Better Résumé Words, or How to Improve Your Résumé by a Thousandfold

Dear, Anita,

A few months ago, our company was purchased and I was found “redundant.” I’ve been searching diligently for a sales job ever since, but I haven’t gotten many nibbles (responses), much less bites (interviews) with my applications and online résumé. I’ve got a wife and teenage boys to feed – and you know how much they eat! What advice do you have for me?

Dear, Displaced “Papa,”

During an interview, Ernest Hemingway revealed that he rewrote the last page to A Farewell to Arms 39 times before he was satisfied. When the journalist asked what had stumped the famous author, Hemingway replied, “Getting the words right.”

If your résumé isn’t getting the response you desire, it may be time to take a fresh look with the goal of “perfecting your language” (see what I did there with the help of Thesaurus.com?).

You want to optimize your résumé for both humans and the computer software that may scan them first. Tailor your wording to speak their language. While your title may have been Sales Manager, another company may call this Business Development. When applying for a posted job, be sure to use some of the exact words in the ad – particularly the nouns and position title. This will ensure the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) will pass you through the gateway so a real live hiring manager will actually have the opportunity to read your résumé. And that’s when those sexy verbs come into play. The Daily Muse offers 185 Powerful Verbs that you can swap out with your templated jargon to make your résumé more dynamic.

Forgo the boring listing of duties following the trite, “Responsible for…” The recruiter is far more interested in what you accomplished while performing your job functions. Here’s where you pair your lively verbs with winning nouns and throw in a quantifier for good measure to create power phrases. Can’t you just hear the implied exclamation point at the end of the verbiage in the right column?

BORING: COMPELLING:
Responsible for client management… Increased new clients by 172%
Duties included sales… Acquired a $2.3 million service contract
Provide administrative support Document 200-275 customer notifications weekly

 

And while we’re on the subject of literary style, let’s discuss that lackluster cover letter yawner, “Please accept my résumé in response to your ad for…” Before you even walk in the door for an interview, your cover letter is your first impression. This is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd with a carefully crafted opening sentence. I wonder how many rewrites it took the Jerry Maguire scriptwriter to polish Renee Zellweger’s classic line, “You had me at ‘hello.’ ”

Readers: Take a crack at one entry in your résumé and share your rewrite below. Or if you’re stumped, let the Clew Community help out.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Creating a Résumé from Scratch

Dear, Anita,

Recent graduate here. I have filled out job applications in the past but I’ve never had to create a résumé before, and I don’t know where to start. It seems intimidating. Can you point me in the right direction?

Dear, Résumé Newbie,

Person Holding ResumeAccording to Dictionary.com, a résumé is a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience… prepared by an applicant for a job. With your recent school report-writing experience, this should be a snap. Think you don’t have enough to fill a page? C’mon, I’m sure you learned to stretch your thoughts to get to the word requirement for all those English essays.

I think Dictionary.com has the order backwards, though. If you have had any work experience at all, lead with that, followed by your education, with personal details at the bottom.

For your employment history, list the company name, date range of employment, and your job duties and responsibilities. Include summer jobs, babysitting gigs, stints as camp counselor, unpaid internships and yes, working in a family business even if paid only with your room and board.

What to do if you have absolutely zero employment history and are looking for your very first job? Beef up the education areas and mention classes that relate to your desired field (include grades, if they are stellar), outline any projects or reports that may be relevant, as well as any useful skills that you picked up along the way.  In fact, if you are particularly tech-savvy, break out “Computer Skills” as a subhead and list the programs in which you are well-versed.

Woman holding resume for a job interviewYou can bulk up a beginner’s résumé with personal information, such as skills, clubs, interests, awards, and community service. See my “Including Volunteer Work in Your Resume” post for more tips along these lines.

Another section to consider adding is References. “References upon request” is often seen on the bottom of jam-packed résumés, but for those without a “grip” of employment history, including the name and contact information for past teachers, bosses, church elders, or family friends who will give a glowing testimonial about your character is worth the space.

As for the format, keep it simple. Tempting as it may be to pimp out your résumé with a graphics program, many companies and job search sites such as Monster.com may require you to submit your résumé as a Word document. Word has dozens of résumé templates that you may download to give you a clean, professional look.

If you find you are not having success landing interviews, consider a professional résumé writing service such as CareerPerfect that can polish your rhinestone in the rough.

Readers: Readers, remember your first résumé? Did you learn anything about résumé-writing that can help our recent graduate?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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