Five ways to transform your résumé from ho-hum to wow

There's no question that your resume is a vital tool in any job search. Unfortunately, some job seekers' run-of-the-mill resumes actually hurt their chances of finding the right job. If you have had the same resume for a long time and just are not getting the response you had hoped for, it might be time for a "resume makeover." Here are five resume makeover tips that might put you back on the right path.

1. Think about your target audience - A resume is nothing more an
advertisement. What are you trying to sell? Yourself. The first thing
advertising executives do when selling a new product is identify the target audience. When revamping your resume, this should also be your first step. Make sure each resume you send is customized to the position and the company's needs. If you are seeking a marketing position and the company has indicated it wants to hire someone with market research experience, make sure you highlight that. Make it easy for the company.

2. Make sure you have the right type of resume - There are two types of resumes: functional and chronological. While most people are familiar with chronological resumes, which include qualifications listed by past employer in reverse chronological order, you may want to consider a functional resume instead. Chronological resumes are best suited for those with a good amount of experience or individuals on a standard career path. Functional resumes highlight your abilities rather than your work history and work well for those who are re-entering the workforce, transitioning to a new field, or have
frequently changed jobs.

In a functional resume, the main headlines you use are skills and strengths. For example, section headlines for someone looking to break into sales might be "Sales Experience," "Customer Service Skills," and "Managerial Skills."
Under each headline, list specific accomplishments and experience from past jobs. Employment history is included in a functional resume, but at the bottom of the page and is limited to company names, job titles and employment dates.

3. Include an objective or skills summary - Like any other sales pitch, your resume needs to gain the reader's attention right away. One way to do this is by telling them who you are right away through an objective or skills summary section. This lets the reader know what you bring to the table, right up front. Consider the following statements:

Objective: To provide a targeted, creative and unique marketing vision in order to increase sales and brand awareness in major consumer markets.

Skills Summary: Highly experienced, talented and dependable sales manager with more than 10 years experience in the retail marketplace. Skilled in all aspects of retail management, including customer service, inventory control, employee management and accounting.

Both of these introductory statements set the reader up for what is to come next. Another idea to consider is following up your introduction statement with a bulleted list of skills or core competencies. Think about the skills you have gained from your experience and list those at the top of your resume.

4. Focus on accomplishments, rather than job duties - It is important to use your resume to demonstrate how you can benefit the company and illustrate how you have benefited other organizations or solved problems in the past. Include a brief one or two sentence description of your job responsibilities, but then focus on specific accomplishments. Instead of saying "wrote press releases and
company materials," tout your value by telling the reader that you "developed media materials that resulted in nationwide media coverage."

5. Add some hard data - Anyone can say that they were successful at a job, but not everyone has the numbers to back up their claims. Including evidence - numbers, dollar amounts, or other hard data - will make you stand out from the crowd. Take a look at the following two resume statements:

A. Developed plan for new warehousing system that saved the company time and money.

B. Developed and implemented warehousing system that saved company more than $500,000.

Option A provides an accomplishment, but option B will gain more attention from a reader, particularly a hiring manager at a company that is interested in cutting costs.

The bottom line is that with a little work and attention, your resume makeover can help you go from just another candidate to the candidate at the top of the pack!

What Employers Think When They Read Your Résumé

If you're like most job seekers, the hiring process can sometimes make you scratch your head in confusion. For example, how many times have you come across the "perfect" position, quickly submitted your résumé and eagerly anticipated the hiring manager's call... only to hear nothing from the company?

Unfortunately, the frustrating reality is that the majority of résumés you submit will elicit little or no response from potential employers. Much of the time, the situation is out of your control: The position may have already been filled by the time you inquired about it or simply wasn't as good a fit as you thought. That doesn't mean, however, that there's nothing you can do to improve your odds of being called for an interview. Following is an inside peek into the questions hiring managers ask themselves when evaluating resumes. By understanding potential employers' thought processes, you can craft stronger application materials.

Can the applicant fill my need?
Admittedly, it's an obvious question. After all, a firm looking to hire a computer programmer isn't going to call you for an interview if you only have a background in human resources. But even if you possess the necessary experience, if your résumé isn't targeted to the specific company and opening, your qualifications could seem equally unrelated.

Tailoring your résumé to the position involves positioning your skills and experience in a way that shows the hiring manager that they align perfectly with the opening. So, rather than submit the same generic résumé for every job you pursue, look at each opening and create a customized résumé. Sure, it takes a little more time, but it's worth it.

