Unless your résumé has been updated recently by a professional résumé writer, chances are it is woefully out of date and will greatly reduce your chances of securing a job interview. It is no news that the job market is fiercely competitive right now; if your résumé isn’t better than 80% of the other résumés submitted for the same job, it will likely wind up in the dreaded Reject pile.
While there is no substitute for professional writing, here are a few tips you can follow to be sure your résumé doesn’t scream “Reject Me!”
Name: Always place at the top of the first page, above any other information; no exceptions. Hint: If your name could be construed as either male of female, use a salutation (e.g. Mr. Robin Jones).
Telephone number: If listing more than one number, be sure to designate what they are (e.g. home (H), Mobile (M), etc.) If you only list one telephone number, this is not necessary. Use dashes or dots, not parentheses for a cleaner look. Hint: if you are in an international business, use dots (e.g. 123.555.1212)
E-mail address: If you don’t have one that sounds professional (e.g., just your first name or initial and last name), get another one. “Party_animal@yahoo” is not going to win you interviews. Hint: Make your email address a hyperlink so that it is easy for people to contact you.
Linkedin Profile URL: If you don’t have one get one. Also make this a live hyperlink on your résumé.
Always place a line under your contact information to separate it from the rest of the résumé.
If your résumé is 2 pages, be sure to place your name, telephone number(s) and email on the top of the second page. It is not necessary to repeat the other contact information.
Next, you need to decide on a headline, which should accurately describe the type of job your are seeking; e.g., “Corporate Attorney,” “Operations Executive,” Pharmaceutical Sales Manager.” Be as descriptive as possible. Hint: Change the headline to match different positions for which you are applying.
This section replaces “Objective.” Gone are the days of telling employers what you want; employers want to know what you can do for them. Summarize here your strongest and most relevant qualifications. In order to have impact, be sure to keep it brief and concise. The entire summary section should take up no more than ¼ of the page. There are numerous ways to structure your summary; you need to choose the one that best highlights your qualifications. You can use a paragraph format, bullet points, lists, or a combination of formats. Be sure to use the active voice, powerful verbs, and keywords that apply to the position in which you are interested. Hint: Write the Summary last, perusing your Experience for the best material.
List years of employment only; months are unnecessary and take up valuable space.
Place a brief description of each employer under its name, noting the type of industry and size of organization to give readers perspective.
This section is no longer a drawn out recitation of your job duties. A brief description of the scope of your responsibilities is appropriate; be sure to quantify where possible (e.g., “supervised 30 sales representatives;” “oversaw $3M budget”).
The heart of your job description, however, should be in the form of quantifiable achievements. Again, brief, concise statements about what you accomplished, in bulleted format, are the most powerful. (e.g., “Pioneered new business marketing plan that generated $1.5M in additional revenue.”) Use between 2—5 bullet points in any one section for maximum readability. It is not necessary to list every single accomplishment; choose the top ones only. If your accomplishments are complex and / or so varied that you need to list more than five, try breaking them into categories, then use sub-bullets under those to enhance readability.
As a general rule, your job descriptions should get progressively shorter the older the experience. In fact, it is typical to either drop experience that is more than 15 years old, or summarize it very briefly under a heading of “Early Experience.” There are two reasons for this: first, job history more than 15 years in the past is generally not relevant, and second, older job seekers want to avoid dating themselves.
List highest degrees obtained first. Follow degree with name of institution. If the degree is more than 15 years old, do not list dates. List honors or awards where appropriate. After degrees, list any relevant professional certifications, followed by other relevant training.
The above categories are necessary, but there are some optional categories you can place on your résumé provided there is space. These include any awards, volunteer or community activities, publications, foreign languages etc. Only include such additional information if it is relevant to the position you are seeking, or highlights a relevant personal quality or competency.
A final note: Proofread, proofread and proofread again! Nothing will get you eliminated faster than a typographical or grammatical error!
Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and some résumés do warrant deviating from the norm; however, the above guidelines will give you a general framework within which to work to begin to get your résumé up to date.
Judith E. Monaco, JD, CPRW, ACRW
Monaco Writing & Consulting Services, LLCMonaco Writing & Consulting Services
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