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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Your Resume Tips

Is your resume keeping you from getting the job you want? If so, it might be time to start from scratch on a new one.

The most important thing to remember is this: Your resume reflects you. You must be comfortable with it. Don’t ever adapt your resume simply because someone else told you it had to be done that way.

Resume layout and content are not exact sciences, what would be compelling to one person, might not even get read over by someone else.

Here are some tips to help you:

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, and get to it as quickly as possible. For example: Assisted customers with product selection. . .trained and supervised 15 new employees. . .organized special promotional events.” The table below lists some excerpts of how to make passive phrases more active.


Responsible for coordinating efforts of…
Responsible for the supervision of help desk analysts
Other responsibilities included recommending and training…
Had perfect attendance record
Provided network support
Improved network up time


Coordinated efforts of…
Supervised 10 help desk analysts
Also recommended and trained…
Honored for perfect attendance
Supported 200 network users
Increased network up time to 99.9%


When organizing a chronological resume, you should outline sections of your experience, education, and skills to communicate what you have accomplished. HR representatives and employers take less than a minute to scan your resume, so showcase and organize items into several concise and relevant segments.

Actual categories might include “Relevant Work Experience,” “Volunteer Experience,” “Computer Skills,” “Publications,” “Activities and Honors,” “Language Skills,” etc.


Don’t assume the employer will get your contact information from your cover letter. Cover letters are sometimes discarded without being read. Put your contact information on the resume itself. Make sure you include your name on page two if you have one. If you list more than one phone number, label each as “home,” “mobile,” or “office.”

The job descriptions should tell a potential employer what you know how to do and can bring to the new job, or what you’ve done that will help you learn how to perform the new job. I recommend listing your job title first, as in:

TECHNICAL WRITER. ABC Publishing, March 1999 to Present.

Then enter the job description starting on a new line. For each job description, describe what you did (or do), as succinctly as possible. Be specific. You should tailor your resume to match the job description, so be sure to cut and paste accordingly. Use bulleted lists where appropriate.


No matter what means you use to submit your resume to prospective employers, you should try to keep your font plain and easy to read. We suggest using a sans serif font like Arial or Verdana, that is easy to read and will fax or photocopy cleanly.

Use a 10- or 12-point font for the text of your resume. Don’t make potential employers squint.

Use a larger font only for your name. Use bold or underlining to emphasize anything else, such as a job title.


Just because you have Microsoft Word and all of its formatting capabilities, your resume 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.


Do your best to keep it to one page, and don’t go beyond two pages. If it doesn’t all fit – cut it down to the most relevant and impressive items. Here are a few suggestions:

The contact information took up almost two vertical inches of space, including two unlabeled telephone numbers and two e-mail addresses, all on separate lines – this is wasted real estate when it comes to a resume.

All the names of the employers were bigger and bolder than the job titles, which is backward. Your goal should be to have your job titles stand out more. Click here for an example.

The job descriptions were blocks of text, each seven to 10 lines long. Consider shortening them using bullet points – it makes a resume much easier to read and comprehend.

The resume spilled over onto a second page and there was no name or page number on that second page. With such small detail on page two, the second page should be eliminated in this case.

The Education section listed eight lines’ worth of academic achievements and extracurricular activities. Consider eliminating some of the extracurricular activities before eliminating the education information.


That’s right – 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? What was the percentage of “down-time” reduced after you supervised the Server Optimization Project? This approach immediately highlights the kind of impact you’ve made.


Don’t always list an objective. On rare occasions, if you have inside information about the job, an objective might work. Otherwise, it will only waste valuable resume real estate.

If you do list an objective, make it specific for the job, and make sure it states what you can do for the company, not what you are looking for the company to do for you. Here are a few examples:

Bad:       ”To use my technical and communication skills in a growing high-tech firm.”

Worse:     ”To get a good job in a growing company where I can learn a lot, and make a lot of money..”

Better:  “To be a DBA working with Sybase on HR, payroll or customer systems.”

