Top 10 Killer Ways to Improve Your Resume

Top 10 Killer Ways to Improve Your Resume

Super scary statistics:

  • The average time recruiters spend looking at resumes – 5 to 7 seconds
  • The percent of resumes filtered out by talent-management software – 50%
  • The percent of hiring managers who look at a majority of received resumes – 19%
  • The average number of people who apply for any given job – 118
  • The percent of applicants who get an interview after submitting their resumes – 20%
  • Youth unemployment rate as of February 2015 – 9%

What do these stats mean to you?  You need a competitive resume.  Otherwise…you don’t stand a chance.

So…

Here’s how to get an interview with a killer resume.  

1. Submit a competitive resume by writing several drafts.

Your college professors warn you against submitting a first draft of an at-home midterm or essay.  The same applies here.  Writing a resume is a huge undertaking, one that requires the same planning as an A+ college essay.

First draft – free write. Write everything down, everything.  Don’t worry about word choice or formatting in draft one.  Just write.

  • Mailed client contracts to corporate office weekly
  • Poured coffee daily for all-hands meeting
  • Posted advertising fliers to door handles weekly
  • Handed out business cards every weekend and at school
  • Managed the sales and production of my own personal painting company
  • Called my district manager twice a week to go over stats
  • Entered stats into system every Thursday night

Second draft – cut the fat. Remove everything that isn’t necessary (hint, if it doesn’t directly relate to the job description you’re applying to, remove it). 

  • Mailed client contracts to corporate office weekly
  • Poured coffee daily for all-hands meeting
  • Posted advertising fliers to door handles weekly
  • Handed out business cards every weekend and at school
  • Managed the sales and production of my own personal painting company
  • Called my district manager twice a week to go over stats
  • Entered stats into system every Thursday night

Third draft – Consolidate tasks. Make it easy for employers to scan your resume by consolidating like-tasks in one efficient bullet point.

  • Posted advertising fliers to door handles weekly
  • Handed out business cards every weekend and at school
  • Implemented strategic marketing plan, delivering marketing fliers and business cards weekly
  • Managed the sales and production of my own personal painting company
  • Entered statistics into system every Thursday night

Fourth, fifth, six… draft – Make strategic edits. Continue to edit your resume to address word choice, format, and branding.  See steps 2 – 9 below.

Final draft – tailor your resume to the job. For each job you apply to, make slight edits to your resume based on the job description.  See step 10 below.

2. Choose your words wisely to get noticed by employers.

It’s important to write a resume that employers can easily scan. They’re looking for certain words to quickly determine if you’re qualified for the job. Word choice also effects formatting.  A concise resume will not look crowded and messy, and therefore, employers will actually look at it.

Employers spend five to seven seconds reviewing an individual resume so it’s imperative to use as few words as possible.  Submit a concise resume because employers spend seven seconds reviewing it.

When writing a resume you need to be as efficient as possible because employers are busy and they receive thousands of resumes.  An efficient resume will get noticed among the thousands employers review.

The below points will enable you to write an efficient resume that employers can easily scan which in turn will increase your chances of getting called in for an interview.  Increase your chances of getting an interview in three steps.

Break sentences up with bullet points.

Bullet points should not be complete sentences, but they should consist of more than just a few words.

  • My responsibilities include processing payroll for all employees in 17 states nationwide
  • Administer payroll processing for 1000 employees in 17 states

Use action verbs.

Example action verbs:

Achieved

Surpassed

Presented

Established

Organized

Built

Conceptualized

Implemented

  • In charge of the management of client relationships
  • Managed relationships for 3000 clients nationwide

Avoid generic descriptions.

Generic descriptions do not illustrate your job responsibilities, and thus, won’t get you an interview.

  • Worked in team atmosphere to obtain leads
  • Conducted 100 in-person cold calls per day with team, resulting in 5 leads per hour

3. Format your resume properly and get employers to read it.

A properly formatted resume is more important than you think.  A hideous looking resume will get dumped in the trash.  No one will bother to read it first, either.

Formatting basics.

  • Keep it to one page
  • Don’t include high school info
  • Don’t use abbreviations
    • Conducted client info research
    • Conducted client information research
  • Don’t use flashy font, graphics, or colored paper
  • Include all required categories
    • Contact info
    • Education
    • Experience
  • Use proper resume language
    • Use past tense for past activities
    • Use present tense for current activities
    • Avoid using first person pronouns such as “I” and “We”

Avoid a bare bones resume.

An overcrowded resume can appear messy and discourage employers from reading it (a crowded resume likely is not scanable), but you should not have a ton of white space either.

White space can signify lack of experience and qualifications.

Tips to fill the white space on your resume:

  • Format your resume using Skills headings.

This is a great format to include accomplishments from school and work.

resume sample for blog

 

  • Include optional categories.

Optional categories should be omitted from a resume that struggles to fit everything on one page without looking cluttered.  However, for those with minimal experience (and a ton of white space on your resume), additional categories are a great option to fill the space and showcase your accomplishments.

Optional categories include:

  • Skills
  • Community involvement / volunteer work
  • Professional associations
  • Honors
  • Languages
  • Relevant coursework (do not provide the course number, i.e., criminology 104)

Optional categories should be strategically selected based on the job position you’re applying for.  For those applying to a technical position, add a section for technical skills, technical project experience, and technical awards won.

  • Connect the dots for employers.

