Resume Writing for a Highly Competitive Job Market
Most job hunters already know that a resume is a must when it comes to applying for jobs and getting potential employers to take notice, but unfortunately, most resumes are just not up to par. People actively seeking employment often fail to create an effective resume that will impress hiring managers and land interviews.
And yet, in today’s vigorous job market, at a time when layoffs are the norm and competition for jobs is cutthroat, it’s more important than ever that your resume catch the eyes of the recruiter or resume screener, who may spend no more than 30 seconds on each resume during the initial selection process. This is why your resume has to be more than a document listing your various accomplishments and achievements, it must be a successful marketing tool.
A poorly constructed resume merely lists the applicant’s job history, using bullets to state past responsibilities, and entirely neglects to take advantage of marketing techniques that make a resume stand out from the crowd. You might be the hardest-working, most responsible individual around, but if your resume doesn’t make that clear, what will distinguish you from everyone else applying for the job, in the eyes of the hiring manager?
To avoid turning in a resume that blandly lists your qualities and work history, you must transform it into an accomplishment-driven piece of writing that clearly emphasizes the importance and relevance of each accomplishment.
It may not be easy to do this, but if you approach the process step-by-step, and use the basic sections of the resume to market your abilities, experience, and potential value to the employer, reworking your resume into a marketing machine is an attainable feat.
Starting From the Top
Arguably the most important part of the resume is the first three quarters of the page. Recruiters and screeners have to wade through stacks of resumes, so they tend to scan the first part of the first page to pare down the pile, initially. If you want to survive the preliminary cut, this section of your resume should be full of accomplishments that market your particular skills and capabilities to the specific employer and position.
Of course, your name and contact information appear in this section as well, but you should also include a professional summary in addition to, as mentioned above, the list of accomplishments.
A professional summary is considered by many resume experts to be more effective than a stated objective, in today’s job market. It works as a sturdy introduction to a strong resume, and proves more powerful in the face of the 30-second scan because it offers the recruiter a snapshot of your most important attributes.
Use the summary as a short ad all about you. Include information in the first sentence or two regarding the type of position you’re looking for, and make it clear why you are different or better than the other applicants vying for the same position.
The final three or four sentences should identify your expertise and abilities that apply to the job in question. Make it clear why you can be an asset to the company! Acting as an introduction to the rest of your resume, the statements made in the professional summary need to be reinforced in the sections of the resume that follow.
The accomplishments you decide to highlight in this section are important because past performance is a good indicator of what you can do for the company, if hired. Mentioning successes you have scored in the past is your best bet to landing an interview.
Just be sure to select 3-6 accomplishments that relate directly to the position you seek and make them quantifiable and measurable, provide answers to questions such as how many/much? Which one? What kind? This will add substance to the facts you have stated.
The best way to determine what accomplishments to list here is to think from the perspective of the employer. Recruiters want to know why you could be an asset to the company, perhaps you will save them time and money, or provide another favorable result? Highlight accomplishments that draw attention to your past successes in applicable areas of expertise.
This section of the resume profiles your professional experience. Here you make note of the companies you have worked for in the past, along with your title/position and the dates of employment (in years).
But be wary of falling into the trap of simply listing off your work experience. Even in this section of the resume, it’s extremely important to avoid compiling an inventory of job duties. Companies are interested in much more than surface achievements or responsibilities, they are looking for people who can translate success achieved in past jobs to a future position. Make it clear what you can contribute to the employer.
For instance, if your past role was that of “manager“, make it clear that this involved leading a team of people and successfully motivating them to complete tasks on budget and on time. If you worked as a cashier or bank teller, note that you were trusted with money and worked well in a customer service capacity. Any awards you won can also be stated in this section, just remember to quantify every statement you make!
The final section of the resume lists educational information, as well as anything else that might be considered professional experience, such as continuing education, seminars, and other classes you have taken that are applicable to the job. Here you can also draw attention to any professional organizations and affiliations you belong to, as well as civic duties you perform and volunteer experience you have accumulated over the years, as long as it relates to the position you are attempting to win.
Always list the last degree completed first, without mentioning dates. For those with a college degree, there is no need to mention high school, as this will be assumed.
No one said job hunting was simple, so it’s important to do as much as possible to get your foot in the door. By using your resume as a powerful marketing tool, it will be much easier to successfully launch your career and snag the dream job you’ve always wanted.