Instead of an objective, think about including a summary. If written properly, it is an area that will give the reviewer a good feel for your ability. This is the place in the resume that will grab the attention of the person reviewing your resume. It is here that the decision is made to “read further”, or to “go on to the next one”.


It’s all about function versus chronology: In functional resumes, 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 resumes list your jobs (and duties for each) in reverse chronological order. If you’re a regular college grad, the chronological format is suggested. Most employers expect to see that format and it best highlights your education and relevant work experience.

If you have formal education but little experience, list your education first. 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.

List your specialties, such as operating systems and applications, in a separate section. Like it or not, the first pass made by many employers is to look for key words and phrases.


Even if you don’t snail-mail your resume to employers, you should have hard copies on hand to bring to interviews. These copies should be on tasteful, resume-quality paper. White, off-white, cream, and gray are the easiest to read. Your cover letters, mailing envelopes, and resumes should all match.


Your resume should be able to answer these four basic questions:

1. What do you want to do?
2. Why are you qualified to do it?
3. Where have you done it?
4. How well have you done it?

If your resume contains the answers to these questions, it will make it much easier on the person that is reviewing it, and could be the difference between you getting the interview or not.


Don’t use “References Furnished Upon Request.” People recruiting and interviewing know that you’ll furnish references, if asked. Instead, be proactive and submit a list of references, on a separate page, when you submit your resume. If employers are interested in you, waiting for references only holds up the process.

To format your references, copy the name and contact information from your resume and paste it onto a new page. Then list contact information for three or four references, and don’t forget to tell your references that someone might be calling.


Content Errors

Errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar are often considered proof of poor written communication skills, or a lack of attention to detail. Even if the position does not directly require strength in these areas, questions are raised about a candidate’s overall standards. The resume is your shot at marketing yourself into the interview. If candidates are ignoring spelling and grammatical errors, companies may think twice about how their standards measure up.

Employment Gaps

Are they hiding something? Did they take that long to find another job? If so, is something wrong with them? The truth is, employment gaps are not uncommon. Although spotting employment gaps may prompt companies to raise a red flag immediately, they usually just want to know more about the candidate’s thought process. Maybe the candidate quit their last job to start a small side business that failed. Or maybe they simply wanted take a long-deserved break. Whatever the reason, there’s always a decision-making process involved that may provide useful information.

Incorrect Information

Someone “MCSE-certified” should not claim to be “MCES-certified.” An extreme explanation for this red flag is that the candidate has provided false information. On the other hand, there’s a good possibility that this is simply a typographical error. Either way, these errors make one wonder whether a candidate is honest or detail-oriented enough for the job.

Another red flag is raised when a candidate lists degrees or certifications acquired, but are still in the process of obtaining them.

Inflated Titles

“People can fudge titles or claim that they worked at a place longer than they did. An inflated title is sometimes obvious: It elevates the candidate unrealistically from one job to the next in their career trajectory. But inflated titles are not always due to a candidate’s lack of honesty. Start-up companies admit to having inflated titles in order to boost morale. Also, smaller companies will tend to have people such as VP’s and CFO’s who were formerly managers or directors in larger organizations. The key in interpreting an inflated title, real or false, is to clearly understand what the role of the person was in that job.

No Proof

Degrees, training, licensing, and certifications are very important in today’s workforce. If you list any of these on your resume, bring the proof of them to the interview. Don’t volunteer to produce the documents, but if any questions arise during the interview about them, ask the interviewer if they would like to see them. If you wish, you may also bring copies to leave with the company. If you do get hired, they will be a valuable addition to your personnel file.

Short Tenures

The word “job hopper” comes to mind. But are short tenures necessarily a negative? Not always. More often than not, a candidate will explain short stays at each company with reasons that appear valid. Due to dizzying trends in our global economy, it is possible that the candidate was a victim of layoffs, company closures, or sweeping cutbacks. Good resume reviewers think beyond the job moves and wonder how candidates arrived at their decisions be thoroughly prepared to answer questions regarding any short-term employment in your resume. If you have taken multiple assignment through an agency, or worked for a consulting firm, it is possible to consolidate your assignments on paper.


