Great resumes don't simply happen-they are planned carefully, and all share a set of specific aspects that set them apart from the rest of the pack. Those aspects are as follows:
1. The purpose of a resume is to position you for the next job you plan to take. So your resume should be written, not to the past, but to the future. The person reading your resume should be able to envision you performing the job being advertised before s/he is finished reading. How do you do that? By relating your accomplishments in such a way that you show that you've met the challenges of that job before.
2. A resume is a commercial, and the product being sold is YOU. Think of the most memorable commercials you have seen on TV or heard on radio. Chances are they all made a clear statement about what the product was and what it would do for you. There's the shaving cream commercial that ends with the wife giving her clean-shaven man a big hug. Or the diet plan commercials that promise you'll lose weight. That clear statement is called a Unique Selling Proposition, or USP, and your resume must have one too. The USP is the talent, skill, personal trait, experience, or some other intangible that sets you apart from the competition. Were you the first, the best, or the most effective at something? That can be your USP.
3. A resume must include all contact information so employers can reach you easily. These days, in addition to name, address, phone number, and e-mail address, you may want to consider including your web page, LinkedIn address, or other online presence. And your e-mail address must be something professional: Hotstuff (at) xxx.com will give the wrong impression. Consider changing the address to your name (at) your e-mail provider.
4. A strong profile or summary is critical to a successful resume. This is where you will get the opportunity to lay out your USP. You have a few lines in which to get the reader's attention and sell that reader on why you are the answer to the company's need. Daunting? You bet. But if you've researched the industry and company you're targeting, you ought to be able to come up with the reason why that company should hire you. If you can't... perhaps you're targeting the wrong company.
5. A successful resume must be rich in keywords related to the targeted industry. You will find these keywords right in the ad, and you must include them if you want your resume to get past the initial reader. These days, that "reader" may possibly be a computer programmed to search for specific words and phrases, so it is critical that your resume include this language.
6. Now we come to the most important aspect of a successful resume: Accomplishments. It used to be that you could write a job history on your resume and get hired based on that, but no more. Employers nowadays want to know what results you've achieved. Items such as "answered phones all day," "work well with others," or "solid team-building skills" will simply not fly any more. Now the emphasis is on what you did with those duties; how you turned each instance of performing your duty into something great and wonderful. So you didn't just answer phones all day, you "served as an impassable gate guardian," which enabled your manager(s) to fulfill their responsibilities without interruptions. You didn't simply work well with others or possess solid team-building skills, you "assembled diverse individuals and molded them into a solid team working towards a common goal." Employers don't buy duties, they buy results, and your resume had better show plenty of results. As motivational speaker and career coach Jay Block has said, "A resume without accomplishments is like a report card without marks."
7. Education, Awards, Honors: You might think including an Education section goes without saying, yet I have seen numerous resumes that left off this important element. Education is so important, employers frequently included it as a "must have" in their job requirements. To leave education off your resume is to automatically count yourself out of most of the positions you'll be applying for. If you possess a college degree, you can leave your high school education off the resume, which will save the space for something else, but by all means include your education.
Awards and honors can be seen as part of achievements or as part of education, but if you have them, you need to show them. Did you win Employee of the Month? Out-sell your competition and your team members? Did you discover some new catalyst that caused the chemical reaction you'd been seeking for over a year? Tell the employer about it. To leave such off the resume is to cheat yourself of the credit you richly deserve, and could mean the difference between your resume ending up in the "Yes" pile or the "No" pile.
All of these aspects, when used together properly, can make the difference between success and failure of the resume. Make sure your resume has them before you send it out. Your future depends on it.
Jack Mulcahy, founder of WinningResumes.com, has over 40 years professional writing experience. His work has been published in newspapers, magazines, newsletters, books, and online blogs. Accolades include the ACRW and CARW, two of the highest and most exclusive certifications awarded to résumé writers. As a professional résumé writer, Jack's work has generated interviews for thousands of clients. In addition, his career includes employment in the business, non-profit, entrepreneurial, and government sectors. For more information, visit WinningResumes.com.© 2014 Jack Mulcahy
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