As the economy slowly improves and job seekers are chasing
after fewer and fewer jobs, what you put on your resume has become
more important than ever. Before you send your resume anywhere, run
it through this quick five-point checklist to determine if it needs
a tune-up or a complete overhaul.
1. Clear objective
There has been a lot of debate lately among the resume writing
"chattering classes" about whether today's resumes even need an
objective. After 15 years of reading resumes for my clients, my
answer is definitely "Yes." However, I should clarify. By
"objective" I'm not referring to the fluff that most job seekers
concoct. The objective should be your targeted job title and
nothing more. This focuses the resume and necessitates that you use
the rest of the resume to support why you're the best candidate to
fill this particular job title. It also leaves no doubt in your
reader's mind about who you are.
2. Opening statement
Does your resume open with a long paragraph titled, "Summary
of Qualifications?" Problem: Of the thousands that I've read over
the years, most are nothing more than fiction. Long laundry lists
of skills and assorted keywords. Two of the biggest offenders are
"Results-Driven" and that ever popular, "Proven Track
If your resume looks like this, you might want to rethink your
approach. Don't bore your reader by emphasizing keywords and
hackneyed clichés. Employers want to know how you can solve
their problem right now. Don't annoy them by failing to answer this
Instead, include a simple, concise opening statement. This one
sentence is usually called a Unique Selling Proposition. It should
define who you are, your single biggest strength and end with a
benefit that you offer. Ideally it should be something measurable,
since everything boils down to dollars. This strips away the fluff
and quickly answers that critical question in their mind. Do this
and you make it easy for them to call you.
3. Measurable results
OK, now you have a great opening statement. For Act Two, you
must back that up with added proof. Don't rely on tired
clichés. Tantalize them with a bulleted list of specific
achievements. By achievements, I mean an end result that reaped
some benefit for either your employer or the client you've worked
This may require that you think outside your box or cubicle.
Regardless of your role, you have a bottom line impact on your
employer. Your job is to communicate your true value clearly and
specifically to your next employer. It may take a bit of effort to
develop these bullets. And that's all they should be. No more than
a one-sentence brief description of the benefit or result and how
you accomplished it.
If you can put together a concise list of 5 to 7 good
achievements that are Return-on-Investment (ROI)-oriented, you'll
score a lot quicker than relying on those unexciting
4. One job title, one resume
Resume readers are very focused and they're looking for
specific items. They have very short attention spans and can be
easily distracted. When they get distracted, they start getting
confused, and when that happens, they screen you out and reach for
the next resume.
So, if you are looking for a position as a project manager,
tell them why you're a great project manager. That's all they want
to know. Don't tell them about how you used to work as a carpenter
or how you managed and ran your own consulting business. They don't
want or need to know about your other unrelated careers or
positions. Even if you were great at them.
Use one resume to sell one job title. If the resume doesn't
clearly explain why you're the best project manager in your city,
then either drop the information or minimize it because it doesn't
Stick with one career on one resume and you'll have less
chance of getting screened out.
5. "Above the fold"
Place all of your most important selling information at the
very top half of page one. Most resume readers spend about 20
seconds of actual eyeball time before they decide to move to the
next resume. They are not going to waste their time looking through
your resume to find critical information, such as how you
"increased revenues $350K," or you "decreased labor costs by 12%."
This information should be polished like gemstones and presented on
a silver platter at the very top of the first page. Do this, and
they'll be spending a lot longer than 20 seconds on your
If you use the five points above to measure the effectiveness
of your resume, you may discover several areas where your current
resume needs strengthening. Make the fixes now before you send your
resume anywhere, and you'll be more likely to have prospective
employers call you.