If you are applying for a programmer position, for example, the company will want to see previous employment in the information technology industry; knowledge of Java, XML or other computer languages; and evidence that the applications you've helped develop have benefited former employers. In this case, you would downplay your three years as a busboy in college as well as your brief stint as a telemarketer. Throwing everything against the wall and seeing if something sticks isn't the right approach; a hiring manager is more likely to discard your résumé than wade through it in hopes of finding relevant information.

Use numbers perhaps by pointing out that your program enabled the sales team to collect more than 5,000 leads per month which are likely to stand out in a sea of words and grab a hiring manager's attention. Research the company and re-read the job description several times to make sure you are stressing all of your most relevant qualifications.

Will the applicant remain with my firm for the long term?
The hiring process is lengthy, complicated and expensive. An October 2004 study by the Employment Policy Foundation found that replacing just one worker costs businesses an average of $13,355. Because of high turnover costs, hiring managers seek employees who are not likely to leave the company soon after accepting an offer. They'll look to your résumé for proof of a stable work history.

If you have job-hopped in the past, consider submitting a functional, rather than a chronological, résumé. A functional résumé is organized around your skills, experiences and accomplishments, not the specific roles you have held at various points in your career. You also can use this format to downplay employment gaps; but be prepared to explain them during an interview.

In addition, hiring managers look for assurance that you are dedicated to your profession. If you belong to a professional association, possess certifications or take professional education courses, list this information on your résumé. But make sure everything is relevant and current. You may have a certified financial planner designation, but it means little if you have not renewed your certification in four years.

Is the potential employee professional?
Imagine trying to convince someone to buy a product by providing them with a description of it but not allowing them to see or test it. Sounds hard, doesn't it? In essence, that's your challenge when submitting a résumé. A hiring manager will use just a few sheets of paper to determine if you are professional and can communicate well. So, make sure your résumé is free of typos and grammatical mistakes and that it is easy to understand. Because hiring managers may receive hundreds of applications, they'll eliminate you from contention for the slightest infraction. And if they have a question about your work history, they don't have the time to call you for clarification.

Have a friend, relative or member of your professional network read through your résumé with a sharp eye to spot any errors you might have missed. Afterward, ask the person to summarize its contents. Can he or she accurately recall your past positions and responsibilities? Can the individual name your career highlights? Is the person able to tell the type of job you seek? If not, you're probably not getting your message across as clearly as you can, which means a hiring manager may not be as impressed with your application as you'd hope.

The hiring process can be opaque, but one thing is clear: A well-written, targeted résumé gives you the best chance of being called for an interview and, ultimately, landing the position you desire. Before you submit your next application, think like a hiring manager to ensure your résumé doesn't get lost in the crowd.

Your Résumé: The Key to Getting an Interview

We've all been through it.

The waiting -- endless waiting -- for the phone to ring with the hope that, maybe, just maybe, one of the résumés you sent out this week will get through to the right person... and he'll like what he sees.

There are things you can do to land that all important first interview, Brad Turkin, executive vice president of staffing company Comforce Corporation says. "As the old saying goes, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. And the résumé is it," he notes. Here are his tips for creating a phone-ringing résumé:

Know your Strengths. "The first thing you should do," Turkin says, "is some serious soul-searching. Know the kind of job – and company – that you want. Know your strengths... and acknowledge your weaknesses."

Demonstrate your value. Fill your résumé with facts that jump out at the recruiter. "Avoid empty boasts that can't be quantified," Turkin notes. He prefers a chronological résumé with bullet points that highlight previous results and successes. "You can't just say that you were the best salesman the company had," he says. "That means nothing to a prospective employer. You've got to show how you've contributed to a company's bottom line and how you've added value."

Be truthful. Falsehoods get discovered, he says, and you should always use your actual dates of employment.

Be choosy. "Don't send your résumé blindly to every company out there," advises Turkin. Do your homework and decide who you want to target. Look into a company's history and its goals for the future, and how it plans to accomplish them.

Be the solution. "Try to find out where the company's 'pain' is... and then you'll know how to position yourself as a solution," Turkin notes. "Show how you can add value to their company by showing some awareness of their business and their marketplace. If you can position yourself as a possible solution to their problems, you've got a very big step up on the competition."

Upgrade and update. A résumé is like a living, breathing document, according to Turkin, because it should get to the heart of what you can do for a company. You should be constantly upgrading -- and updating -- it.

Keep it brief. Don't make your résumé into a novel. One to two pages are best. Three pages max (and that's only if you've got pretty much a lifetime of experience).

Check for typos again and again and again! Remember that some words can be typos even if they pass through your computer's spell check.

With a solid résumé, you improve your chances of being selected for the next phase, the "preliminary screening" or phone contact. This is a real opportunity to sell yourself on a more personal level and lock in an actual interview.

