The resume. It is arguably the most critical tool for getting your foot in the door at a company. But it also can be a constant source of worry over what is right and what is wrong.
If you have been out of the job search market for a while, because of reasons such as having the same job for a long time or being a stay-at-home mom, your resume is going to need a face-lift.
Charlotte Weeks, CEO of Weeks Career Services Inc., in Chicago, and president of the National Resume Writers’ Association, said some things have changed when it comes to resume-building especially with the advent of online applications.
Below are her recommendations for getting your resume up to speed:
n Use keywords. When you apply for a job online, chances are good that your resume will be scanned by an applicant tracking system as a way of weeding through the hundreds that come in, Weeks said. To ensure your resume doesn’t get tossed by the system before it even gets to a real person, she recommends making sure plenty of keywords that relate to your field are included.
n Get rid of the career objective. “It’s preferred now that there is something more substantial than the career objective, like a summary of qualifications,” Weeks said. Objectives tend to be self-serving, describing your career goals and what you would like to find in an employer. The summary of qualifications, she said, shows instead what you can offer the company.
n Brag a little. Not obnoxiously, of course. But just listing the tasks you were responsible for in your previous position is probably telling the potential employer what he or she already knows, and doesn’t give the employer any indication of how successful you were in those tasks.
“Accomplishments are huge; I’ve heard many employers say it’s most important to them,” Weeks said. “List something you did on the job that made an impact, ideally something that’s quantifiable, like saving money or increasing efficiency.”
n Keep several formats handy. In addition to PDF and Microsoft Word versions, Weeks also provides her clients with an ASCII cover letter and resume file that’s stripped of formatting. This comes in handy when copying and pasting into an online database, and some employers also may ask for an ASCII file if you’re submitting it via email.
n Address gaps in work. “If you don’t, you never know if the reader is going to jump to conclusions,” Weeks said. List anything you did during that time period related to what you’re seeking, such as volunteer work, consulting or even classes that would improve your skills in the field, especially if you’ve been laid off and out of work for a long time. In the absence of any career development work, one line such as “cared for family members,” that doesn’t include too much detail about the situation, should suffice.
n Use as much space as you need. Many job seekers learned early on that their resume should be kept to one page. That’s not necessarily the case anymore, Weeks said, particularly for job candidates at the executive level. Edit by making sure that everything included pertains to the job you’re seeking, but don’t leave out important accomplishments in an effort to keep your resume to one page.