Outstanding Résumés… And How To Write Them

It’s not terribly difficult to isolate the best résumé design for your needs.  After all, there are countless web articles, templates, software, and Resume Writing - Working on computer - B&Wservices available to help you achieve the most attractive layout and effectual result.  However, in this article, we are going to discuss what makes a résumé stand out, from the inside out.

Back when you applied for your very first job, maybe replenishing stock in a grocery store, it might have been a good idea to relate that you once had three concurrent paper routes for two different newspapers.  It showed that you were responsible, dedicated, and motivated.

Now that you have graduated college, or have been in the workforce for 10 to 20+ years, no one needs to know that except, perhaps, as a clever anecdote.  Save it for your biography, after you retire.

The First Thing They See

Your prospective employer will initially notice your name, contact information, and likely your general field or industry.  This is what you want the reader to keep in mind as they examine your résumé.  This is your “brand,” so make it big and bold and tie it to their needs.

However, there are other matters to also consider.

Write for the Machine

Today, more and more companies are using Applicant Tracking Software (ATS).  ATS programs identify the exact wording or vocabulary of the job description in order to filter applicants’ résumés.  Unfortunately, most applicants unsuccessfully exploit this fundamental property.

For instance, if the company with which you’re seeking employment is looking for a  SysAdmin, and expresses a preference for people familiar with Network Security, Problem Solving, Information Security Policies, Network Protocols, On-call, Process Improvement, Network Troubleshooting, and Firewall Administration, be sure to use as many of those exact phrases as are consistent with your experience.

One strategy is to envision every distinct phrase in the job description as being worth five points the first time you use it.  Build up your “score”, and the ATS program will add your résumé to the collection “for human review” instead of the “Thank you for your interest” pile.

Write for the Human, too

While software may effectively sort and analyze basic information, human beings are naturally more adept at analyzing and evaluating ambiguous information and reaching thoughtful conclusions.

Of course, copy/pasting the original job description could possibly trick older ATS programs into passing your résumé along; however, they have grown much more sophisticated, so relying on this method is certainly not recommended.  Even if that ploy succeeded initially, a hiring manager would see what had been done.

Tell Them What They Need To Know

It is said that the average HR manager typically reviews a résumé for an average maximum of six seconds before deciding whether or not the applicant has a shot at the job.

Do your best to provide a concise document which describes your accomplishments.  The employer knows the responsibilities involved with their position; after all they created it.  What they need from you is quantifiable, tangible data to help them see where you will fit within their organization.

Did you save “X” number of dollars over your predecessor in your position?  Did you retain 80 percent of customers that we’re thinking of moving on to another supplier?  Did you accumulate 130 percent in new sales figures?  Did you train 80 percent of all new employees, or were your trainees generating 27 percent more sales than those trained by others?  Show them the numbers!

Sell Yourself

The object here is to showcase your abilities, and then tie them in to their requirements.  This is best done within your job descriptions in the body of the résumé.  For instance, if you are applying for an Office Manager’s position which requires knowledge of recruiting and training employees – and one of your prior positions as a Human Resources Generalist required a similar skill set – ensure that this particular bullet-point appears first, and is not buried at the bottom of a long list of possibly more loosely-related responsibilities.

There has been recent deliberation on whether the “Objective” line (the opening statement describing your career goals) should still be used.  Many believe it tends to shift the focus to the applicant’s own needs and goals, rather than what they can do for the organization, itself.  If you are looking for an opening line, perhaps opt for verbiage which highlights what you can offer the company, instead.

The Takeaway: Remember the Basics

Resume Writing - graphicAuthor, lecturer, and Guinness Book of World Records IQ record-breaker, Marilyn Mach (aka; Marilyn vos Savant) once stated, “When our spelling is perfect, it’s invisible.  But when it’s flawed, it prompts strong negative associations”.

Given the level of competition in today’s job market, there truly is no margin for error, when it comes to your résumé. Spelling counts; grammar counts; explaining gaps in your work history counts.  You don’t want to risk a hiring manager making unwarranted assumptions because you failed to proofread or because you took some time off for an overseas sabbatical or to write a novel.

Moreover, relevancy also counts.  While there may be room to list hobbies and interests on certain types of résumés, keep these details to a minimum, and avoid divulging any extraneous personal information.

Be truthful, insightful, and describe why you are the best person for the job by including valid examples based on past performance.  Telling them why they need you makes you the best candidate of all.

Fred Coon, CEO


Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

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