Since the call can come at anytime, Turkin advises candidates to be ready beforehand by practicing what you might say in a calm and confident voice.

Turkin also emphasizes keeping everything positive. And don't let a past firing color your attitude. "Good people get terminated, too... and there are ways to address it so that you don't come off as negative."

Top 10 Tips for an Internet Friendly Résumé

The Internet has single-handily changed the way we look for and apply to jobs. Your resume must be "Internet Friendly." This means that it will post well to the job boards and upload into a recruiter's HRIS system without scrambling the document while keeping it easy to read on the computer screen.

First and foremost, it is imperative that your resume be available is MS Word format. Word is the standard among business today, so do not "fight the system" and send your reader a resume in PDF, Zip file, Mac files, WordPerfect, formats, etc. If your reader cannot open your file easily, they will NOT read it.

It is crucial you have provided your potential employer with complete contact information. Be sure to include your email address on your RESUME. Employers do not have time to try to track you down.

Just because your resume looks great printed out, this does not mean it will translate well when either uploaded or be easily read on your reader's computer screen. Stay away from fancy fonts, tables, templates, graphical text boxes, graphical text lines, headers, footers, centering, inconsistent tab layout, etc.

each time you send your resume out to match the requirements of the employer. Know what skills and experience that particular job is looking for, and make those specific areas stand out. Be prepared to go beyond the job description, you might have to do additional research to find out more about the company you are applying to. Do not take up space illustrating skills that are not relevant to the job you are seeking.

The top quarter of your resume is the most crucial. Your reader should know who you are and what you do within five to 10 seconds of looking at your resume. Create a powerful headline that says who you are and what you do. Think of this as a headline to a news story. What will GRAB your reader and make them want to read on? Immediately after your headline, draft a Skills Summary section that illustrates your hard-core skills and industry expertise and how is specifically matches the requirements of the position. What makes you stand out? Customize your headline and summary every time you send out your resume.

throughout your entire resume. Stay away from long, dense paragraphs; they will not be read. Paraphrase your accomplishments and be concise. Your resume should be very easy to scan through. Use Word's filled circle bullets rather than squares, diamonds or dashes.

Stay away from listing your duties. Hiring managers are NOT interested in what your duties or responsibilities were. What did you achieve WITH your responsibilities? What makes you stand out from another candidate with the same experience?

Leave out your hobbies unless they are related to the job you are seeking. Do not include your marital status, age, irrelevant affiliations, etc. Also, there is no need to go into grave detail about past employment that is not related to your desired position. Simply create an Other or Previous Employment section and briefly document this experience.

Do not overwhelm your reader by making your resume too long. Recruiters are only interested in details of the last 5-8 years, 10 tops. For older positions, like the above, create a Previous Employment section and briefly list this experience. Important details tend to get buried in a long resume.


Imagine being a recruiter and getting several hundred resumes per week all named: "resume.doc." Keep it simple, make it easy for your reader to find you and name your resume document: "Smith, John Resume.doc."

One of the quickest ways for your resume to end up in the trash is one that contains misspelled words, typos, and wrong grammar usage. Also, be sure to use the correct verb tense. Mistakes on your resume can reflect carelessness as an employee.

Five Simple Steps to Shape Up Your Résumé

Writing a résumé is a lot like hitting the gym: It requires initiative, energy and dedication, and, at times, it can be daunting. In the long run, however, the hard work pays off and allows you to put your best foot forward with prospective employers.

This fall, try engaging in an exercise routine that will improve your career prospects: a five-step résumé-writing workout. You may not have the muscle tone to show for it, but you'll have an impressive tool to use in your job search. Whether you're a seasoned veteran or new to your field, you can follow the same simple regimen.

Step 1: Establish an objective.
While a gym buff's main goal may be to lose a few pounds, a job seeker's ultimate aim is to get hired. Start by including an objective on your résumé. It should spell out your career goals and your qualifications for the role.

Although it's optional, an objective allows you to tailor your résumé to the job opening. Make sure what you include in this section is targeted to the company and the job for which you are applying. Your objective might look something like this: "An entry-level position at a magazine that gives me an opportunity to apply my background in English and my three years' experience as editor of my college newspaper."

Step 2: Shift into high gear.
If you expect to see results, whether you're working on your calves or your résumé, sooner or later, you've got to pick up the pace. Since the work history section is the most important element of your résumé, it's the best place to step it up.

Most employers prefer that applicants list their work experience in reverse chronological order, starting with their most recent jobs. Be sure to include the position, company, location and dates of employment. Use action words to describe your accomplishments and specifically demonstrate how you made a positive impact on the company. For example, it's not enough to say, "Grew territory revenue in excess of corporate goal." A statement such as, "Grew territory revenues 25 percent in less than six months, exceeding established goal of 15 percent," will impress employers more.

