The purpose of the resume is to catch an eye and get a phone call and interview from a prospective employer.
What we mean by this is that in today’s world of electronic media, large databases, impersonal connections, and strong competition for fewer jobs you, the job candidate, have to cleverly navigate through these obstacles to rise above the others if you hope to have any chance of being seen and heard. Producing a resume that successfully moves you through these perilous channels and elevates you to an interview requires a special effort, keen skills and adaptability.
Your resume must tell an employer/recruiter a compelling story about you and your professional experience, knowledge and skill set. More than ever, your resume is the key to a successful employment and career advancement. Failure to craft one that achieves this is not an option.
What do we mean by “catch an eye?” With technology and having to do more with less in the tighter economy, many employers today are reducing the personal element of job seekers to inquire about an employment opportunity by routing inquiries and applications. They do so by employing the use of databases, software and inside / outside human resources staff or recruiters to screen candidates.
So more than ever, to “catch an eye” your resume must include several all important ingredients. Why? Because the person on the other end initially sorting through the database (generally a lower- or mid-level HR professional with less or no technical planning experience in your field) is using key words related to the job description in an attempt to find resumes that will pop up that closely match the position to be filled. Think of this as the first cut. These then get forwarded on to more experienced professionals for further review.
To catch that persons’ eye we need to start with the basics. This includes your name, address, city, state, zip, phone number and email address, and perhaps your LinkedIn URL. This may seem obvious, but it still surprises us today how many people submit resumes that only include a name and no contact information or limited contact information (probably 10 percent of resumes). It’s no wonder their phone never rings.
And while some might make a case for excluding your address because of Google Earth or other privacy issues, you are not going to get far in the process until the recruiter knows where you are geographically. In fact some will disqualify you if you don’t have proper contact information. This is because they aren’t willing to go through the process of tracking you down or going through a much slower and longer contact effort if you aren’t easily reachable.
If you are thinking of limiting geographic information due to concerns about relocation related issues, just make a point to address relocation up front. If you are willing and able to relocate, state so in the resume and cover letter.
Key Words & Definable Skills
The second key ingredient is the use of key words. Dissect the job description, pulling out the key sentences that state the purpose of the position, the most important duties and responsibilities, and the required qualifications. Incorporate these into your resume; remaining as close to the actual verbiage as possible.
This is because it’s common practice for HR analysts searching the resume database to type in those key phrases. In fact, some software systems will eliminate you from viewing even if you applied for a specific position if you don’t meet some key word criteria. So if you have included these into the main body of your resume you have a much greater chance of catching the eye of the human resource staff member or recruiter. This is the first important step for gaining an interview.
Now that you have caught the eye of the recruiter, your resume is being read to see how you match up to the opportunity. The more closely you state in your resume that you are a near perfect match to the position, the greater chance you will have getting that all important initial interview phone call.
One of the more successful methods we have discovered in producing professional resumes for job candidates is using a “Professional Profile” section at the top of the resume. This is done for two purposes; first of course is to get those key words and phrases into the resume, but just as important, it allows for you to customize each resume to match up to the particular position you are seeking.
For the most part, the main body of your resume, sections that include your work history, project list, professional affiliations and certifications, and education, will not change. So using a “Professional Profile” section in lieu of the common “Objective” practice will enable you to weave into your resume those all important phrases. Plus, you can easily and quickly customize your resume as appropriate to each position you are seeking.
Other key ingredients in a powerful resume include a chronological order of your employment history (starting with most current), including the name of the employing organization, city and state where located, years of employment, and your job title.
It’s important that you not simply state your job duties and responsibilities for this doesn’t explain what you did or accomplished. In the course of performing your duties and responsibilities associated with the position, clearly explain what you did and what the outcome was. For every task we complete we have accomplished an objective.
Tell us what you did, what this accomplished, achieved or what its contribution was to a larger, greater achievement. No matter how small the task, it accomplished something that was important to the final outcome.
For example, say you wrote one section of a large, comprehensive General Plan. You might explain it as, “Adroitly researched, analyzed and wrote key section of the city’s general plan, contributing to its successful adoption by planning authorities, resulting in the development of the community’s first living document.”
In describing your employment history make generous use of action verbs and adjectives. These are powerful words that add punch to your sentence and better attract the attention of the reader/recruiter.
Tell a Story
Every one of us has a story. Just as your resume conveys information, it must also tell a story – a compelling one at that. In summary, to produce a successful, powerful resume that tells your story compellingly, you should:
Provide all of your contact information clearly at the top of the resume, including name, address, city, state and zip, email address, phone number, and perhaps a link to your LinkedIn profile.
Use key words and phrases from the job description. Demonstrate that you are experienced and able to do the job, or capable (even if you have not yet gained that experience). We might not all be able, but we all are capable. “Capable” is a good word choice when you are searching for a term to explain a lack of experience, but can learn to do the task.
List any special skill sets, knowledge and expertise, along with professional certifications, special courses or continuing education; include professional affiliations; and you can include any publications and speaking engagements you may have as well.
List your employment history in a simple chronological order, including the name of the employing organization, city and state where located, years of employment, your job title, and most importantly, explain clearly and succinctly what you did and what you accomplished. Use action verbs and adjectives to accentuate your efforts.
If you do these, you stand a greater chance of success of “catching an eye” and getting that all important initial phone call and interview.