December 9, 2008

5 Ways to Get Your Resume to the Top of the Pile

When I was looking for my first job, I had a friend who was also job hunting.  She printed her resume on pale pink paper.  I think it may have even been scented.

I always thought it was over the top — excessively so. I figured that if you wanted to get noticed, you should be focused on making sure that your resume left the others in its dust. Be a stand out in terms of experience? Yes.  Scented pink paper?  No. If you are considering dousing your resume in cologne (or other “drastic” measures), stop and reconsider.  Here are five better ways to get your resume noticed and sent straight to the top of the stack.

1. Proofread your resume at least 5 times.
Then give it to five of your friends and ask them to proof read it, too. The goal is to make sure that you have no — absolutely NONE — spelling or grammatical mistakes.  A misspelled word or errant comma is like a red flag.  It says: “This candidate does not pay attention to detail.”  That may not be true, but that’s what it says.  So proof read your resume.

2. Emphasize results.
We have talked about this before, but employers today want to see that you have a track record for success. Whether you have had a twenty-year career in management or a two-minute internship at a non-profit organization, you can still write a “successful” resume.  Visit the JobMonkey Resume Writing Section to see how to use examples of leadership experiences and quantifiable results.

3. Focus on readability.
Forget the gimmicks.  Focus, instead, on making your resume readable so that your readers will want to — and be able to — actually read your resume.  Readability means picking a commonly used font and relegating fonts like Braggadocio and Desdemona to birthday party invites.  It also means using bold or italics very sparingly. DO NOT use capital letters, except for, perhaps, in your header.  While you are at it, skip the pink scented paper.  The acceptable colors of resume paper for *most* jobs are white, crème, light grey and maybe (just maybe)  pale blue. If you are applying for a job as a graphic designer or other similar position, you have a bit more leeway.  Still, remember that your future employer wants you to be creative on the job.  Gold foil paper may say creative.  Or it may say “unreadable”.

4. Take a lesson in key words from Google.
You know how Google’s search engines look for key words to rank relevant websites? Your future employer will be doing the same thing: Scanning every resume for certain key words that indicate a good (or not-so-good) fit.  One way to maximize your key word quotient is to read the job description very carefully. Pick out the verbs used to describe the responsibilities of the position — then be sure you use those exact same action verbs in describing your experiences.

5. Fine tune your resume for every job application.
The basic template of your resume will remain the same, but each job application deserves its own targeted resume.  You might find that you need to add — or subtract — a line of description about a particular job.  Maybe you will want to add in an older, but relevant, volunteer experience — or highlight a professional development workshop that you attended.  Pay special to the Objective section of your resume and make sure it speaks to the job description.  The Objective section is also a great place to hone in on key words (#4).

How do you make sure that your resume stands out in the crowd?

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