Remember that one size does not fit all on your résumé. If you're applying for a variety of roles, what you highlight should relate specifically to each unique job opening. If you have been out of the workforce for some time or are looking to make a career change, consider grouping your work history under functional categories instead of chronologically.

Step 3: Eliminate extraneous activities.
Even the strongest athletes run out of steam when they overexert themselves. Avoid exhausting yourself, and the résumé reader, by weeding out information that does not directly relate to the job at hand. For example, if you are currently in a finance role and a big fan of the circus, there's no point in mentioning your affinity for the flying trapeze. Or if you want to show off a particular skill that isn't included in the work history section, such as familiarity with a certain software application, list the training courses you've taken or certifications you've received. Just don't go into detail about personal hobbies that don't directly relate to the job.

Step 4: Don't forget the final stretch.
Feeling the burn while working out is one thing, but waking up in pain is another. Smart athletes know it's important to conclude their exercise routines with some final stretches. After you've written your résumé, you should give it one last look for grammar and punctuation errors, misspelled words and typos. Format the document so it's easy to read and appealing to the eye. Use boldface type for section headings, employer names and jobs titles, and leave ample white space so it doesn't look cluttered.

If you submit your application via e-mail, prepare the file as a plain-text document so it can be read on any computer system. Remove all formatting enhancements, such as underlining or boldface, and replace bullets with asterisks or dashes.

Step 5: Request a quick once-over.
If you've worked hard to develop well-defined abs, you shouldn't be afraid to show them off. Similarly, before submitting your résumé, show it to a few friends or professionals in the field and ask if they think it successfully highlights your background and skills. A pair of fresh eyes also can spot any errors that you've overlooked.

Writing a résumé can be challenging, but it shouldn't make you break out in a sweat. Approach the task like you would a workout: Break it down into small steps, take your time and give each one your all. With a little effort and willpower, you're bound to strengthen your chances of landing the job you seek.

Top Secrets of Résumé Writing

These days, job hunters downplay their résumé as a piece of paper that usually doesn't work. Maybe you're one of those who believes, "My résumé isn't perfect, but I'll explain myself in the interview."

But there's the catch: You may not get the interview for no other reason than your résumé, which often gives employers their first impression of your professional standards and talents.

Even topflight executives can have trouble writing a decent résumé. They're not sure how to make the link between what they really want to DO in their next job with the needs of potential employers.

An effective job hunt means having a complete, professional job search strategy, and your résumé must be a key part of that strategy.

Rather than try to explain (yet again) all the ins, outs, and details of effective résumé writing in this brief article, here are a few Key Factors and philosophies I've developed and used with great success over the past 15 years. These Key Factors help explain why most (possibly yours) résumés fail, and how you can really stand above the crowd and get noticed. When you implement these ideas in the next update of your résumé, you will almost certainly have better success in getting more interviews.

First and Foremost: Tell Employers What They Really Want to Know!

Look at the hiring process from the employer's point of view. There you are with a stack of résumés on your desk and a job to fill, right now. You've got some key requirements that candidates must meet before you'll even consider calling them in for an interview. All you want to know from each person "sitting" on your desk is: What can you do for me? How can you fill this job effectively? Why should I talk to you? So you start reading résumés and you see the same old stuff employers have been getting for decades: page after page of job descriptions, A.K.A. Chronological résumés.

But wait a minute. As an employer, I want to see what you can do for me, but all you're telling me is what you've done for someone else. Of course this is important, and I need to review your previous work experience and accomplishments. But does all this really apply to my situation? Of course not, and I really don't have time to read 10 or 20 years of your work history before I decide to call you in.

This is why purely Chronological résumés, for the most part, are on the way out, and why the next Key Factor is so important:

Consistently Market Your Skills and Abilities

Take a moment and really think about what this means. Does your current résumé really market your most applicable skills and abilities, or is it a listing of your past? You must extract your most applicable skills and abilities from your past work experience and sell them at the very top of your résumé in a summary section, titled PROFILE or EXPERIENCE. Driving home this point are two top recruiters at Motorola headquarters in Schaumburg, IL.

Billy Dexter is Manager of University Relations and Rodney Gee is Manager of Staffing for the Land Mobile Products Sector. This sector is one of six in the company, and each sector can get up to 600 résumés per week from executives, professionals, and new graduates. "I have 900 résumés on my desk right now," said Gee.

"A résumé must be clear and tell us what you really want to do. Lead us in the direction you want to go," they said during a conference call.

