10 Ways to Improve Your Resume - dummies

By Laura DeCarlo

Think your resume could sparkle with a few tweaks? Feeling like you’ve busted your chops and still are on the outside looking in? Close but no cigar? Here are ten easy fixes to power up your resume to OnTarget status.

Match your resume to the job

To dart past job software filters, a resume must closely meet the requirements in the job description. If you know what company recruiters are looking for, make sure you put it in the top quarter of your resume. If instead you’re posting your resume in databanks, research the career field for typical requirements and include those that apply to you.

Use bulleted style for easy reading

Using one- or two-liners opens up your resume with white space, making it more appealing to read. Professional advertising copywriters know that big blocks of text suffocate readers. Let your words breathe!

Discover art of lost articles

Although using articles — a, an, and the — in your resume isn’t wrong, try deleting them for a crisper and snappier end result. Recruiters and employers expect to read resumes in compact phrases, not fully developed sentences. The first person I is another word that your resume doesn’t need. Look at the following examples:

With Articles Without Articles
I reported to the plant manager of the largest manufacturer of
silicone-based waxes and polishes.
Reported to plant manager of largest manufacturer of
silicone-based waxes and polishes.
I worked as the only administrative person on a large
construction site.
Worked as only administrative person on large construction

Sell, don’t tell

Forget sticking to the old naming-your-previous-responsibilities routine. Merely listing “Responsible for XYZ” doesn’t assure the prospective employer that you met your responsibility or that the result of your efforts was worth the money someone paid you. Plus, this kind of generic overview won’t make you stand out from all the other qualified applicants.

By contrast, read over your resume and make sure you have answered that pesky “So what?” question, which is lying in ambush for each bit of information you mention. Try to imagine what’s running through a prospective employer’s mind when you relate that you were responsible for XYZ: So what? Who cares? Whats in it for me? Anticipate those questions and answer them by including the challenge you faced, the actions you took, and the results you attained.

Show off your assets

Employers are wild about snaring the cream of the crop. If you’re in the top 5 percent of any significant group (graduation, sales, attendance record, performance ratings), make sure that fact appears prominently on your resume. Use dollar amounts, percentages, rankings, awards, and honors to make it clear.

Make sure your words play well together

Old wisdom: Use a lot of action verbs to perk up reading interest in resumes. Later wisdom: Cash in some of the action verbs for nouns, the keywords that ward off anonymity in sleeping resume databases. New wisdom: Use both nouns and verbs.

Reach out with strength

Highlight the qualifications and past job activities that speak to the kind of job you want and the skills you want to use. If, for instance, you want to transition from military training to civilian training, remain riveted to your training skills without diluting your message by mentioning your ability to keyboard 80 words per minute.

Don’t muddle your resume’s message with minor skills or skills you no longer want to use or need for the position for which you are applying; stay on message.

Trash a wimpy objective

Imagine an actor striding onto a stage, stopping, and then standing there like a log, addressing the audience: “I came to find out what you can do for me.”

Not exactly a curtain raiser — any more than beginning your resume with simply awful objective statements like: “Seeking a chance for advancement,” or “where my skills will be utilized.”

Retire trite messages like this one: “To obtain a responsible job with challenging and rewarding duties.” Does someone out there really want an irresponsible position? One that’s dull and unrewarding?

Cross out these generic meanderings and go for a straightforward objective header statement that parrots back to the employer the job for which you’re applying. If your target position is Project Manager, then your objective header can be “Project Manager – PMP Certified.

Deliver the right document

If it just isn’t clear from the job advertisement what file format of resume is desired by the HR department, go ahead and ask. But when you can’t reach someone and don’t know the answer, cover your bases. Submit a resume saved in a .doc format along with one formatted in ASCII (plain text).

Erase the “leave-outs”

Eliminate clutter by removing useless information that doesn’t support the reasons why you’re a qualified candidate. Here’s a short list of the worst offenders:

  • “References available on request.” Listing the actual references on your resume is even worse.

  • Your Social Security number or driver’s license number.

  • The date your resume was prepared.

  • Your company’s telephone number.

  • Your high school or grammar school.

  • Dates you spent involved in college extracurricular activities.

  • Dates you were involved with professional or civic organizations, unless you’re using them to fill in gaps or add heft to your claims.

  • Names of (human) past employers; put these on your reference sheet with contact information.