Six ways to immediately improve the effectiveness of your resume

Saturday, October 28th, 2017 - Resume

Aesthetics and Formatting

One of the major downfalls I notice in reviewing resumes, is that the majority lack any visual appeal, are typically created using very common templates, and are inconsistent in their use of fonts and spacing. While content is very important in creating a resume that grabs the attention of a hiring manager, the aesthetics of that document can compel or repel someone’s interest. For that reason, it is imperative to be consistent in your formatting choices, create a theme to how your information is going to be presented, and engage the reader through the use of a professional and visually appealing layout.

Heading

While most may feel that this section is self-explanatory, I note major mistakes on most resumes. The heading on your resume should include your name, location (city and state), mobile phone number, and email address. Be sure to take a moment to look at your email address and verify that it reinforces the professional tone of your resume. I see many email addresses that contained birth years, ages, and other personal information that should not be presented on a resume. Also, never list a work phone number unless absolutely necessary, and never list your employer’s 800 number, as this could tell a prospective hiring manager that you do not value your employer’s resources. Lastly, although I could not determine this by looking at a resume alone, be sure you check your voice mail messages on all phone numbers listed, just to be sure they establish the first impression you are seeking.

Qualifications Summary

I am concerned when looking at many resumes readers submit, that the majority still do not contain qualifications summaries, and instead waste space disclosing a vague objective that serves no purpose. Defining your purpose or objective is critically important to the development of this section, but instead of simply stating your objective, this section, along with everything on your resume, should be developed to sell yourself for the type(s) of roles you are seeking. Develop this section based on a primary objective, presenting a brief summary of your key qualifiers related to your objective. Engage the reader or screener by performing due diligence to understand the keywords for the position(s) of interest, and infuse those keywords throughout this summary and the remainder of your resume. I will agree with many of you who noted that you struggled with this section, as it is typically the most difficult part of a resume to write. As a tip, start writing your resume from the bottom up, beginning with the easier sections and leading to the summary. Write the summary last so that you have a clear picture of what you have to offer your target audience. After I write a resume, I typically have several key points from a client’s background that I remember as being most important or impressive, and this guides the development of the summary. Writing this section immediately after creating your resume also helps as your background, qualifications, education, etc. is very fresh in your mind. If you are still struggling with this section, check out books from the library, samples on my site, or ask a friend / spouse to help you identify your key offerings and value.

Professional Experience

Next to the qualifications summary, a strong professional experience section, with achievements highlighted, is critical in driving a successful job search. A lot of candidates struggle in determining how many years of experience to disclose on their resume, and unfortunately while there are guidelines, there are no steadfast rules on this topic. As a general rule, you should plan on including about 8 to 15 years of experience, depending on how much of that experience enhances and supports your candidacy. Senior executives can plan to include more experience as it is assumed that when you reach a certain level, you have the experience to complement your high-level objective. Also, include only years, not months and years, of employment in order to minimize the appearance of gaps, overlaps, frequent job hops, etc. Quantify experiences to add personality to your resume (numbers jump off a page and draw the reader’s eye), being sure to focus more on accomplishments versus daily responsibilities. And when presenting accomplishments, highlight them as such, do not intermingle them with daily responsibilities or the hiring manager will not be able to ascertain your “value.” Lastly, present the big and save the small, meaning do not tell your life story, but present a succinct image of what you have done that positions you for your current career interests. Leave the smaller points for an interview as additional value-added information to support your candidacy.

Education

A lot of the resumes I review include unnecessary information within the education section. Don’t be afraid to omit the education section if it detracts from your candidacy. For example, if you completed one or two years of college quite some time ago, and a degree is not required for the positions you are pursuing, then focus instead on any professional development you have completed rather than highlighting something that could disqualify you when compared to another candidate with a similar background and a degree. Don’t include the year of graduation if it unnecessarily ages your candidacy. Never include high school information as it is assumed you have a diploma. Lastly, only note educational achievements if they are particularly stellar such as a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Value-Added Information

The sections that can be included on your resume are virtually limitless. Gauge each piece of value-added information as to whether it reinforces the professionalism of your resume and relates to your purpose. Be careful to not focus too heavily on non-professional engagements as they could remove focus from your key qualifiers, successes, and experiences. Consider the value of these experiences and whether they play a role in your personal or professional life.

I hope these tips will help you identify where you may be able to make changes with your resume to improve its effectiveness. For visual representations of many of the strategies reviewed, there are limitless resources available to job seekers including great resume books at the library, free assistance from local agencies, vast online resources, and professional resume writing firms like my own who partner with clients to identify their objectives, develop engaging content, and craft highly effective resumes. This is the perfect time of year to refine your job search in preparation for the January hiring rush, so regardless of the resources you select to use, be sure to take some time to develop a resume that sells your core competencies in relation to your current career goals.

Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Do you have a resume or job search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at [email protected] or watch her weekly ‘Dear Sam Live’ session on Ladybug Design’s Facebook page. For more about Sam’s resume writing services, visit www.ladybug-design.com or call 614-570-3442 or 1-888-952-3928.

 

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