Steps to a Blockbuster Resume
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A resume has
one purpose – to market your skills, achievements,
professional background, academic history, and future potential
to a prospective employer. Much like a 30-second commercial,
today’s resume must provide maximum data as quickly
as possible, differentiate you from all other candidates,
and be attractively packaged.
think? Not at all. Writing a winning resume simply takes
thought and planning. After all, you wouldn’t drive
from Los Angeles to Manhattan without mapping the surest
route. The same goes for your resume. By using the ResumeEdge©
six-step process, you’ll gain perspective on your
career target and the audience you need to reach, learn
how to showcase your strengths, minimize your weaknesses,
and produce a document with maximum punch.
Of course, if
you do need professional assistance, our certified resume
writers are on hand 24/7 to provide expert, personalized
One: Targeting Your Career and Audience
• Step Two: Formatting for Maximum
• Step Three: Skill Set and Qualifications
• Step Four: Accomplishments and
• Step Five: Professional Experience
• Step Six: Education and Training
ONE: Targeting Your Career and Audience
You must have
a clear idea of what you want to accomplish in your professional
life in order to maximize the impact of your resume for
your targeted audience -- the hiring manager or graduate
school admissions director.
Before you begin,
ask yourself these questions. Are you:
Making a lateral move?
* Seeking a promotion?
* Career transitioning?
* Pursuing admission into a graduate program?*
1-3 above, the most effective way to begin targeting your
resume is to search openings that appeal to you on job boards
(i.e. Monster, Hot Jobs. CareerJournal), internal company
postings, or newspaper classifieds.
With these in
hand, you can highlight the qualifications you will need
to be considered and the duties you would be expected to
assume. Every match in terms of qualifications and experience
will serve as key words** in your resume, as well as provide
focus so that the resume can be tailored for your targeted
audience. The more closely the content of your resume matches
the content of these postings, the more likely you will
be asked to interview.
* Resumes provided
for graduate school admission showcase your skills, professional
experience, accomplishments, and academic history in much
the same way as “job” resumes. The difference
is that an admissions resume will focus on what transitions
well to the classroom, not to the workplace.
** Key words
include industry-specific jargon or acronyms (i.e. "generally
accepted accounting principles" (GAAP) for accountants;
"Certified Professional Resume Writer" (CPRW)
for resume writers; "Series 7 licensing" for brokers;
"initial public offering" (IPO) for investment
bankers; "at-risk child" for social workers; "Level
2 Training" for physicians; "intellectual property
law" for attorneys; "triage" for nurses;
and nouns or noun phrases indicating qualifications or required
tasks (i.e. general ledger, word processing, contract negotiations,
benefits, payroll, closing (for sales people); catering
services, new menu items, capacity planning (for chefs);
logistics, quality assurance, advertising campaigns, product
launches, staffing, training, orientations. Companies that
employ scanners require a set number of hits on key words
before the hiring manager will personally review the applicant’s
resume. It is always wise to incorporate as many key words
as possible into your resume.
STEP TWO: Formatting for Maximum Impact
The moment your
resume is opened by a hiring manager or admissions director,
it must appeal to him or her on an aesthetic level, while
accurately reflecting your industry or career goal. To do
anything else is to relegate your resume -- no matter how
brilliantly it is written -- to the rejection stack.
In order to ensure
that your resume receives the initial attention it deserves,
it’s important to adhere to certain formatting guidelines,
Effective Use of White Space
Prioritization of Data
Template and Font Choice
In all cases,
templates and font choice should:
Be easy to follow.
There is no greater irritation to a busy hiring manager
or admissions director than to receive a resume where data
is presented in a haphazard or inconsistent manner. That’s
why templates are used. An effective template will present
company names, dates, job titles, academic information,
and all other pertinent data in a clear manner, so that
a quick glance will tell the contact person what they need
in format isn’t the only point to consider. Templates
should be chosen because they accurately reflect a candidate’s
career or goal. In other words, a banker, accountant, or
administrative assistant would choose a more conservative
format than a graphic artist or interior designer. Nothing
is more jarring -- or disastrous -- than to receive a financial
professional’s resume written in italics or script
with accompanying graphics.