"We don't have much time to look at a résumé, so it must have structure and consistency" said Dexter. "If a résumé is too broad, we'll pass it over. Tell us about special projects, skill sets, computer languages, leadership activities, people or team leading skills, and types of things outside the classroom. If I have to search through a résumé for these items, I probably won't read it." Your Summary gives you control over your résumé, and lets you focus on these key points.

Although you may have heard otherwise, an Objective on your résumé can be very useful when targeted and concise, but leave it out if you're afraid it may block you from certain positions. In that case, give the reader a focus with the first points of your summary. If you do use an Objective, make sure that it quickly defines what you're looking for in one or two sentences. It's important to note that unlike a Functional résumé, the Summary section in a Combination résumé is not really about previous jobs, but rather develops those skills and abilities you believe are most important and relevant to the position you're seeking right now. Your skills must be isolated and sold to the reader, whether they were acquired through work, school or volunteer work isn't discussed in this section.

This is the heart of a Combination résumé format. It combines a modified Functional (ability/skill) résumé with a Chronological (job listing) résumé. This gives you a two-pronged approach, and the best of both worlds. Your job descriptions substantiate your abilities on top.

If this sounds easy, it is. But it only works if you use clear, concise language describing tangible, no-nonsense skills: "Skilled in payroll processing, audits, and inventory control... "Effectively hire, train, and supervise staff in... "Plan and implement strategies for capital investment; assist in mergers, acquisitions, and financial planning... "Proficient in COBOL, C, AS 400, and Lotus... "Experience in long and short-term strategic planning..." And so on.

Always steer clear of using fluff words in your summary such as "Self-motivated, hands-on professional with an excellent track record of..." Let's face it. The first two items in this sentence could be said about almost anyone. As for your track record, let the employer decide if it's excellent by reading about your abilities (on top) and your duties and accomplishments (under the Employment section). Avoid the ubiquitous (and space-filling) "References Available Upon Request" at the bottom of your résumé. If employers really want your references, they'll ask. When conducting a confidential job search, consider "CONFIDENTIAL RESUME" at the top of your résumé, and/or stating this in your cover letter. Always respect the reader's intelligence!

"Predigest" Your Information

Employers really don't want to think when they're reading résumés. Why trust an employer to study your entire work history and hope they find something interesting? Most résumés get only a few short seconds to grab the reader's attention.

Research the company's brochure, annual report and job advertisement, if any, and tailor your résumé as much as possible to the position.

If you have a Chronological résumé, no matter how well it's written, it's still a listing of your past, and therefore not job specific or future-oriented. Your résumé must be a brief advertisement. How many résumés are actually written along these lines? Very few.

Some Final Thoughts

Although personal networking is the best way to get a job, having an excellent résumé is another way, often just by itself, to get an interview which can lead to a job.

Of course, a brief cover letter should be targeted to the hiring authority whenever possible. Tell the reader what you know about their operation, and why you want to work specifically for his/her company. Make them feel like they're the only person getting your résumé. Be sure to check the tips on correct résumé use below the quotes at the end of this page.

When treated as a genuine writing project and not just something you "put together," your résumé becomes a professional advertisement and really can get you more, high-quality interviews. It can also save you time, money, and frustration. Consider this: a résumé that's only slightly more effective than the one you have now could help you get a job weeks, or even months sooner than your old résumé.

Your résumé is your life, your career on paper. Isn't it worth doing right?

Writing a Super Résumé

Express your qualifications and stand out from the crowd.

Argh! It's time to rewrite your résumé. What may feel like the world's most tedious task--puffing yourself up and bragging about your accomplishments on paper--doesn't have to be so painful. Just remember one thing: Your résumé should stand out from the crowd. Employers, especially those who have posted openings on large Web sites, receive hundreds of résumés for a single position. You must express your qualifications for the desired job in a concise, clear, and aesthetically appealing manner. Here are a few ways to get your résumé to the top of the stack.
It's all about function versus chronology. In functional résumés, you group your skills into categories and then briefly list your past job titles at the bottom. This format is usually reserved for career changers who want to de-emphasize huge gaps of unemployment or a lack of direct experience. Recent college grads and others on a consistent career path usually opt for the chronological format. These résumés list your jobs (and duties for each) in reverse chronological order. If you're a regular college grad, we suggest the chronological format. Most employers expect to see that format and it best highlights your education and relevant work experience.

When organizing a chronological résumé, you should outline sections of your experience, education, and skills to communicate what you have accomplished. HR representatives and employers (a.k.a. impatient executives who could care less about your passionate interest in yodeling) take less than a minute to scan your résumé, so showcase and organize items into several concise and relevant segments.

Just because you have Microsoft Word and all of its formatting capabilities, your résumé doesn't have to look like a Caribbean vacation brochure.

