9 Ways to Bulletproof Your Resume

By Laura DeCarlo

Part of Resumes For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Write a strong resume that gets you noticed. The following tips help you work up a great resume that sells your skills instead of ending up in the reject bin.

  • Make keywords count. Keywords help employers find out whether you’re a player for the job they’re filling. Industry-specific jargon counts for keywords. For example, “Series 7 licensing for brokers” and “triage” for nurses. Noun phrases indicate qualifications for requirements, such as “word processing,” “supply chain management,” and “product launches.” And every match of your qualifications and experience with a job’s requirements becomes a keyword.

  • Get your bearings. Use the web to research an employer before you apply for a job. Start with visiting the company’s website. Move on to sites like Hoover’s and BusinessWire.com. Until you know whom and what you are dealing with, you aren’t prepared to make a compelling case for yourself.

  • Use an uncluttered, eye-catching design. If your resume is busy and packed with content, it will cause employers to stop reading and move on to the next candidate. Pay attention to layout and typeface choice, as well as the openness effect of white space. Good type choices include Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri or Helvetica, but there are others as well. If you can use an 11-point font, do so — it’s easier on the eyes. For mobile resumes presented on small screens, consider 11-point to 14-point type.

  • Answer the “So what?” question. This question is hidden and lying in ambush in every employer’s mind. Forget about sticking to the old name-your-previous-responsibilities routine. Every single time you mention a duty or accomplishment, pretend someone fires back: So what? Who cares? What does it all mean? Imagining these questions isn’t really pretending — these are employer responses. If you can answer these by describing the challenge you faced, the actions you took, and the results you attained, you’ll have a recipe for success.

  • Discuss an upward track record. Without mentioning dollar amounts, style yourself as a winner by mentioning that you received promotions, awards, and bonuses.

  • Showcase anything that you did in the top 5 percent of company performance ratings or that received recognition and praise. Employers are impressed with the cream of the crop.

  • Don’t apologize on your resume for any weakness that you may observe in your professional self. Until you can do something about it, like get additional education or experience, don’t even think about shortcomings, and they certainly don’t belong on your resume.

  • Discuss teamwork in job descriptions, giving specific examples and results. Employers love the word teamwork. They like team building, too. Talk about participating in tough tasks that help focus teams. Speak of trust as being essential to teamwork. Say that you were part of a team that succeeded in reaching a unified goal. The difficulty comes in making clear for which portion of the team’s production you can take a bow. You must separate your contribution from the group’s. If you don’t, you chance being looked upon as one who falsely claims credit for work you didn’t do.

  • Give examples of leadership. Even as organizational structures flatten, every team needs a leader — unless you’re headed for a support job where leadership is a liability. In the same vein, vision and drive are desirable characteristics. What did you originate, initiate, spearhead, or propose? What have coworkers praised about you? What suggestions have employers accepted from you?