Resume Writing Tips: Stand Out From The Job Hunting Crowd

by Jacques Sprenger on 2008-12-0920

Are you job hunting? These resume writing tips may help give you an edge.

When you look in the mirror, you usually check your appearance to make it as attractive as possible. So it must be for your resume; yet, thousands of applicants neglect to dedicate the time and the required professionalism into building an attractive resume. As a result, someone else gets the job that should be yours.

Common Sense Resume Writing Tips

Don’t worry even if you lose your job. Equip yourself with a great resume and you’ll be on your way to a new position. As a former HR manager, I’d love to share with you a few of my resume writing tips:

1. Get to the point. Focus on what’s important.

The first thing you should take into account is that the HR person who reviews your resume is also looking at 50 or more similar applications for a job. In these trying times, a lot of companies are not only delivering pink slips; they are also looking for people who will help the bottom line. If you have experience as a great salesperson, that’s the first thing a resume should say; they are not interested in knowing that you played soccer in high school. They want to know immediately whether you bring special qualifications for the position.

2. Watch your key words.

Sometimes, large companies will let a computer sort through the resumes by focusing on key words or phrases. Is your area using special technical words? Does the position require a particular set of skills, such as “Java software programmer”? Make sure these words are repeated a few times to catch the attention of the computer. It will help cull your resume from perhaps thousands of applicants.

3. Point out what’s unique about you.

Once the human in HR has added your resume to a special stack of interesting candidates, how do you make sure that you will make the group of maybe 3 to 5 finalists? In a few words, uniqueness. Describe, briefly of course, what distinguishes you from the pack, what makes you unique. It may be superior writing, or organizational skills, or proven leadership qualities, or proof of your creativity (solution finder) in previous jobs. Did you increase sales, reduce losses, organize efficient teams, or achieve spectacular turnarounds? Whatever you have accomplished, make sure they find out immediately. Even if you are fresh out of college, you may have unique accomplishments as a student that the company is looking for.

resume writing tips

4. Be specific about what you write.

Here’s an example of a typical clunker found on too many resumes these days: “seeking challenging role in a dynamic, growth-oriented company where I can demonstrate my excellent skills in [].” (from Yahoo Hot Jobs). That favorite phrase in so many resumes makes HR managers yawn and dump it in file 13 (the waste basket). You are telling them what you want, not what you bring to the company. Elaborate on the “excellent skills” that have actually produced results in a previous job. A hiring manager has at the most 20 to 30 seconds to dedicate to your “reflection”, so it better be eye catching from the get go.

5. Keep it short and sweet (KISS), if you can!

A good resume will answer the following questions in very concise statements:

  • What position you are applying for. You’d be surprised how many applicants pay little attention to the position requirements.
  • What you bring to the company specifically.
  • Why you are uniquely qualified for the job.
  • What you have achieved in the past that relates to the job at hand.

The next step, of course, is the coveted interview. As a former HR manager, I have seen everything from the ludicrous to the sublime. But that specific skill, the use of your charming personality to convince the hiring person that you deserve the job, requires a different kind of preparation, self-evaluation and reflection, and…. well, that discussion is for another post altogether! 🙂

 
Contributing Writer: Jacques Sprenger

Copyright © 2008 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Vince Scordo December 9, 2008 at 6:18 pm

I would also add or show in any resume:

1. How you saved the organization money
2. How you increased revenue / profit for the organization
3. What type of budget you controlled.

Basically, it’s good to talk about $$$ if you’re in any business/marketing/sales type role.

Vince Scordo

jim December 9, 2008 at 9:18 pm

A resume can only get you so far, I think job hunting is about developing relationships with people at organizations you want to join. These tips are great to give that resume some polish and pop but the real weapon you have should be your soft skills. Call up places, talk to hiring managers, build relationships.

Josh Stomel December 9, 2008 at 11:11 pm

Im reading your post and I have built a site that allows consumers to take their traditional resume and convert it to a highly optimized web resume.

Check it out; http://www.resumebucket.com

Takes, 10 seconds to sign up, and users will get a unique url that they chose like; http://www.resumebucket.com/joshstomel

We optimize the keywords in the resume and the meta description. Within 24 hours, if you did a google search for that persons name or a boolean search, they will be ranked at the top of the google search results.. We are in beta and very excited. New site coming soon 🙂

Great post

Silicon Valley Blogger December 10, 2008 at 1:16 am

@Jim,

Yes you’re right. To get a job, you’ve got to use all the angles. If you’re going to “cold call”, the resume is your way of achieving that as the first step. 2nd step is how you come across face to face. Now if you’re well connected like some people I know 😉 then the resume may not be as a significant factor.

I got my last job through a friend who was the VP of the department (when I started, he was a manger). So it was an easy hire. So true that it’s easiest to have friends in high (or the right) places — sometimes it doesn’t take much to persuade others that you’re the right person.

The resume isn’t as critical when you’re going by your reputation and others vouching for you.

@John,

Very interesting. I’d love to see how well this works. Let us know when stuff is live for you.

Hayli @ RiseSmart December 10, 2008 at 5:56 am

Yes, you should definitely use all the contacts you have. You can also outsource the job search to career search sites or niche sites, i.e. set up a system where the job leads are e-mailed to you. That way you can focus more on networking (and hopefully interviewing). Concerning resume effectiveness, The Job Lounge had a solid post recently on how to apply the pyramid writing technique to your advantage.

