resume’s job is to communicate your proposed value to the organization. Establish this value by allowing the Recruiter within 15 seconds to know of your experience and core skills for the position you are seeking. Ultimately, the real judge of your Resume will be if employers are calling, 
 
 
As always, best of luck in your job search.
 
 
The following has been prepared for the general information of WNY Jobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.
 
Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional
Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
              http://www.wnyjobs.com/contact.asp