Insider Tips on How to Write a Killer Resume

A few weeks ago, I posed a question to my readers around what questions they had around writing an effective resume. I got in touch with a resume expert Steven Provenzano with outstanding credentials. Not only does he have a professional certification in resume writing, but also he has been considered a thought leader in this field. Currently he serves as the President of ECS: Executive Career Services & DTP, Inc.with eight career books published and personally written more than 5000 resumes. He has been featured widely in WSJ, Chicago Tribune, CNBC, CNN etc.

The first part of this blog is Steven’s article entitled, “Top Secrets of Expert Resumes 2012.” He was kind enough to share this article exclusively with me. Many of the tips I found were not only practical but credible as well. The article may not provide a direct answer to my readers’ specific questions that were raised prior due to the very technical nature of the questions. He provides FREE resume analysis and consultation via e-mail or phone. He can be reached at EXECareers@aol.com.

It’s my plan to continue my engagement with Steven regarding an opportunity to dissect and revamp my current resume. (Click here to see my current resume). I conducted a free diagnosis/ consultation with my own resume and one feedback that stuck with me was how poorly my resume reflected and maximized who I am and why I want this job…and surprisingly this was the format that was utilized by top students at my business school.  That is why I’d like to continue this engagement thought it requires some substantial investment $$. I hope my fellow and younger students can learn what it takes to write a killer resume instead of a standardized, perhaps less strategic resume the school provides. In a later blog post, I plan to outline every step with my readers. (i.e., before and after version of my resume). I’ll ensure I include lots of visuals to help you better connect with the tips and pointers provided here. Stay tuned! 

These days finding that new – or better – work situation means keeping track of job listings, networking, tracking down leads, scouring the internet, analyzing potential employers and scheduling interviews. It can all seem overwhelming, especially since so much depends on the attention and response of others. However, there’s one aspect of your search over which you always have control: the content and format of your resume.

Only your resume gives you total control over how you’re perceived by potential employers, and it certainly doesn’t have to be a passive job listing with subjective information about how you’re a great and wonderful person (which of course you are). Instead, it can and should be a high-impact career marketing piece that takes full advantage of the paltry 10-60 seconds of attention most resumes receive. When a resume is truly well-written, it can then become a source of excellent, trimmed-down content for your LinkedIn profile or Facebook page, when used primarily to outline your professional skills and business experience. Recent surveys tell us up to 80% of all companies are using LinkedIn for recruiting new hires.

Yet even published authors and top executives have trouble writing a decent resume; they tell me, “my resume isn’t perfect, but I’ll explain myself in the interview.”

There’s the catch: you may be the perfect candidate for a position and still not get the interview, for no other reason than your resume. Resumes are typically used to ‘weed out’ people from positions. During my tenure as Corporate Recruiter, we created three stacks of resumes: Yes, Maybe, and No Way. whomever was left in the ‘Yes’ stack might be called for an interview – the others, of course, were tossed out or filed.

The bottom-line? What employers want to know from each person “sitting” on their desk is: What can you do for me? How can you fill this job effectively? Why should I talk to you over everyone else? Here’s how to get them to call you, and not the other candidate:

CREATE A PROFILE/SKILL SECTION TO LEVERAGE YOUR KEYWORDS

Your resume must pre-digest, develop and market all relevant information about your transferable skills and abilities in a Profile/Skill section – at the very top of your resume.

You don’t need to label this 2-3 inch deep section “Profile” or “Skills”, but it’s comprised of 3-4 bulleted sentences that develop your essential skills and abilities relevant to the job you’re seeking right now. It is not a re-hash of your job history or education. Rather, it’s the value of your job history, education, volunteer or military experience – positioned right after your name and a basic TITLE related to the type of work you’re seeking.

Keywords used in your Profile/Skill section can be as basic as sales, marketing, client relations, target marketing, project management, staff training, budget planning or forecasting.

Once you have these items, group similar words together and list your level of proficiency, for example:

  • Skilled in sales, marketing and new business development, including full responsibility for account acquisition and management.
  • Proficient in total project management, from technical staff training to product design, development and rollout in major national markets.
  • Comprehensive experience in finance, accounting and C-level audits, including strategic planning, team training, quality control and client relations.

The Profile/Skill section gives you total control over how you’re perceived by employers. Without this section, you’re basically a victim of your work experience and education, and what if your most recent experience isn’t related to your current career goals?

MARKET ACTUAL BUSINESS TALENT – AND AVOID THE FLUFF

  • Steer clear of pointless, catch-all phrases such as “Self-motivated, hands-on professional with an excellent track record of…” Let’s face it. The first two items in this sentence could be said about almost anyone.
  • As for your track record, let the employer decide if it’s excellent by reading about your abilities (on top) and your duties and accomplishments (under the Employment section).Your Profile/Skill section must be based in solid, objective facts – derived from actual experience. If it’s subjective or contains ideas that can’t be verified through education, volunteer work or business experience, then don’t include it, or you’ll lose your credibility.

USING A TITLE

Think of a basic Title for the top of your resume. This is typically very brief, just two to four words: SALES / MARKETING or ACCOUNTING / FINANCE, or something as simple as EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP. Give the reader some idea of where you’re coming from, and generally where you want to go, without blocking yourself from consideration for other positions.

EMPLOYMENT AND EDUCATION SECTIONS

All items in your resume must consistently verify, support and quantify what you’ve stated in your Profile section. Help the reader actually see you at your last position by spelling out daily duties most relevant to your career goals. Describe how many people you supervised or trained, explain types of clients you work(ed) with, products demonstrated, computers utilized, and most important, quantifiable results.

  • What are/were your achievements? Give facts and figures like budget amounts, or how much you saved the company over how long, awards, recognitions and so on.
  • Research the company’s brochure, annual report and job advertisement, if any, and tailor your resume as much as possible to the position.
  • Avoid the ubiquitous “References Available upon Request” at the bottom of your resume. If employers really want references, they’ll ask you. Consider “CONFIDENTIAL RESUME” at the top of your resume, and/or state this in your cover letter. Always respect the reader’s intelligence!
  • Although up to 75% of all positions are filled through personal networking, an excellent resume can open doors all by itself, and is still required in many networking situations. Of course, a brief cover letter should be targeted to the hiring authority whenever possible.

YES, YOU SHOULD WRITE A COVER LETTER

Contrary to popular believe that “No one reads a cover letter”, research tells us that up to 65% of all cover letters are indeed read by potential employers. They like to get a feel for your personality, career goals, motivation for seeking a new position, and what makes you different from other candidates with similar skills and experience.

Tell employers what you know about their operation, and why you want to work specifically for his/her company. Make them feel like they’re the only person getting your resume.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Consider this: a resume that’s only slightly more effective than the one you have now could help you get a job weeks, or even months faster than your old resume.

Resume writing is an art form in itself, and there are few hard and fast rules. You need a complete, professional job search strategy, and your resume must be a key part of that strategy.

Check out the Part 2 of the Insider Tips of Writing a Killer Resume worth a value of $500 from best advice from the nation’s leading resume expert.