6 keys to an effective resume
Updated: Jul 19, 2019
Crafting a standout resume is easier said than done. You could be a young person fresh out of college with only a few internships under your belt, or a 30-year veteran with a seemingly unending list of accomplishments. Clearly, it's not a one-size-fits-all approach.
What do you put on there? What do you leave off? What are the keywords I need to use to nab this job? The answers to these questions are different for every job hunter in every career field. What's more, I did a quick non-scientific poll of the internet and it appears most employers and recruiters only spend roughly six seconds reviewing a single resume. I don't know how true that is, but six seconds?! Let that sink in.
Statistics like that make you wonder why we even put in the time.
But it remains important to craft an amazing resume and to keep it up to date at all times. Because, well, you just never know. The emphasis should not only be on highlighting your educational and professional achievements, but doing so in a way that makes those six seconds count. If an employer really likes you, surely they will read deeper.
One of the many things I do at Edit This is help business professionals craft their resume. I take pride in it because I know what it's like to be on the job hunt. I know what it's like to have the feeling of, "Geez, I know I'm good at what I do but I can't seem to figure out the best way to put it all into resume form."
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, here are 6 tips to keep in mind:
Avoid grammatical errors like the plague
Just for grins, I went back and found my first resume. It was filled with so many punctuation mistakes and style errors that I wish I could travel back in time just to slap my younger self. Bottom line, no employer will take you seriously if your attention to detail is so horrible that you are satisfied with turning in a pencil-whipped resume. Read through what you have with a fine-toothed comb, paying close attention to punctuation, spelling, and even consistent formatting. Do that three or four times, then have someone you trust (preferably someone who has an eye for detail and isn't afraid to hurt your feelings) read over it. Mistakes in a resume are bad, folks.
Create a clear header
I mentioned those crucial six seconds earlier in this blog. Make sure your header has all the necessary contact information (your name and updated phone number, email, address, etc.) and that it's properly centered all in one easy-to-find and prominent location at the top of the page. No need to get cute with some elements of your header centered and others right or left justified. It makes the whole thing harder to read.
Own your summary statement
There are recruiters and business professionals who don't think having a summary statement near the top of your resume (before your employment experience section) is important. I couldn't disagree more. In fact, I think a resume looks naked without one. A summary statement allows you to quickly summarize your qualifications and what your objective is in a way that allows you to speak directly to whomever you are attempting to work for. Just keep it short and sweet – nothing more than 50-75 words.
Make sure everything on your resume – specifically your work experience section – is clearly organized and includes names of previous employers, positions held, responsibilities/duties, and key dates worked. Start with your most recent job and work back in reverse order. Also, if you are a veteran and you worked your way up the ladder at one company from a grunt to a manager, it's a good idea to take the time to detail out the different positions you held during that time. Here's a quick unedited example:
XYZ Company, March 2005-Present
Sales Manager (Nov. 2014-Present)
Senior Sales Specialist (4 years)
Junior Sales specialist (5 years)
Avoid generalities like the plague
You want to make sure you are highlighting your educational and professional achievements, so make sure you are specific when you do that. Instead of saying, "responsible for increasing business," you should be saying, "Increased sales revenue by 75% over a two-year span." Recruiters and potential employers want to see what you have done in the roles you have done. So give it to them.
Force yourself to have a cutoff point
It's great that you have been a contributing force for 10 different companies over the last 30 years, but at some point you have to limit what you are detailing out on your resume. Now is not the time to be a pack rat. A general rule of thumb is to keep your resume to a page to a page and a half, including your education history, any certifications, and references. And I always say it's good to provide specifics on up to 5-8 years of work history. After that, if you want to include the other companies you have worked for, create a "Related Experience" section and simply include the name of the company and last position held. Bottom line, it's likely the person reading your resume will have a good understanding of what you can or can't do for them after the first page.
Was this blog helpful? If you, or anyone you know, is in the market for a new job and needs to have someone read over their existing resume or help create one from scratch, I urge you to give me a call.
Thanks for reading!
*STEVE GAMEL is the Owner/President of Edit This, a writing and editing services company located in Denton, TX. Along with being a sports writer for the Denton Record-Chronicle, Steve handles anything involving the written word. Give him a call today to help give your business a clear voice.