Be easy to read. Resumes written in bold text or italics
are extremely difficult to read and project a lack of professionalism.
The same goes for artistic fonts that resemble handwriting.
It’s a common misconception that jazzing up a resume
with these stylistic tricks will get the document read.
On the contrary, the resume will get noticed -- and discarded
-- within seconds. It’s not the font you use that
attracts attention, but rather the resume’s initial
appearance and the words crafted within it.
When in doubt
about font choice, always err on the conservative side.
Two good choices are Times New Roman or Arial in 11 points
-- no smaller, or the text will be difficult to read.
of White Space
There is no quicker
way to get your resume ignored than to create a document
with (narrow or nonexistent) margins, and block after block
of uninterrupted text. No one wants to read a text-heavy
document with sentences that run on for four or five lines.
In today’s fast-paced world, you must get your point
across quickly, with a minimum of words presented as bulleted
sentences within special sections (i.e. Professional Experience,
Education, Qualifications Summary), separated by well-placed
Think of white
spaces as necessary pauses -- a chance for the hiring manager
or admissions director to catch her breath, collect her
thoughts, and digest (and appreciate) the data you’ve
a hiring manager. It’s 7:30 on a Monday morning, and
an important position needs to be filled in your company’s
legal department. Over the weekend, 200 resumes came in
from eager applicants all wanting to fill this one job.
Most of the resumes are attractively formatted and use the
appropriate font type. So far so good. But on closer inspection,
most of the candidates have relegated their willingness
to relocate for the position -- a core qualification --
to the very end of their two-page resumes. More than a few
have buried accomplishments within the text, figuring this
will force the hiring manager to search for that data, which
means the entire resume will have to be read. Some have
placed bar admission, another important qualification, dead
last on the resume, believing that where they can practice
law certainly isn’t as important as the fact that
they are attorneys. And a few misguided souls simply list
company names and dates of employment, assuming that the
hiring manager should know without asking what legal duties
they performed at these firms.
to drive a hiring manager to distraction -- or another career.
But then, at
last, there are those few resumes that list the important
data at the top of the first page. In less than five seconds
the hiring manager knows that the first candidate is willing
to relocate and assume the cost of those expenses, if required.
This candidate also provides a special section beneath the
Qualifications Summary that indicates where she is licensed
to practice law. The second candidate does the same, while
also pulling out Career Accomplishments and placing them
at the top of the first page. After all, why keep a 100%
win rate at trial a secret, or the fact that one can practice
before the state’s Supreme Court?
Given the above
scenario, it’s clear which applicants will be called
in for an interview. No hiring manager will read every single
resume that comes across his desk. Nor will a hiring manager
search for data. In today’s tight job market it’s
up to the candidate to prioritize data so that a hiring
manager knows at a glance what the job seeker has to offer
the company in terms of achievement, work experience, education,
licensing, certifications, and special concessions, such
STEP THREE: Qualification Summary & Skill Set
at the market after a long day at the office. You’re
in a rush, of course, and want only to purchase those items
on your list, if they’re on sale. Hurrying into the
store, you glance around for the weekly advertising piece
that indicates which items will be offered at a discount.
Trouble is, there’s no advertising piece this week,
and no one to answer your questions. If you want to purchase
the items you most need at a discount, you’re forced
to walk up and down each and every aisle until you find
sound like much fun or an effective use of time, does it?
And yet this is the same type of frustration hiring managers
are exposed to every time an applicant sends in a resume
that fails to open with a well-written Qualifications Summary
and/or Skill Set.
What is a Qualifications
brief paragraph that showcases your most effective skills
and experience as they pertain to your job search. More
importantly, it’s your chance to convince a hiring
manager of the skills you can bring to the position. This
is essential, given that hiring managers generally afford
no more than 10 seconds to an applicant’s resume,
unless they’re compelled to read further.
