by Joe Turner
Is your resume holding you back from a great opportunity?
As a recruiter, I’ve seen thousands of resumes over the past 15 years. The majority of them didn’t make the cut and needed major revisions.
The stakes are higher today because the job market has intensified, and employers are more selective than ever. Having a poorly written resume can put you in the rejection pile. Don’t let your resume hold you back.
Here are six easy steps to really rock your resume and motivate hiring managers to call you:
1. Apply the Top-Third Rule to Your Resume
Place your key selling statements up in the top one-third of your first page. Your resume gets no more than 20 seconds of eyeball time before your reader has made the decision to either continue reading or to pass. Grab attention early and place your most dramatic sales pitch as close to the top of page one as possible.
2. Focus Your Resume
If your resume lacks this focus, your reader will wonder just what job you are applying for and will require further digging. A title of the target job will suffice. Erase all doubts and focus your resume with verbiage that tells the employer what you seek.
3. Add Keywords to Your Resume
Everyone talks about keywords, but few job-seekers actually include them. Adding a separate keyword section will increase your odds of keyword-searching software flagging your resume on a search. Just as important, a separate keyword paragraph will provide a convenient scan area for the human reader who needs to pre-qualify your hard skills. A separate keyword summary will satisfy both requirements and help your resume pass that 20-second test. Be sure, however, to also use keywords in context throughout the resume as employer software ranks contextual keywords higher than “disembodied” keywords in a keyword summary.
[Editor’s note: See our article Tapping the Power of Keywords to Enhance Your Resume and consider using our Resume Keywords Worksheet.]
4. Brand Yourself
Branding is an area that’s been getting a lot of play lately, but it’s an old concept. “Personal Branding Statement,” “Unique Selling Proposition,” and “Value-Added Statement,” are terms for the same element on a resume. Once again, with regard to that 20-second rule about making a first impression, an employer needs quick and memorable verbiage to distinguish you from 100 or more other candidates. A personal branding statement is ideal because this one sentence tells who you are, your greatest strength, and your biggest benefit to the employer.
Here’s an example:
Seasoned CFO, strong in streamlining and automating financial and accounting procedures that have saved my employer over $400,000 to date in consulting and personnel costs.
Place your branding statement at the top of your resume just below your objective. The impact of a hard-hitting statement like this will quickly distinguish you from your competitors with similar skills.
[Editor’s note: See our article Branding Your Resume]
5. Answer the Question, “So What?”
In today’s competitive job market, skills alone will not sell you. Too many job-seekers focus on their own needs when they should be tuned to the radio station “WIIFM”. Realize that today’s employer’s first question is, “What’s in it for me?” A good test for your resume is its ability to answer the question, “So what does this mean for the employer?” after each item in your work history.
Provide and direct financial, cash flow, and tax impact analyses as they relate to the existing portfolio and new acquisitions.
Ask the “So what” question, and then see the After Example:
Saved $75,000 in annual outside consulting fees by providing and directing financial, cash flow, and tax impact analyses as they relate to the existing portfolio and new acquisitions.
Imagine how differently an employer will react to the second statement that provide a clear benefit that’s important to the hiring organization. Modifying your resume to include some of your achievements can make it come alive to sell you rather than reading like a dull laundry list of job duties. Consider using our Accomplishments Worksheet.
6. Lose the “Razzle-Dazzle”
Unless you’re in advertising or marketing and this is an integral part of your job, stay away from graphics, photos of yourself and out-of-the-ordinary symbols. Also watch out for heavy use of color and bolding of text, which can distract your reader. These elements don’t always convert well to an employer’s computer database. A good rule of thumb: if a resume element doesn’t convert to ASCII text, avoid it.
Final Thoughts on Rocking Your Resume
Stop telling and start selling. You have less time than ever to generate interest from an employer flooded with too many resumes. Make these six changes, and your resume will not only rock, but you’ll get calls from hiring managers wanting to know more.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
As a recruiter, Joe Turner has spent the past 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their careers. Author of Job Search Secrets Unlocked and Paycheck 911, Joe has interviewed on radio talk shows and offers free insider job-search secrets.
Have you taken advantage of all the many free resume tools, articles, samples, and more that we have in the Resume Resources section of Quintessential Careers?