A well written resume can mean the difference between getting an interview and getting nowhere. As a resume writer, I am amazed at how often job seekers do not tailor their resumes to meet specific job requirements before sending them out to prospective employers. Here are a few tips for readers who are looking to improve or refresh an outdated resume.
- Use Synonyms: If your current job title is a less common way of describing your position of interest, change it! It is not considered lying to use a synonym to describe your title. I recently completed a resume for an RN who was the "charge nurse" at her current position. She wanted to tweak her resume for a position as a "lead nurse." After reading the job descriptions, I discovered that they were exactly the same. I was eager to change her title to "lead nurse" because I knew it would generate better results. Using specific job titles when tweaking your resume or choosing to describe your position by using a word that is more striking or synonymous with what you want to do, is a great way to spruce up your resume and improve your chances of being spotted by online recruiters.
- Keywords, keywords, keywords: You do not want to write a resume that is so littered with jargon and keywords/phrases that it feels unnatural. But you should be able to add a few keywords to make your resume more searchable. Again, don't sacrifice good writing for the sake of search ability; there are plenty of ways to slip in a word or phrase that recruiters will use to search for resumes in your prospective field.
- Self Promotion: If there is ever a time when you can and should brag about your skills, experiences, and the awesome job you did for your past employer, it is now! You have to be your own self advocate now more than ever. Unless of course you end up having to defend yourself in the court of law, this will probably be the only time you will need to outline your professional integrity and respectability. Companies look for honest, committed, and passionate employees as much as any other quality and often times, passion trumps experience. So, brag about the extra effort you put forth to go above the call of duty and show prospective employers that you don't just meet the expectations; you exceed them.
- Develop a personal brand: With so many resumes on the job market today and the unemployment rate still hovering at 9.1 percent, it is not enough to simply document your experiences on a piece of paper and call it a resume. You must develop your own personal “brand” and try to work it into your resume whenever possible. Your brand is the unique spectrum of experiences and qualifications that separates you from other job seekers.The resume writers at Careers Done Write state that “Simply having a résumé isn’t enough anymore. You need a personal brand – a professional brand for job advancement and career growth.” Find a way to stand out without impeding on the need for simplicity. Include experiences that distinguish you from other people, even if they’re not necessarily relevant work experiences. Include personal or academic experiences that emphasis your versatility and adaptability. For example, Indiana University, Kelly School of Business suggests, “Students who study abroad should highlight their unique set of skills to potential employers to distinguish themselves from the rest. Study abroad experience is a good way to differentiate yourself from your peers.”
- Job Seekers with Less Work Experience: For job seekers with very little work experience or those who are trying to make a career change, it can be useful to include a short list of qualifications. In this case try to think of unique or interesting life experiences that might expose the potential makings of a great job candidate. I recently wrote a resume for a mechanical engineer who wanted to switch to the environmental field. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering and had several years of agricultural experience working as a farm hand. I compiled a list of his most outstanding qualifications and tied them to the requirements listed for an environmental engineer. In his case, it was important to list his qualifications outright for the employer to show that he did indeed meet the requirements outlined for the position. I included his farming experience which demonstrated his ability to work with irrigation systems. Because he already had a degree in engineering and some experience as a mechanical engineer, I needed to hone in on his experience working outdoors. I included his passion for fishing and hiking and his love for the outdoors. Many of the qualifications I listed were experiences he had considered to be trivial. But outlined in the right context, they helped him to meet the requirements for a position as an environmental engineer.
- Job Seekers with Extensive Work Experience: If you have a lot of work experience, it is usually not necessary to include a list of qualifications. Experienced job seekers are better off concentrating on their work experience and highlighting each job summary and the impact they made in that position. Experienced professionals should use strong adjectives to describe their professional contributions and allow their accomplishments to speak for themselves.
- Active Verbs: A useful strategy to tweak or rewrite a rusty resume is to ensure that your job experiences outline your qualifications by including active verbs and descriptions of accomplishments or positive changes you made in your past positions. If you worked as a graphic designer for a medical company that exceeded its profit margin by forty percent after they used your marketing materials, this should be the first thing included in your job summary. Your professional experiences should outline a brief but specific list summarizing your role in that position and the contributions you were able to make. Here is an example of a boring, unimpressive job summary: "Designed brochures, created websites, contributed to the efforts of the sales and marketing teams." This summary lists basic responsibilities and says little about his abilities. It is important to include active verbs and phrases that show your impact on the company. Here is an example of the same summary reconstructed to demonstrate proficiency in marketing and design: "Successfully established an online presence for a medical company by creating and managing websites and using social media as a marketing tool; created a strong company brand and designed a logo aimed at the target audience; demonstrated marketing proficiency by generating an online existence in the medical world; created memorable designs and composed marketing materials that increased company profits by forty percent." By rewording his job summary to include active verbs and qualifiers, I am not only outlining his qualifications, I am also demonstrating his professional abilities.
However you chose to write your resume or say to somebody "edit my resume for me", keep it short and to the point. Be sure to add enough specific detail to display an impressive set of skills and market your abilities in a way that directly targets your chosen industry.