Austin Real Estate Broker December 10, 2008 at 9:49 am

Hey guys. This is sooo timely. When I worked for several large companies and layoffs happened I was lucky enough to be spared the layoffs. I’m kind of a people person so when the layoffs happened and I saw many of my friends get let go, I really wanted to be able to keep in touch with them and help them find jobs. I created Alumni groups at yahoo and they are still used 10 years after our working together. We often post resumes, openings, and people searching for jobs. One cool thing about it is that when the tech bubble burst people were scattered to the wind so now we all have contact across the US. Might be a good time to start that list for you and your coworkers if you were just let go.

Hope all is well,
Joe

Jacques Sprenger December 10, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Jim mentions relationships; he is absolutely right. I have the experience of getting a good job thanks to a referral by a close friend. There are however millions of younger people (and others who moved to a different state or country) who have not yet had a chance to develop what I call a social network of well-positioned acquaintances. They need to use that first-tier weapon called a resume, which will open some doors. What to do when the doors open (interview) is much more critical and I will offer my views soon on that subject.

Gary Capone December 12, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Good post – your comment on a resume being one of fifty similar resumes is right on. The numbers can even be worse, with hundreds of resumes from people with the same background. To many people focus on just showing they are qualified to do a job. The vast majority of resumes will be qualified. The candidates that get interviews are the ones that demonstrate their potential to provide a lot more value than everyone else. Give specific examples of accomplishments is the key to this. The more competition there is for a job, the more critical it is to focus on value you will provide.

Gary

Felix December 21, 2008 at 9:22 am

Great post. Would just like to add that a resume should be customized each time a prospective applicant applies to a new job, keeping the target position and the concerned company in mind. Make sure that your resume is relevant to the post and the overall company culture etc.

Liza February 4, 2009 at 2:13 am

@ Felix .. yeah, I totally agree with you that one needs to modify the resume each time one goes for a new job. Because above all, the number one purpose of resume is to win the interview you’re going in. Tell your prospective employer in an assertive manner, what are the direct benefits he’ll be getting if he hires you! Your resume must convince the hiring manager to want to MEET YOU and judge. Try to make your resume persuade the employer to give you a call.

Rajat May 12, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Great tips, thanks for posting this. I think in this recession you need a solid resume that at least gets you an interview call.

Earl Kelly June 2, 2009 at 6:16 am

This is a good topic and touches all of us. Be sure to have someone assist in constructing your resume, and most other correspondence, for that matter. Changing one word can make or break the sale. Showing a draft to my editor who looks at the piece with open eyes catches things I do not see. She is wonderful, priceless, and the turnaround for small pieces is almost right away. Good luck folks, and keep up the good work Digerati!

VMSol August 26, 2009 at 7:56 am

Millie, very nice article. You hit on the major priorities when writing a resume. Making the resume easy to read is critical. I’ve done a lot of hiring and have owned an executive recruiting for several years. When I used to do a lot of the resume screening at my firm, I would go through several hundred resumes in an hour or two. The only way to do this is to spend very little time on each. For the vast majority, 15 or 20 seconds and then a decision whether to keep reading. The most important factor was clarity – if I couldn’t see a reason to keep reading, I moved on. Undoubtedly, I discarded job seekers that may have been qualified but that didn’t provide and easy to read resume.

VMSol August 26, 2009 at 7:58 am

With my son leaving for college and my son totally self sufficient, I’m looking to reenter the work force. Obviously I have a huge break in employment history. I will definitely get up to speed on online keyword specific resumes as well as look into functional resumes rather than chronological.

Thanks for the tips.

Igor September 11, 2009 at 7:21 am

Again and again – post is just excellent. From my own experience I may also add that reading resumes can also bring much fun. For instance, once I searched through a resume, and at first sight it corresponded to all the criteria of the person the company wanted, all the dates, functional duties, assigned area of responsibility, number of subordinates, achievements, everything an employer can be interested in, and – to the dessert – key achievement in your life – “presence at my wife’s confinement”.

What should be in the head of a candidate who writes this? Or I hardly admit that an employer can be attracted by the fact that the candidate likes “fishing, cross-stitching, spiritualism and handsome men”? And – what is not funny: in such a way, candidates try to draw attention. I truly believe that though the CV doesn’t reflect whole information about your personality, still it can say a lot even during a 5-second screening. I stand for the thoroughness and for the full absence of unnecessary information in resume.

Jobs Philippines October 15, 2009 at 10:12 am

It’s also important to never lie on your resume. If you lack a specific skill or experience that an employer is looking for, never resort to placing fictitious jobs or backgrounds on your resume, instead you could place related skills or a note on your cover letter that you are willing to learn or be trained for that specific skill. Most employers will appreciate your initiative and most likely consider you even if you lack the experience or skill.

Job Links List September 22, 2010 at 7:10 am

Somes I wonder how effective it would be if you sent a pizza to a prospective employer along with your resume… maybe it would get special treatment? 🙂

Jason April 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm

One important element that must be present on a resume is the element of credibility. There are some individuals who made falsification on some information they place on their resume. For me, I had difficulty making my curriculum vitae so I have to look for credible resume writers on different resume services reviews.

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