So, how do you
compel them to keep reading?
this example: You’re an accountant who has worked
at XYZ Company for nine years and been promoted every time
you’ve come up for review. Because of your organizational
efforts, the company is saving $2500 monthly. You’ve
passed the CPA exam. You’re skilled in Profit &
Loss (P&L), audits, taxation matters, and internal controls.
Now, you want a Controller position.
Rather than including
all of the aforementioned data in the body of the resume,
where the hiring manager would be forced to look for it,
but won’t (remember, you’ll be given 10 seconds
before the hiring manager moves on), the wise candidate
would write something like this:
detailed professional with comprehensive accounting experience.
Background includes consistent promotions to positions of
increased responsibility. Skilled in P&L, audits, taxation,
internal controls, and streamlining procedures, effecting
a monthly savings of $2500 at XYZ Company. Recently passed
the CPA exam; currently seeking a Controller position.
In five lines
and a mere 45 words, you’ve given specific examples
of what you can do (P&L, audits, taxation, internal
controls), quantified an accomplishment (streamlining procedures,
effecting a monthly savings of $2500 at XYZ Company), indicated
past performance (consistent promotions to positions of
increased responsibility), provided data on certification
(recently passed the CPA exam), and provided your career
path (currently seeking a Controller position). And you’ve
done all of that in a well-written paragraph that’s
interesting and easy to read. (Note that personal pronouns
are not used here. In business writing, which includes resumes,
personal pronouns such as I, me, or my are never used).
of outstanding Opening Summaries:
Fine, you say,
but what about an Objective? Where does that go?
In the modern
resume, an objective statement is no longer used. The reason
for this follows.
Summary vs. the Objective
In the outmoded
Objective, the candidate told the hiring manager what he
wanted, whether that was a job at the company, room for
advancement, a chance to use a new college degree, or any
other reason an applicant could think of and the hiring
manager could dismiss as self-serving. On the other hand,
the Qualifications Summary proactively declares what the
candidate can do for the targeted company, which places
the hiring manager’s needs first. A wise applicant
always uses a Qualifications Summary, either by itself or
combined with a Skill Set.
What is a Skill
it's a list of your core competencies as they relate to
your targeted career goal. Again, let’s take the example
of the accountant who has just passed the CPA exam and now
wants to be a controller. Rather than presenting all of
that data in the qualifications summary, a portion of it
would be showcased as a tag line (professional title or
title of job you’re targeting) and skill set, and
might look something like this (followed by a reworked qualifications
detailed professional with comprehensive accounting experience.
Background includes consistent promotions to positions of
increased responsibility for notable achievements, including
$2500 in monthly savings at XYZ Company by streamlining
This time, the
first two lines, which contain just 15 words, present core
strengths quickly and effortlessly.
STEP FOUR: Accomplishments and Special Skills
There is no data
on your resume more important than your accomplishments.
Think of it this
way: you’re a hiring manager with one position to
fill and 10 qualified candidates clamoring for the position.
Each candidate has the same basic educational and professional
background. So, who gets the job?
who contributed the most at past positions. Accomplishments
are all that separate you from other equally qualified candidates,
with one caveat. Your accomplishments must be quantified.
What is an Accomplishment?
company’s bottom line (i.e. facilitating its growth)
Company- or industry-sponsored
What is not an
that are included in your job description
while going to college at night
community service unless it has a direct bearing on your
In other words,
an accomplishment is service that goes beyond your usual
job description. But for an accomplishment to have the most
effect, it must be quantified.
What is a Quantified
One that includes
dollar figures, percentages, and time periods.
Our accountant has streamlined procedures, realizing a $2500
monthly savings for his company. The dollar figure quantifies
the accomplishment, while the “streamlined procedures”
explains how he did it. Now, if he achieved those savings
within three months of hire, that would further strengthen
his accomplishments, and it might be written thusly:
Achieved a $2500
monthly savings for XYZ Company within three months of hire
by streamlining procedures.