Do you know what it’s like to set up a Personal Search Agent, then get back hundreds of job listings you don’t really want? Employers do, too. They get thousands of e-resumes for any one job, and somebody has to screen them all.

That’s why more companies are using computers to scan the resumes for information. To help employers find you, it’s important to understand how a computer is used in this manner.

You should have two versions of your resume. One should be properly formatted for easy reading, as the tips on this page show. The most common is a Microsoft Word document, which has a .doc extension. This is the resume that you will use when the instructions are to “send your resume as an attachment”, because the reader will be viewing it on their screen or printing it.

The other resume should be plain text, with absolutely no formatting at all. The file type for this document would have a .txt extension. This resume is the one that you would paste into on-line job applications, or send to a company that scans the resumes into their computers to search for keywords.

If there are no specific instructions from the company on which type they are looking for, it is acceptable to send both files. Just make sure you state that in your e-mail.

Critical Requirements

Be sure you meet all of the critical job requirements. Here’s the acid test: If you can’t be 100 percent productive in 30 days, you’re probably not qualified. If the technology is new, for example, highlight related skills instead of traditional ones. The typical requirements for a job may be anything but typical.

Critical Skills

Consider this sample keyword list of critical skills and facts for an Oracle project manager: “Oracle. Project management for Oracle HR application. Team leader for 6-month implementation of Oracle Version 7.6. Development of Oracle Payroll application. Team builder. Organizational skills. Budget Management. Meets deadlines. $80,000 salary.”

This list immediately makes 13 search combination’s possible – all simple, specific, and unique: Oracle + project management, Oracle + development, Oracle + HR, Oracle + Team Leader, etc.

When responding to an online job posting, make sure that your resume has all of the critical skills listed. Test it for yourself – mark down the skills and let the computer search your resume for the words. If you have the skills, make sure they are listed on your resume – and the more times they are listed, the better your chances of getting called for that interview.


There are a few computer basics to keep in mind when creating an effective e-resume. Play it safe with ASCII. HTML formatting looks great, but is not readable by every employer. Any key on your keyboard is ASCII. Other keys or symbols are not, and should therefore be avoided.

Use simple fonts: Arial, Courier, and Times Roman are the best. Set narrow margins, about 4.5 inches and flush left, to ease cutting-and-pasting of online resumes. And save your e-resume as a .txt file (the basic format for ASCII or MS-DOS files).

Keyword List

Include hard and soft skills in this order:

Technical knowledge

Key action words (implementation, development)

Relevant personal qualities (“organizational skills” or “detail-minded”)

Daily-use software (MS Project, Word, etc.)

Clich skills like teamwork and time management–provided they’re important to your job.

Order of Importance

Employers search for their most important criteria first – the same way they write job listings. If they are reading your resume on the computer, the information listed first is extremely important. So put your contact info, keywords, summary/ objective, achievements, and your 10 most recent years of experience first. Then list other jobs, education, affiliations, or particulars like Spanish, Veteran, Will Travel.


Having at least three mentions of each critical skill triples the odds of an employer finding and selecting your resume. Remember to be creative and leverage any acronyms: “Oracle knowledge, Development of Oracle HR system, Implementation of Oracle Version 7.6, and Team leader on Oracle payroll system project” produces four “Oracle” hits. “NT, Windows NT, and Win/NT” returns 3 “NT” hits.


Just saying “Oracle” doesn’t work. Direct hits are like sales leads: to be useful, they must be qualified. Be detailed, tell employers exactly what you did on your last job and how you pushed the limits with your accomplishments.

Treat your e-resume like a newspaper ad. Passive marketing doesn’t work. Most employers still hire through traditional channels, so use a one-two punch: Send your resume and then follow up. It gets more attention and conveys more interest than a printout.

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