If your name was cut from your resume, would your best friend or spouse know it was yours? If not, you have a problem: The descriptions of your jobs and your accomplishments are too generic; your resume lacks individuality. It will not perform the single function for which it is intended - to sell the unique you.
It must, even when formatted for the web, cause a screener to pick up the telephone or send you an e-mail. To help you achieve this, here are three rules for composing statements that tout your accomplishments:
- The result must matter to someone, preferably an organization's customers or clientele.
- The result must have had a favorable economic impact - i.e., enhanced the bottom line.
- The result must illustrate your competence by highlighting your skills, diligence and experience.
A common problem in most resumes is the use of general verbs and adjectives instead of forceful, highly specific facts. It doesn't work. Following are some typical, weakly worded statements and ways to rework them. While these examples relate to management positions, the same principles apply to lower-level jobs. What sets you apart from other applicants? What unique attributes would you bring to the company? Your answers will provide the clues you need to power up your resume.
Generic: "Responsible for managing staff and developing customer relationships for a multinational food distributor."
How many staff members? How many clients? How important are customer relationships to profits? A screener will assume that whatever you mention is critical to your organization. If not, save the space for something that is important.
Specific: "Responsible for managing a staff of seven, enhancing customer satisfaction for 11 key accounts which produce 13 percent of the division's profits. Customer satisfaction survey conducted in May 2002 revealed that our division was the highest rated by each of these accounts. Typical comments included . . . ''
Now bullet some important results using as many specific figures - numbers, dollars, percentages, etc - as possible.
Generic: ''Completed more than 30 hours of professional education in selling (or finance or writing, etc.)''
Bully for you, but why should a prospective hirer be impressed? Was it a boondoggle? A perk? Or did it actually improve your ability to do your job. In other words, what was the result of that training? If you want to sell continuing education to a hirer, show it resulted in noticeable changes in performance, outcomes or profits. If so, name the course and the result. If not, leave it out.
Specific: "Finished 30 hours of intensive writing instruction resulting in shorter, more cohesive reports produced in half the time. Complimented by the marketing director and the vice president."
For this type of claim, it's a good idea to have samples of your work available.
Generic: "Trained client's staff in software use."
What was the name of the software? How large was the staff? How long did it take? Did you conduct the training onsite or were you the backup and support for interactive software? This makes a difference to a screener who is trying to evaluate your techie skills. Did the training generate profits for the client or solve a problem? Was it an upgrade to an existing system? You must position the value before you give details.
Specific: "Trained client's 30-member accounting staff on BigTime BeanCounter software, using interactive distance learning. Received highest evaluations from trainees. Client saved $1 million the first year."
Add a couple a quotes from satisfied trainees, if possible.
Generic: ''Planned and implemented senior management meeting."
Unless you can position this as something that made a difference or you are applying for a position as a professional meeting planner, what's your point? Meeting planning is important, but it falls into the ''random tasks'' category, most of which mean nothing unless there's a result statement with accompanying numbers.
Specific: ''Organized and presented new data-mining results to the company's CEO and three vice presidents. Management committee approved a $250,000 budget for next year's data-mining project and voted to include results in the annual report."
Generic: ''Presented recommendations to the budget committee which were approved for implementation.''
Don't assume that because your title is listed on your resume as "Production Manager" that the screener knows what you're talking about. Screeners aren't your peers. They may not even be in your industry. Spell out the important stuff.
Specific: ''Presented three cost-cutting recommendations to the 14-member bduget committee, which approved them without amendment."
This is better, but still should only be listed as a fourth or fifth accomplishment unless it was part of a reorganization or other organization-changing event such as a merger or big downsizing.
Recruiters tell us there is a "this year/last year'' flavor to resumes. If you haven't worked for a dot-com in four years, don't load up your resume with your dot-com experiences. If your resume seems out of date, look to your current job for new results. (If there aren't any, you have a problem no amount of writing skill will overcome.)
We've found it helpful if two noncompeting job hunters read each other's resume and ask questions. This is tedious, but someone else can see the holes in your resume more readily than you can.
Most important: As you define (or redefine) your job objective, tinker with your resume. Keep in mind that whatever skills you highlight must be something you really like to do. A screener will assume anything you cite on your resume is something you're proud of and want to continue doing.