If you just graduated from college and have not yet been employed, place your "Education" section first, directly below the letterhead. In addition to the basics--school name, degree, major, and graduation date--you can include relevant coursework that applies to a desired position, academic honors or awards, and your GPA. If you skated through college with anything over a 3.0, feel free to put it on your résumé. Other categories might include "Relevant Work Experience," "Volunteer Experience," "Computer Skills," "Publications," "Activities and Honors," "Language Skills," and so on.

Appearance Along with effective organization, appearance can make or break your résumé. When creating a super résumé, keep these points in mind:

• Fonts. Whether you e-mail, fax, or mail your résumé to prospective employers, you should try to keep your font plain and easy to read. And select a reasonable size--anywhere between 9 and 12 points should be acceptable. We suggest using a sans serif font like Arial or Verdana, not Times New Roman. These will come out much clearer in faxes.
• Formatting. Just because you have Microsoft Word and all of its formatting capabilities, your résumé doesn't have to look like a Caribbean vacation brochure. Myriad fonts, colors, and graphic embellishments don't really help, so use minimal and purposeful formatting. Simple bullets will best separate your duties and skills; use bolding and italics sparingly. Formatting should highlight your accomplishments, not draw attention away from them. Less, in this case, is definitely more.
• Paper. Even if you don't snail-mail your résumé to employers, you should have hard copies on hand to bring to interviews. These copies should be on tasteful résumé-quality paper. White, off-white, cream, and gray are the easiest to read. Just like your socks, your cover letters, mailing envelopes, and résumés should all match.

Content Now that you know how to organize your résumé and what it should look like, you need to know what to put in it.

• Action words. When describing your prior job experience and duties, use active language. Instead of starting your sentence with a noun, start with an active, descriptive, impressive verb. For example: "Customer Service Representative. Assisted customers with product selection, trained and supervised 15 new employees, organized special promotional events." Don't think of this as a term paper--action verbs and flowery language required.
• Numbers. That's right, we said numbers. Always include numbers, percentages, and dollar amounts in your job descriptions to back up your achievements. How many people did you supervise? How much money did you raise? How many wild bears did you feed during your stint at the zoo? How much did party favor sales increase under your direction? This approach immediately highlights the kind of impact you've made.
• Length. Keep it to one page. No one wants to scan through two or more pages of your long-winded accomplishments and experience. If it doesn't all fit--which it won't, unless you're a college grad with 15 years of professional experience--cut it down to the most relevant and impressive items. You should tailor your résumé to match the job description, so be sure to cut and paste accordingly.

Now it should be the John Travolta of résumés--gyrating its way across the employer's desk, leaving the rest behind like a stack of graceless wallflowers. And if your skills match what an employer is looking for, you'll be snatched up for an interview. From there, it's up to you: Show them you're as good as that pretty piece of paper says you are.

Avoid the Top Ten Résumé Mistakes

Your boss has annoyed you for the last time. You're going to look for another job and move on. You turn to the blank computer screen in front of you and start writing your résumé.

How hard can that be? Apparently, it's a task not to be undertaken lightly. Most résumés circulating in cyberspace and on paper are terrible and actually do more harm than good for the prospective job seeker. How can you avoid résumé mistakes? Let's look in on our fictional co-worker to see where the mistakes are lurking!

1. UNDERGRAD FORMAT -- If the guy in the next cubicle is writing his résumé in the same style that he's used since college graduation, he'll lose. The old curriculum vitae, or block style, format with "Objective" and "Education" listed on top are not appropriate for anyone with more than three years of professional work experience. Much more effective is a 3- to 5-line overview of your unique professional strengths.

2. NO DATES -- Our friend has jumped around a lot and does not want prospective employers to think he's a flake. So he lists the companies but eliminates the dates for each position. Wrong! Leaving dates off your résumé will surely cause eyebrows to raise and make people wonder what you've been up to lately.

3. FACTS BUT NO PIZAZZ -- Mr. Job Seeker has listed his responsibilities under each job title. But what separates him from the crowd? A great résumé should include accomplishments and achievements that you have been instrumental in making happen. Increased widget sales by 65% in six months! Brought in 15 new clients with total billings in excess of $100,000! Don't be afraid to brag a little -- just be honest.

4. HITHER AND YON -- Our co-worker has changed fields more than models change outfits at a fashion show. His résumé looks like a jumble of job listings. If you have experience in more than one field and it needs to be included on the résumé, consider grouping the types of jobs together under specific headings such as "Instructional/Training" or "Customer Service/Sales."

