I’ve recently been working with some wonderful women on their resumes, helping them update them as they look for a new direction in their career paths. One of the tough things about resumes is that because they are so personal, they can be so hard to write without a helping hand. There are so many things we want to highlight and illustrate; we want to prove we are well-qualified for the job, but it can be so hard to know what to include, and perhaps even more difficult, what to exclude. There are a few things to bear in mind before we get too carried away. Here are some tips to enhance your resume:
Targeted Key Words
It is absolutely vital, for both your resume and your cover letter, that you include key words that are mentioned in the job ad. If you are applying for a job that has not been advertised, then simply find a similar sounding position online and use those key words. Why are these key words so important?
Well, the reason is two-fold.
A) These days, many resumes are put through search engine-like scanners that check to see if you have what the ad asks for. You may have all the essential qualifications they ask for, but if you don’t word them the way the ad specifies, then you run the risk of being passed over.
B) Bear in mind that the person who reads your resume first may not be in the same profession that you are. They may be an HR Manager, who has a general knowledge of what the company is looking for, and has a copy of the same job description listed in the ad, but they don’t necessarily understand what it is that you do. They will scan for easily identifiable, relevant key words. Make their job easier by using similar language and targeted keywords.
Although this may seem like a lot of work, tailor-making each resume (and cover letter for that matter), you will find that similar positions ask for similar things, so all you need to do is just tweak the main draft you have to suit each slightly different position.
Clear, Measurable Duties
When you are listing the duties/explaining what it is you did under your previous positions, it is important to remember a few things. You need to ensure you cover measurable achievements. Don’t just say you increased productivity in your department. Put a percentage to it; show the number of people you managed; put down figures that people can understand and that give tangibility to your experience. Try and think of five key duties or tasks that you performed under each position. If you have held similar positions in different companies, then highlight different aspects of the job (remembering those key words). Use strong verbs and precise, active descriptions. Also remember that your resume is more a fact sheet of your achievements. Try not to be too wordy; rather save the elaborations and “stories” of what you have done for your cover letter.
Focus on the Receiver
Perhaps one of the hardest things to do with a resume or cover letter is to adapt it to the audience. We get so caught up in trying to show what we have done, that we forget to prove how it will benefit the company organisation that is hiring. Try and think of how you can list your experience in a way that shows what it will bring to the position, not what you’ll get out of being hired. Prove to them, through the measurables and the key words, that you have what they are asking for, and that you are eager to bring those skills to work for them. Although this is easier to do in your cover letter, it is still important to bear this in mind in every aspect of your resume, from design to content. Does everything you mention cover not only your “hard” /technical skills, but your “soft” skills too (i.e. communication skills, interpersonal and teamwork abilities, and organisational skills)?
Remember that many people may have the same “hard” skills as you, but you bring your experience and your “soft” skills, and as importantly, your personality to the position. You need to ensure that this is illustrated in your resume and your cover letter.
I know that job hunting can be depressing, challenging and frustrating, but the more you focus on how to prove to a potential employer that you have what he or she is looking for, the greater your chance of success will be. If you would like more tips on resumes, please feel free to read an article I wrote for Suite101.com entitled Writing the Perfect Resume and its companion articles on cover letters and interview skills. Please also feel free to email me to set up a one-on-one resume consultation, if you are in the Vancouver, BC area.