Career Tips: Make Sure Your Resume Stands Out

A successful resume needs to SELL you over and above your peers and create a sense of urgency for the reader to pick up the phone and call (or email) you to arrange an interview. Otherwise, the alternative is the reader scans the resume, thinks, "Yeah, this person has a good background," and then moves on to scan the next resume, pitching your resume in the old "circular file."  

Here are some ways to write aggressive, up-to-the-minute resumes that really SELL you.

OBJECTIVES: Should you use one? There are lots of opinions about whether or not to use an objective, or just how to do so, if one is used. The only "given" about the use of an objective, is definitely NOT to use one on senior level resumes. A CEO, CFO, COO or other executive’s resume actually looks/reads silly when an objective is used. But for the mid-level or entry-level candidate, an objective can be useful.

Here are a few ways to incorporate the concept into a resume:

If you know exactly what you want:

"(insert title) seeks a position with a progressive organization that will utilize a successful career to meet/exceed company goals.
If you have several fields you want to pursue:

Results-oriented manager seeks a position with advancement opportunities; areas of interest include (insert your areas of interest here).
If you want to change careers:

Aggressive individual seeks a career in (insert career here) utilizing strong interpersonal skills to penetrate untapped markets and build a loyal client base.
What you’ll notice in the above cases, is what’s stressed in the objective: the BENEFIT the COMPANY will receive if they hire the candidate. What is not stated is what YOU want. Companies don’t care what you want – they want to know what you can do for THEM.

A common flaw in writing objectives, is duplicating what 78+ other resumes by stating the obvious, such as you are seeking a challenging position.  Who isn’t?  Would you ever state that you were seeking a boring position? Of course not – so don’t state the obvious – it’s a clichÊ.

REFERENCES PROVIDED UPON REQUEST: Using this phrase at the end of the resume is archaic. It’s a given (talk about a clichÊ!), and contemporary resumes omit this. The better approach is to generate a prepared Professional Reference sheet which you can bring with you on interviews and leave with the interviewer when references are requested.

RESPONSIBLE: This word is often so over-used in a resume, that at CAREER OBJECTIVES, we never use it. The word "responsible" signifies mid-management and below, not executive-level candidates. Instead of writing, "Responsible for all departmental functions …" Try using an action word that best depicts what that person actually does – for example, "Perform all departmental functions, including…" or "Oversee all departmental functions, including…" or "Review all departmental functions, including…" The key is to convey that you direct functions rather than just perform them?

MY, MINE, THIS, I: Using words like this in the resume indicates you are writing in a narrative voice, as if you are having an actual conversation, a dialogue with the reader. This is not the case: you are presenting your achievements, skills and credentials to a potential employer. Keep your resume business-like, and professional. In descriptions, the word "a" could be substituted for the word "this," as in: "Promoted to a $30 million division of an international widget manufacturer to expand sales into untapped markets" as opposed to "Promoted to this $30 million division…."

ALSO: Often this word is used to describe daily functions: "Control and administer annual budgets totaling $12 million. Also, interface with vendors to negotiate more favorable terms and gain higher profits." The "also" is a dialogue word, and quite unnecessary. In writing resumes, practice "tight writing." That is, to eliminate as many "an’s, the’s, also’s, a’s," etc., as possible. They typically aren’t necessary and can be cut from the resume without loss of meaning.

NUMBERS: Contrary to the rules of grammar, EXCEPT for academic resumes, it is best to use numerals in a resume rather than spell out the number, even when that number is 10 or under.  Grammatically, we are taught to spell out numbers like three, five, seven, etc., and write 12, 14, 16, etc. The numerical version, however, jumps off a page, whereas the spelled out version often gets lost. Because resumes are often only scanned by the reader 15-20 seconds, the actual use of numbers helps to capture the readers’ attention – they are drawn to the numbers, which means they are spending more time looking at and reading your resume – and that’s a GOOD thing! However, that the words "percentage" or "dollar" be used ("30 percent" or "12 million dollars") – instead, use the symbol, as in 300r $12 million.

PAST / PRESENT TENSE: Writing in the present tense is always more aggressive than writing in the past tense. Verbs in past tense are in a passive voice, so whenever feasible, write in the present tense. Obviously, if you are still employed, your current job listing is written in the present tense (manage, direct, supervise, control, etc).

PICTURES: Unless you are an actor or model, do not include a picture of yourself under any circumstances. Companies these days are so concerned about EEO lawsuits, discriminatory cases and the like, that at best, they will immediately throw out the picture, or at worst, possibly throw away the entire resume, especially if the picture is printed into the resume. Recruiting firms are highly sensitive to this, as well.

GRAPHICS: Be careful not to make your resumes "too cute." Remember, companies see you as an INVESTMENT – they are spending x amount of dollars to obtain you (salary), and want to see a return on their investment. It is a business negotiation. If the resume appears too "decorative" or distracting because of cute clip art images or overly decorative paper, you may be dismissed and the resume tossed.

PERSONAL INFO: Marital status, date of birth, health, hobbies, etc., are not relevant on a resume these days. Keep in mind you aren’t writing your biography, you are marketing yourself on paper.

When writing your resume always ask yourself the question: "Why does the employer want to HIRE ME above all others, especially when there are 91+ resumes from equally qualified candidates sitting on that decision-maker’s desk?" Answer that question in the resume, and you will have written a tight, solid, results-oriented resume. 

Source: American Marketing Assn.

About Jeff Quandt

Jeff Quandt is an Inbound and Digital Marketing Strategist and owns On-Q Marketing LLC. He helps businesses get found in a Google Search bringing prospects to business' website to generate leads.

Then through Inbound Marketing tactics qualify the lead, nurture the lead, and ultimately converting the lead/prospect into a customer.

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