5. GRUDGE FACTOR -- Don't include the reasons you've left or are leaving your job. Do not mention "sexual harassment," "lawsuit," "workers compensation claim," or "fired me for no good reason." Some situations are better explained in person, if at all.

6. PERSONAL INFO -- No one cares if you are single, married, play the trombone, or enjoy league bowling. Personal information does not belong on a résumé. Do not include your age, race, gender, or blue ribbons for gardening.

7. LONG-WINDED HISTORY -- Only your relatives have the patience to read through every job you've held since stocking groceries in high school. Prospective employers want to know what RELEVANT EXPERIENCE you've had in the past 10-12 years. Highlight the most recent jobs and consolidate the past into several lines on a strong 1- or 2-page résumé.

8. SLOPPINESS -- Our friend is in such a hurry to find a new job that he thinks printing the résumé on green or orange paper will get him noticed fast. He'll get noticed -- and then dropped in the circular file! There is a coffee ring stain on the hand-written envelope, which also happens to have the return address of his current employer in the corner -- No, no, no. Looks count!

9. NO APPROPRIATE TARGET -- Just because our co-worker is fed up today and wants to find a new job A.S.A.P. doesn't mean that he should send a résumé to every ad that appeared in the Sunday newspaper! Take the time to target the jobs for which you really have a chance of being interviewed. Does your level of experience match the requirements listed?

10. NO REASON FOR SENDING RESUME -- Once you have carefully checked over your professionally written résumé to ensure that the salient points mentioned above have been addressed, don't forget one of the most important adjuncts to a good résumé -- THE COVER LETTER. In the cover letter, you have the chance to state why you are sending your résumé to this company and for what specific position. Don't make people guess as to why you have sent them your résumé -- make it clear right up front.

Good luck!

Six New Résumé Tricks –Emailing

In today's high-tech world, computers are changing the way people work. The human resources industry is no exception and a crop of products has been developed that help HR managers sift through the stacks of résumés they receive. What this means for job seekers is that the first person who reads your résumé may not be a person at all, but rather a computer.

Computer programs that are used by companies to find the right candidates are generally called applicant tracking systems. There are many types of systems, all with varying degrees of sophistication. What these systems have in common is the ability to quickly scan résumés and pick out the candidates that should be considered further. These systems work by searching résumés and applications for pre-set keywords that are requirements for the job. They work on paper and electronic résumés and applications. If you mail your paper résumé, it will be fed through a scanner and turned into an electronic file that can then be viewed by the system.

There are a number of things you can do to enhance your ability to make it past the first round of electronic screening. Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler, human resource consultants and co-authors of "CareerXroads" (, a series of directories that list and review career Web sites, offer these tips:

1. Start with e-mail, follow up with paper.
Mehler says that the best way to deliver your résumé is via e-mail. "You're better off with e-mail, because at least you know it will get there," he says. He says that a paper résumé can still make a good impression, and that you should follow up your e-mail with a paper copy, at least for the jobs you really want. However, try to think like a recruiter – or a computer system – when you send the paper. This means sending a flat copy of your résumé and leaving out the staples. This makes it easier for a recruiter to run the résumé through a scanner. Use the fax as a last resort, as faxes do not come out clear and are difficult to scan.

2. Keep it simple.
Because your résumé will be scanned, it is important to keep your formatting simple. Mehler says to avoid italics, underlining, fancy or large fonts, and anything else that could be misread. If you are sending an electronic copy of your résumé, create a plain copy of your résumé that leaves out any bold terms or bullets and uses a standard typeface, such as Arial or Times New Roman. Plain résumés also work better on company or job search Web sites that require you to cut and paste your information.

3. It's all about key phrases.
The most important thing to remember is the importance of keywords and phrases, which are the tools by which software applications sift through résumés and determine whether to keep or discard them. The trick is tailoring your résumé to answer the company's job description or help wanted ad. "You have to understand how recruiters work," says Crispin. "They look for critical skills in the job description as must haves." Therefore, make sure your résumé includes those same keywords. Carefully read the description and write your résumé specifically for that position. "Every résumé has to be customized," says Mehler. "Plain vanilla is no good anymore."

4. Conduct a dry run.
After you have created your résumé, e-mail yourself and a friend a copy to see how it appears in the e-mail. This will give you the chance to fix the formatting and edit the document once more before you really hit the "send" button.

5. Re-apply.
Crispin says that most systems allow recruiters to sort résumés by date received, and that many recruiters will limit their searches to the most recent résumés. Therefore, it pays to send an updated résumé or edit your profile once a month. "If your résumé has been in a company database for more than 30 days, you can be absolutely sure it will not be seen," he says. If you've posted your résumé to internet or industry specific job search sites, you should also consider updating it periodically.

