Impossible, you think? Not at all. Writing a winning resume simply takes thought and planning. After all, you wouldn’t drive from Los Angeles to Manhattan without mapping the surest route. The same goes for your resume. By using the ResumeEdge© six-step process, you’ll gain perspective on your career target and the audience you need to reach, learn how to showcase your strengths, minimize your weaknesses, and produce a document with maximum punch.
Of course, if you do need professional assistance, our certified resume writers are on hand 24/7 to provide expert, personalized guidance.
Step One: Targeting Your Career and Audience
STEP ONE: Targeting Your Career and Audience
You must have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish in your professional life in order to maximize the impact of your resume for your targeted audience -- the hiring manager or graduate school admissions director.
Before you begin, ask yourself these questions. Are you:
1. Making a lateral move?
For numbers 1-3 above, the most effective way to begin targeting your resume is to search openings that appeal to you on job boards (i.e. Monster, Hot Jobs. CareerJournal), internal company postings, or newspaper classifieds.
With these in hand, you can highlight the qualifications you will need to be considered and the duties you would be expected to assume. Every match in terms of qualifications and experience will serve as key words** in your resume, as well as provide focus so that the resume can be tailored for your targeted audience. The more closely the content of your resume matches the content of these postings, the more likely you will be asked to interview.
* Resumes provided for graduate school admission showcase your skills, professional experience, accomplishments, and academic history in much the same way as “job” resumes. The difference is that an admissions resume will focus on what transitions well to the classroom, not to the workplace.
** Key words include industry-specific jargon or acronyms (i.e. "generally accepted accounting principles" (GAAP) for accountants; "Certified Professional Resume Writer" (CPRW) for resume writers; "Series 7 licensing" for brokers; "initial public offering" (IPO) for investment bankers; "at-risk child" for social workers; "Level 2 Training" for physicians; "intellectual property law" for attorneys; "triage" for nurses; and nouns or noun phrases indicating qualifications or required tasks (i.e. general ledger, word processing, contract negotiations, benefits, payroll, closing (for sales people); catering services, new menu items, capacity planning (for chefs); logistics, quality assurance, advertising campaigns, product launches, staffing, training, orientations. Companies that employ scanners require a set number of hits on key words before the hiring manager will personally review the applicant’s resume. It is always wise to incorporate as many key words as possible into your resume.
Click here to see a sample resume.
STEP TWO: Formatting for Maximum Impact
The moment your resume is opened by a hiring manager or admissions director, it must appeal to him or her on an aesthetic level, while accurately reflecting your industry or career goal. To do anything else is to relegate your resume -- no matter how brilliantly it is written -- to the rejection stack.
In order to ensure that your resume receives the initial attention it deserves, it’s important to adhere to certain formatting guidelines, which include:
• Template and Font Choice
Template and Font Choice
In all cases, templates and font choice should:
1. Be easy to follow. There is no greater irritation to a busy hiring manager or admissions director than to receive a resume where data is presented in a haphazard or inconsistent manner. That’s why templates are used. An effective template will present company names, dates, job titles, academic information, and all other pertinent data in a clear manner, so that a quick glance will tell the contact person what they need to know.
But consistency in format isn’t the only point to consider. Templates should be chosen because they accurately reflect a candidate’s career or goal. In other words, a banker, accountant, or administrative assistant would choose a more conservative format than a graphic artist or interior designer. Nothing is more jarring -- or disastrous -- than to receive a financial professional’s resume written in italics or script with accompanying graphics.
2. Be easy to read. Resumes written in bold text or italics are extremely difficult to read and project a lack of professionalism. The same goes for artistic fonts that resemble handwriting. It’s a common misconception that jazzing up a resume with these stylistic tricks will get the document read. On the contrary, the resume will get noticed -- and discarded -- within seconds. It’s not the font you use that attracts attention, but rather the resume’s initial appearance and the words crafted within it.
When in doubt about font choice, always err on the conservative side. Two good choices are Times New Roman or Arial in 11 points -- no smaller, or the text will be difficult to read.
Effective Use of White Space
Think of white spaces as necessary pauses -- a chance for the hiring manager or admissions director to catch her breath, collect her thoughts, and digest (and appreciate) the data you’ve presented.
Prioritization of Data
It’s enough to drive a hiring manager to distraction -- or another career.
But then, at last, there are those few resumes that list the important data at the top of the first page. In less than five seconds the hiring manager knows that the first candidate is willing to relocate and assume the cost of those expenses, if required. This candidate also provides a special section beneath the Qualifications Summary that indicates where she is licensed to practice law. The second candidate does the same, while also pulling out Career Accomplishments and placing them at the top of the first page. After all, why keep a 100% win rate at trial a secret, or the fact that one can practice before the state’s Supreme Court?
Given the above scenario, it’s clear which applicants will be called in for an interview. No hiring manager will read every single resume that comes across his desk. Nor will a hiring manager search for data. In today’s tight job market it’s up to the candidate to prioritize data so that a hiring manager knows at a glance what the job seeker has to offer the company in terms of achievement, work experience, education, licensing, certifications, and special concessions, such as relocation.
STEP THREE: Qualification Summary & Skill Set
Doesn’t sound like much fun or an effective use of time, does it? And yet this is the same type of frustration hiring managers are exposed to every time an applicant sends in a resume that fails to open with a well-written Qualifications Summary and/or Skill Set.
What is a Qualifications Summary?
So, how do you compel them to keep reading?