Some job titles are universally known.  Such as Sales Manager or Staff Accountant.  Other titles, not so much.  For a vague job title, add skills alongside it:

  • Intern Accounts Specialist
  • Intern Accounts Specialist – Accounting skills, including accounts receivable, accounts payable, financial reporting, and Quickbooks savvy

4. Have a relevant, professional resume to show employers you’re current with the latest trends.

Your resume is a reflection of you.  It demonstrates how current you are with the times, your professional capabilities, and your ability to articulate your accomplishments.

Therefore, your resume must be current and professional.

  1. Don’t include an objective – it’s outdated.
    Your objective is addressed in the cover letter.   The difference is that your cover letter is specific and personable, whereas the one sentence objective previously required on resumes was always generic and served little to no purpose.
  2. Submit a professional resume – no flash, no glam. 
    Don’t misinterpret “make your resume stand out” with “use glitter and colored paper.” Submitting a flashy resume on colored paper, with colored ink and glitter, will make you appear unprofessional and inexperienced.
  3. Don’t include references on your resume – it’s outdated.

Adding references on your resume is completely unnecessary and outdated.

  • References: John Blake, 714-564-7904 and Cari Stark, 714-564-8725
  • References: Available upon request

If you get to the point when an employer will need to check references, he’ll ask you for them directly.  References should be submitted on a separate document.

5. Grab an employer’s attention by quantifying everything on your resume.

Quantifying transforms a task into an accomplishment.  This is the proper way to make your resume stand out.

  • Track new, open, and closed client cases
  • Track 100 new, open, and closed client cases in a two-hour shift per day
  • Brewed coffee, took orders and prepared drinks
  • Brewed 17 pots of coffee per hour, took 200 orders per day, and prepared 175 drinks per day

6. Emphasize results produced

Emphasizing results produced demonstrates that you can be an asset to the employer.

  • Facilitate major marketing projects
  • Facilitate major marketing projects resulting in a 17% increase of clients and generating an additional $100,000 in revenue

7. Show employers that you meet the basic requirements by showcasing transferable skills.

Employers look to hire exceptional applicants who meet the basic requirements.  If your resume does not demonstrate that you have the basic skills required to do the job, your resume will be filed in the trash, immediately if not sooner.

The good news is that you can include transferable skills gained from work experience and in the classroom.

Here are stats I sourced from Idealist Careers, showing the transferable skills employers look for.

  1. Ability to work in a team
  2. Strong communication skills
  3. Ability to analyze and solve problems and develop workable solutions
  4. Ability to obtain/research and process/analyze information
  5. Ability to analyze quantitative data and statistics
  6. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
  7. Computer/technology skills and their use in “real-world” settings
  8. Adaptability and flexibility, to apply knowledge in new settings
  9. Ability to sell/influence and lead

8. Don’t get dismissed by an employer by lying on your resume.

Lying on a resume includes false information about capabilities, wage, and years of experience (amongst many other things).  Lying also includes exaggerations of any kind.

  • 49% of hiring managers have caught a candidate lying on their resume.
  • 57% of employers immediately dismissed a candidate for lying on a resume.

Even if you do get away with it, which isn’t likely, your employer will figure it out once you start working.  Then you’ll have a termination on your record.  Finding a job is difficult enough these days, don’t add obstacles along the way.

9. Make the cut by minding the details

Employers will stop reading your resume the second you give them a reason to.  Formatting errors, typos, and any other detail missed is a good enough reason for employers to trash your resume.  Kinda bleak, isn’t it?

  • Don’t have an unprofessional email address – 76% of resumes are discarded for an unprofessional email address
  • Don’t use your school email address
  • Verify that your phone number, address, etc. is correct
  • Check spelling and typos
  • Make sure your margins and bullet sizes are consistent
  • Use the same font size and type throughout the entire resume
  • Have others read your resume and give you feedback
  • Check the formatting on a printed version

10. Tailor your resume to the job description and get called in for an interview.

Finally, your resume is complete and you can begin submitting it.  Well, almost.  Once you’ve found a job to apply to, you’ll need to make slight adjustments to your resume to tailor it for the job.

Use the same verbiage the employer uses in the job description to show you’re a perfect match.

Job description –  Entry Level Sales Account Executive

  • Utilizing proven sales methods to prospect and identify new buying opportunities.
  • Developing growth plans for customers.
  • Building a book of business through outbound phone sales.

Resume:

  • Implemented strategic marketing plan, delivering marketing fliers and business cards weekly
  • Managed the sales and production of my own personal painting company
  • Facilitate major marketing projects resulting in a 17% increase of clients and generating an additional $100,000 in revenue
  • Conducted 100 cold calls per day with team, resulting in 5 leads per hour

Tailored resume for Entry Level Sales Account Executive position:
(tailored portion is underlined)

  • Implemented proven sales methods to identify new buying opportunities, delivering marketing fliers and business cards weekly
  • Developed growth plans for customers by managing sales and production
  • Facilitate major marketing projects resulting in a 17% increase of clients and generating an additional $100,000 in revenue
  • Conducted 100 outbound phone sales per day with team, resulting in 5 leads per hour

Notice how the tailored resume is not exaggerated or stating false information.

Instead, the tailored resume simply changes wording to better match the job description.  This allows employers to easily see that the applicant’s skills align with the job functions.

And that’s when your phone rings.

 

What do you struggle with the most when it comes to writing a resume? 

Cari Stark graduated from the University of California, Irvine in 2013 as an English major. She is now the Marketing Manager for College Works Painting, a college internship designed to give students the opportunity to build a competitive resume and land their dream job when they graduate. Cari has contributed articles on Making Sense of CentsShe is Fierce, and After College.

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