I often get asked for help with resumes, which I find ironic as a mere eight years ago I was stuck in a job that didn’t pay the bills, looking for better work and had to get help with my own resume. Since that time I’ve been promoted to a team leader within my organization, and one of my responsibilities is to interview potential intern and full-time candidates. Needless to say, I see a lot of resumes. The following tips will help your resume stand out in a crowd of equally qualified candidates. How do I know? Well I can tell you from experience that these are the things I look for, and that almost nobody does ninety percent of this.
Forget The Objective
I would say that almost every single resume I see starts with contact information followed by an objective. I’ve seen objectives as simple as:
To find a full time job in an IT environment.
I’ve seen some with a little more thought behind them such as:
To utilize my troubleshooting skills in a fast-paced customer service environment with a company that offers growth potential to hard working individuals.
Let’s be honest though. I as a hiring manager, regardless of how shallow it may sound, don’t really care what YOUR objective is. I care about finding the most qualified candidate(s) to fill open positions within my organization. Period. It’s great that you want to utilize your Microsoft Office skills, but what I really want to know is what you can do for me. It’s best to keep your resume to one page (two pages maximum if you have simply outstanding experience and need the room) so you’re wasting valuable real estate by including a statement letting me know what you’re looking to find.
Now, no matter how many resumes I review for friends and colleagues and give this advice, it never fails that a good majority of people just can’t come to grips with removing the objective and leave it on the page. If you fall into this group, might I suggest the following.
First of all, give it a different title. Professional Mission Statement, Value Statement, Professional Summary, whatever, as long as it eludes to what you can offer. Then word it in a way that will grab my attention. If you’ve got computer programming skills and you’ve been a part of a successful tech startup in the past, don’t use something similar to one of the examples I shared above. Instead use something like this:
To obtain a job as a software engineer with a forward thinking organization where I can utilize the experience I gained as a founding member of tech startup Cool Tech Company inc., to help the team successfully launch a new line of mobile applications, making them the first in their industry to enter the exciting trifecta which includes the social, mobile and cloud spaces.
This statement does a LOT more than the previous two. Sure it tells what I want, however it also shows what I bring to the table (programming, tech startup experience, knowledge of the social, mobile and cloud spaces), it shows that I am excited to help my new organization enter that space, and finally by choosing my words carefully, and talking about my new TEAM, I am able to show right on my resume that I am a team player.
Emphasize With Order
This one is pretty simple but it’s worth saying. Don’t just grab some random template from Microsoft and start filling it in. Put some thought about the order in which you organize your resume. For example the template I started with most recently began with experience and then education followed by skills. This was perfect for me (with the addition of an awards section and a community involvement section) because I had great work experience. However if you’re a recent graduate and don’t have much work experience, start with education and then experience.
A lot of people on the receiving end of resumes get so many that they glance at them quickly. Emphasize what you do have and not what you don’t have and do that by beginning with what you would most like to emphasize. If you went to Harvard, start with that. If you were Vice President of European Operations for Johnson & Johnson (don’t know if that is a real position within their organization), then start with that. If you’ve got some of both, then tailor the resume to the job being applied for. If their posting appears to be looking for specific experience and you have it, then start your resume with that.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
This one will definitely require some extra thought, but the results will be night and day. The idea is to essentially paint a picture with your words instead of just telling me what you can do. Make the words move. I know that probably makes no sense so let me give you an example. Don’t list Spanish as a skill if you have a skills section. I could list Spanish too, but all I know how to do is piss people off with it. Tell me what you can do with it. Say something like:
Able to utilize my Spanish language skills to translate user manuals.
Ok, now we’re talking. I may have some scripts for external customer training, and have been tossing around the idea of translating them to Spanish and offering the classes in a second language… I just don’t have anybody that can do it. Well, when I see your resume I’m probably going to gain some pretty quick interest.
If you had cash room responsibilities when you worked at the local grocery store while in college, don’t just list cash room as a responsibility, tell me that you were responsible for counting down six tills at the end of each business day and preparing the deposit for the following morning.
You get the idea. Don’t list single word skills and responsibilities. Tell me how you utilized them to do your job.
Want some practice? Here’s one I see all the time. Everyone thinks they can MULTITASK. Maybe they all can, but none of them tell me how. They just list the word multitask. How would you show me (instead of tell me) that you can perform multiple responsibilities at the same time?
This one is easy. If you’re going to tell me about something you did, and it can be quantified, then quantify it. For example, when I worked at Staples, we had a project within our district which involved individuals from one store taking a product group and coming up with a way to improve sales throughout the district. I was assigned our self branded printer labels and I was able to improve sales within our district. So I could say something like:
Improved sales on self branded printer labels in my district.
But that doesn’t really tell me much. And anybody can say that whether it’s true or not. To lend more credibility as well as show how much I improved those sales, I could instead quantify it by saying something along the lines of:
Lead an initiative within my district in which I created a campaign that improved self branded printer label sales by 17% in a three month time frame.