Imagine the hiring
manager’s reaction to the above as opposed to this
for XYZ Company.
say much, does it?
should always be presented up-front so that a hiring manager
knows what you can do. In some instances, a special section
(i.e. Computer Skills, Languages, Office Procedures, etc.)
should be created to showcase these special skills.
(i.e. answering multi-lined phone systems, taking dictation
(include speed), transcription, typing (include speed),
Linguistic capabilities (i.e. fluency in a foreign language,
ability to translate, etc.)
Any skill that’s industry-specific for the job you’re
Here are a few examples of resumes with outstanding accomplishments
and skills showcased effectively for hiring managers:
Professionals – Project Manager
– Supply Chain Director
STEP FIVE: Professional Experience
In the Professional
Experience section you will list your employers, job titles,
and dates of employment in a reverse-chronological order;
that is, your most recent job comes first, followed by your
next most recent job, and so on. This format is standard
and is expected by all hiring managers and admissions directors.
With regard to
hiring managers prefer years of employment, rather than
months and years (i.e. 1999 - 2003 as opposed to May 1999
- April 2003). However, some college admissions programs
want specifics when it comes to dates, so it’s best
to use precise dates when applying to graduate school.
In the Professional
Experience section you will also include daily tasks and
responsibilities beneath the appropriate employer listing.
If you’ve included a Career Accomplishments section
in your resume, you should not repeat that data here. Once
data is presented in a resume, it must not be repeated.
To ensure that
your daily tasks are presented in an interesting and easy-to-read
manner, you should do the following:
Use a bulleted
format. This breaks up large blocks of text that could prove
daunting to a hiring manager.
articles and adjectives. Your sentences should be short
Begin each sentence
with an action verb. This quickens the pace of your writing
and makes the text more enjoyable to read. For a comprehensive
choice of action verbs, please use this link: Power Verb
An example of
a bulleted format, pared down writing, and sentences beginning
with power verbs follows: (Again, we use our accountant)
For those jobs
where you are still currently employed, write your job duties
in the present tense.
For those jobs
in the past, write the responsibilities you held in the
Professional Experience can be captured and showcased in
In the functional
format, you are stressing what you know over where you gained
your experience. This works for those who have strong skills,
but a weak employment record.
In the chronological
format, you are providing a work history dating back from
the present. This is the most common format and is generally
preferred by hiring managers.
In the combination
format, you are stressing what you know in one section,
while also providing work history dating back from the present
in another. This is a highly popular modern format.
STEP SIX: Education and Training
in this section should be prioritized (and included) according
Your current career level (entry-level as opposed to professional)
The purpose of your resume
The country in which your resume will be distributed
Your current career level:
an entry-level candidate with little or no professional
experience, your education should be presented immediately
after the Qualifications Summary and/or skills area. The
reasoning for this is that education is currently your most
marketable asset. Here, you would include:
GPA (if 3.5 or
Coursework relevant to job search
If you’re a professional with five or more years of
experience, Education should be listed last on your resume.
GPAs, awards or scholarships, and mention of dean’s
lists are not generally provided in a professional or executive
resume, except for those used for entrance into graduate
The purpose of
to admissions directors for graduate school can list Education
before Professional Experience or after, depending upon
If the applicant
has just recently completed his bachelor’s degree,
it should be listed before Professional Experience.
If the applicant has real-world experience related to the
graduate degree she is seeking, the Professional Experience
should be listed first.
The country in which your resume will be distributed:
If you are distributing
your resume within the US, high school education is not
included. The only exception to this rule would be if you’re
applying for a job with the federal government. In that
case, you would include high school data.
a resume outside the US, then high school education is included.
Include all specialized
training that is transferable to your new job target. If
you have not attended college, include all specialized training
in your target field. Hiring managers generally prefer to
see some post-secondary education.