6. Remember the importance of employee referrals.
Crispin also points out that, even in a high-tech system, an employee referral is vital. "At least one quarter of all positions are now filled through employee referrals," he says. Many systems can pick out résumés or applications that indicate they have been referred by an employee. If you are filling out an online application and have to answer "no" to whether or not you have been referred, hold off on applying. "You can increase the likelihood of being called or interviewed by as much as 50 times by having an employee refer you."

The Résumé Secret Employers Love and Job Seekers Rarely Use

A human resources manager, working at a prominent Northwest company, asked for my help in writing her résumé. She told me: "I see résumés all the time. Thousands have passed through my hands, but when it comes to writing my own I have a difficult time doing it. A résumé is nothing more than a slick advertisement. But an important one, especially in today's job market."

She makes it clear that your résumé is all an employer has when they start the screening process. And employers report that most résumés get only a 15-20 second glance. If you don't capture their attention quickly, they pass you by and call in someone else for the interview.

There is a good technique that you can use, though, that employers really like to see on a résumé. When I did our national survey of 600 hiring managers, the overwhelming majority said the most important part of your résumé is your "Summary of Qualifications" section. Adding this triples your impact, and employers reported that this was one of the very first areas they read. And if the briefly stated summary demonstrates solid ability to fill the advertised job, it catches their attention and they slow down and give the applicant more careful consideration.

Hiring managers also reported only about 5 percent of résumés contained this key section, and I never write a résumé without it. Think of it as mini-outline of you: a highly influential summation of the specifics you bring to the job. This section usually consists of four to six sentences that present an overview of your experience, accomplishments, talents, work habits and skills. Here is a good example from one of my client's résumés:

Summary of Qualifications
Twelve years' management experience in human resources dealing with fast-paced, rapidly expanding companies. Expertise includes employment law, recruiting, employee and labor relations and compensation. Analytical decision maker with excellent problem-solving skills. Recognized for ability to develop employees' professional growth and increase their productivity.

It's easy to see by reading this brief summary how this candidate is qualified to do a human resources job. Indeed, she got several interviews and went on to work at Seattle's most famous coffee company.

One caution – employers complain that many people lie on their résumé. Exaggeration! Misrepresentation! Lying is a deadly error. Don't do it! Employers ask more questions and do more background checks now than ever before so when you get caught, and sooner or later you will get exposed, you'll likely be fired. Solid facts and verifiable experience should highlight your actions and accomplishments.

The summary of qualifications, which speaks volumes on consolidating the best you have to bring to the job, really stands out and pulls the employer in for a closer look. Be sure that your résumé has this essential section. It comes right after your name, address and career objectives.

How Do I Give Salary Requirements?


When an employer asks to email my resume with "salary requirements," how do I fit that appropriately and tastefully into the body of my resume?

Thank you for your response.
David Smith
New York, NY 10099

Dear David:

Often when candidates are asked to include salary requirements when submitting their resume and cover letter, they find themselves in a "no-win" situation. But how do you "play it safe" without turning them off? And, how do you know what a reasonable figure is when you don't even know what the job responsibilities are or what the entire compensation package is?

You do not want to state an actual number because if you state a number that is too high, the employer will automatically screen you out. If you state a number that is too low, the employer could either end up paying you less than what the position is worth or they might assume that your skills are not worth much and you will find that you are underselling yourself.

Address their request in your cover letter, not the resume. Give the employer a reasonable salary range with the lowest end being slightly higher than your absolute minimum. On the high end of the range, BE REASONABLE. You can state something like, "My salary requirement is in the $40,000 - $50,000 range, based on the job responsibilities and the total compensation package."

Including salary requirements in the cover letter gives you a chance to bullet-point why you are the right person for the job and emphasize to them that you are worth this money. Let your reader know that this range is negotiable depending upon the position's responsibilities as well as the total compensation package, including benefits. Your chances of being considered will increase if the employer knows you are flexible and negotiable.

Make sure you do some careful research to find out what the typical salary is for that type of position. There are salary calculators available online to determine the average salary, which even factor in cost of living indexes based on geography. Also, do not be afraid to call the employer; who knows, if you are friendly and upfront about your situation, the hiring manager (or someone in the same level or similar position), might be willing to share some of this information.

Working with an outside third-party recruiter can also often benefit you and help you around this subject. Not only will a recruiter be able to share with you more details of the overall job responsibilities, but also salary ranges the employer has allocated for the position. Furthermore, if your salary requirements are above their client's range, and if you are a great match for the role, a recruiter can be your advocate to the employer why you deserve such a salary. Recruiters usually work on contingency, so it is in their benefit to help you negotiate a salary as high as it can be.