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Career Advice

Do This, Not That: How To Make Your Resume More Effective

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

May 23, 2013

Most people fear that colorful resumes will risk rejection. The fact is, more people lose opportunities to other candidates because they cave into that fear.

Because of their unease, many people flail when it comes to building persuasive resumes. Resumes are marketing documents. And marketing requires creativity along with a willingness to get uncomfortable.

Following are three resume missteps that job seekers make every day, along with ways to rectify them. By expanding your vision of a contemporary, high-performing resume, you will empower your job search and land more (and more focused) interview opportunities.

1. Don't: Write Boring and Bland. While it seems just yesterday resumes were known for dry "responsibilities for," today's resume is anything but. The plain-vanilla listing of dates, companies, titles and to-dos will not cut it in today's market.


Do: Write to Capture Interest. Contemporary resumes tell a story! Think news story, because your goal is to cover the 'who, what, where, when, why and how' as a reporter might. Instead of reporting on someone or something else, you are reporting on You, Inc.

Connect the dots for the reader as to why they should care. As a good news journalist would, lead in with a hook and the most important information, and then funnel down through to the end of the resume and trail with the least important. However, your story should be content-pithy and compelling, peppered with little word surprises up through the final chapter.

2. Don't: Write Just for Recruiters. Did you know that only about .0035% of jobs are acquired through recruiters? In fact, many small and medium size companies don't use recruiters at all. Even for those companies that do, the recruiter is not the only channel through which you can gain a hiring manager's attention. So, if you're writing just to a recruiter's specifications, you may be pleasing him or her but winnowing out a majority of other folks in the process. Not everyone wants to see the same format or content that a recruiter seeks.

Recruiters often look for just the bare facts and more staid designs and wording. To their credit, this strategy makes their job easier to scan a bunch of resumes and to trim the candidate pool on behalf of their client--the company. Also, they look for perfect square candidates to perfectly fit the square holes that their clients require them to fill, so if you are transitioning industries or sectors or types of roles, your best bet is to market your value outside of the recruiters' radar.

Do: Use a Strategic Marketing Document. Talking directly to the people who hire; talking to people who know people hiring; researching influencers through social media; and keeping your eyes and ears peeled for business news about new shoots of growth in the sector and/or geographical area you are targeting will help you unearth information on whom to contact initially.

Once you've begun engaging with folks, and they show interest in knowing more about you, you can send the marketing-savvy resume that speaks uniquely to who you are. Remember this: there are no resume police or written-in-stone resume rules. The only thing you need to remember is that your resume is there to sell your value. If it is dull and unfocused, it will get lost in the shuffle; if it gleams and is targeted to a specific reader, it will be embraced and get you the interview traction you desire.

3. Don't: Obsess About ATS Systems. While applicant tracking systems are real, they are not a reason to derail your intuitive resume writing. Resumes that are hyper-focused on keywords and phrases may not only miss the mark with ATS systems that are programmed to weed out resumes that try to 'game' the system, but they also will miss the mark with real-live readers.

Do: Intuitively Create Value-Centered Stories. Weave in the key language that will resonate with your target audience. When you are describing the 'how' and the 'why' you did what you did to shave $10,000 off of the cost of servicing your Pennsylvania customer base, then knit in the words that mirror the job description as it makes sense to do so. In fact, before you fret about weaving in those reflective words, first write your compelling stories. If you are already ultra focused on a target goal, many of the key words naturally bubble up in your resume stories.