Rather than including all of the aforementioned data in the body of the resume, where the hiring manager would be forced to look for it, but won’t (remember, you’ll be given 10 seconds before the hiring manager moves on), the wise candidate would write something like this:
Results-oriented, detailed professional with comprehensive accounting experience. Background includes consistent promotions to positions of increased responsibility. Skilled in P&L, audits, taxation, internal controls, and streamlining procedures, effecting a monthly savings of $2500 at XYZ Company. Recently passed the CPA exam; currently seeking a Controller position.
In five lines and a mere 45 words, you’ve given specific examples of what you can do (P&L, audits, taxation, internal controls), quantified an accomplishment (streamlining procedures, effecting a monthly savings of $2500 at XYZ Company), indicated past performance (consistent promotions to positions of increased responsibility), provided data on certification (recently passed the CPA exam), and provided your career path (currently seeking a Controller position). And you’ve done all of that in a well-written paragraph that’s interesting and easy to read. (Note that personal pronouns are not used here. In business writing, which includes resumes, personal pronouns such as I, me, or my are never used).
Click here to see three examples of outstanding Opening Summaries:
IT Professional, Webmaster
Fine, you say, but what about an Objective? Where does that go?
In the modern resume, an objective statement is no longer used. The reason for this follows.
Qualifications Summary vs. the Objective
What is a Skill Set?
Results-oriented, detailed professional with comprehensive accounting experience. Background includes consistent promotions to positions of increased responsibility for notable achievements, including $2500 in monthly savings at XYZ Company by streamlining procedures. This time, the first two lines, which contain just 15 words, present core strengths quickly and effortlessly.
STEP FOUR: Accomplishments and Special Skills
There is no data on your resume more important than your accomplishments. Why?
Think of it this way: you’re a hiring manager with one position to fill and 10 qualified candidates clamoring for the position. Each candidate has the same basic educational and professional background. So, who gets the job?
The candidate who contributed the most at past positions. Accomplishments are all that separate you from other equally qualified candidates, with one caveat. Your accomplishments must be quantified.
What is an Accomplishment?
1. Increasing the company’s bottom line (i.e. facilitating its growth)
What is not an Accomplishment?
1. Daily responsibilities that are included in your job description
In other words, an accomplishment is service that goes beyond your usual job description. But for an accomplishment to have the most effect, it must be quantified.
What is a Quantified Accomplishment?
One that includes dollar figures, percentages, and time periods.
For example: Our accountant has streamlined procedures, realizing a $2500 monthly savings for his company. The dollar figure quantifies the accomplishment, while the “streamlined procedures” explains how he did it. Now, if he achieved those savings within three months of hire, that would further strengthen his accomplishments, and it might be written thusly:
• Achieved a $2500 monthly savings for XYZ Company within three months of hire by streamlining procedures.
Imagine the hiring manager’s reaction to the above as opposed to this entry:
• Streamlined procedures for XYZ Company. Doesn’t say much, does it?
Special Skills should always be presented up-front so that a hiring manager knows what you can do. In some instances, a special section (i.e. Computer Skills, Languages, Office Procedures, etc.) should be created to showcase these special skills.
Special skills will include:
1. Computer proficiencies
Click here to see a few examples of resumes with outstanding accomplishments and skills showcased effectively for hiring managers:
IT Professionals – Project Manager
STEP FIVE: Professional Experience
In the Professional Experience section you will list your employers, job titles, and dates of employment in a reverse-chronological order; that is, your most recent job comes first, followed by your next most recent job, and so on. This format is standard and is expected by all hiring managers and admissions directors.
With regard to employment dates:
In the Professional Experience section you will also include daily tasks and responsibilities beneath the appropriate employer listing. If you’ve included a Career Accomplishments section in your resume, you should not repeat that data here. Once data is presented in a resume, it must not be repeated.
To ensure that your daily tasks are presented in an interesting and easy-to-read manner, you should do the following:
1. Use a bulleted format. This breaks up large blocks of text that could prove daunting to a hiring manager.
An example of a bulleted format, pared down writing, and sentences beginning with power verbs follows: (Again, we use our accountant)
XYZ company, Anywhere, Califonia
Additionally, Professional Experience can be captured and showcased in three formats:
Click here to see the sample resume.
In the functional format, you are stressing what you know over where you gained your experience. This works for those who have strong skills, but a weak employment record.
In the chronological format, you are providing a work history dating back from the present. This is the most common format and is generally preferred by hiring managers.
In the combination format, you are stressing what you know in one section, while also providing work history dating back from the present in another. This is a highly popular modern format.
STEP SIX: Education and Training
1. Your current career level (entry-level as opposed to professional)
Your current career level:
If you’re an entry-level candidate with little or no professional experience, your education should be presented immediately after the Qualifications Summary and/or skills area. The reasoning for this is that education is currently your most marketable asset. Here, you would include:
• GPA (if 3.5 or above)
If you’re a professional with five or more years of experience, Education should be listed last on your resume. GPAs, awards or scholarships, and mention of dean’s lists are not generally provided in a professional or executive resume, except for those used for entrance into graduate school programs.
The purpose of your resume:
Resumes sent to admissions directors for graduate school can list Education before Professional Experience or after, depending upon these factors:
• If the applicant has just recently completed his bachelor’s degree, it should be listed before Professional Experience.
The country in which your resume will be distributed:
If you are distributing your resume within the US, high school education is not included. The only exception to this rule would be if you’re applying for a job with the federal government. In that case, you would include high school data.
When distributing a resume outside the US, then high school education is included.
Include all specialized training that is transferable to your new job target. If you have not attended college, include all specialized training in your target field. Hiring managers generally prefer to see some post-secondary education.
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