This tells me a) I lead the initiative, b) I improved the sales by 17%, and c) I did it in just three months. Much more impressive right! Bottom line, if something relates to numbers, tell me the actual numbers.
Cut The Fluff
If there’s one thing I hate to see more than anything else when reviewing a resume, it’s fluff. I would much rather see a solid, half-page resume filled with great experiences and education than the same resume filled with fluff to make it look bigger. What’s fluff you ask? Well it can be all sorts of things. Things such as skills that either a) everyone has or b) you better have if you’re applying for a certain job type. An example would be if you are applying to be a software engineer and you list skills such as Microsoft Office. I don’t need to see it. It distracts me from seeing the things that will really impress me about you, not to mention if I’m interviewing you for a position that you’ll even be turning a computer on, I’m assuming you wouldn’t be applying for it if you didn’t know how to use the basic Microsoft Office Suite. The only time I would recommend listing Office is if you have specific skills with it that not everyone has, such as VBA and/or Pivot Tables within Excel. However in these situations, you still don’t want to say you’re skilled in Microsoft Office. Instead say something like, Knowledge in using VBA within excel to create custom functions for spreadsheets. That’s much more likely to grab my attention.
What else can fluff be? Listing responsibilities for prior jobs that just doesn’t need to be included. If you were a cashier at Best Buy, and one of your responsibilities was cleaning the bathrooms every night, that’s probably not something you want to list unless you’re applying to to be part of the facilities team. Additionally, listing classes within your education section that aren’t relevant to the position probably don’t need to be included either. If I’m interviewing you for an accounting position and you took Intro to Music Theory, regardless of how much you love to play music and it was your favorite class, I don’t need to know about it.
You need to review your resume and be honest with yourself. If something you wrote wouldn’t impress you on somebody else’s resume, chances are it’s not going to impress the company you’re applying to either, regardless of how proud you are of that particular achievement.
This is especially true when you get to sections such as Skills or Awards, which I personally would omit unless there is something ultra impressive, or it’s relevant to the job. If you won the Pulitzer Prize, by all means, you deserve to have an Awards section, and it might even need to go first (see Emphasize with Order). If you’re trying to join the circus and you can juggle chainsaws with the blades on and running, you should probably have that listed in the skills section (and quantify it by telling me you’ve lost zero limbs).
Get Involved With Your Community
I can’t stress enough how much community involvement can help advance your career. The reason is simple. You’re able to get experience that you may not otherwise be able to get with your current employer. Say for example you want to get into project management at work, but you don’t have the education for it or any experience at all with it. Well go volunteer to be a producer for your local community theater. Chances are (especially if it’s a smaller town), they are begging for all the help they can get. It’s a win for both sides. Or perhaps you are eager to be a part of the marketing team at work, but you haven’t done anything with marketing since you took it as an elective fifteen years ago. Well seek out a local charity and help them run a few marketing campaigns, or perhaps even lead one up. I’ve gained so much valuable experience from being involved with my community that I can personally guarantee I would not be in my current position at work had I not had those experiences.
BONUS TIP: Add Some Flair
This one isn’t always possible. Many online job applications require your resume in a specific format, usually one that the computer on the other end can read and decipher. However whenever possible, make your resume LOOK visually unique. I learned this when I completed my first degree in graphic design. In that industry it’s a must, however let me share a couple of examples with you from my past.
I worked for Staples while in college as a stock boy, electronics associate among many other entry level positions. Eventually, I wanted more and a department manager, or lead as they called it, position opened up in merchandising, which was the department that sold the majority of the office products in the store. I created a resume that was a Staples Easy Button, and when you opened it up, it looked like a staples newspaper ad, where all the items for sale were the pieces of my resume. I’d like to say this landed me the job, but it didn’t. No sir, it landed me a better one. When my district manager saw my creativity, he offered me a position as the department manager of the Copy Center in a brand new store that wasn’t even built yet. A much more desirable position, one which came much more naturally to me, and because of this I was easily able to hit my monthly numbers. I had the number one copy center sales in the company the first year and a half which easily maxed out my monthly bonus.
Later in life I was working a second job as a waiter at Buffalo Wild Wings. Again, when I applied for the manager position (which wasn’t even posted) I did so by creating a resume that looked like a takeout menu in the style of Buffalo Wild Wings. Even though there wasn’t an open position at the time, this caught their attention and they interviewed me and offered me a position anyhow (although it took about six months).
It doesn’t have to be that involved though… just make it look unique (check out the example below). And if you can’t upload the unique one, bring a copy along as a leave behind.
That’s all for now. Do you have any additional tips you think would be useful? Any questions I didn’t answer that have been digging at your brain while you apply for new jobs? Is there another part of the process you’re dying to learn about (cover letters, thank you notes, leave behinds, interviews, etc)? Just leave them in the comments below.
[this article originally appeared on Extraordinarily Ordinary Girl]