Nearly one-in-four human resources managers said they receive, on average, more than 75 résumés for each open position, according to a nationwide survey by Careerbuilder.com. When a job posting’s response is that overwhelming, human resource managers often struggle to distinguish one candidate from another — particularly since most of them spend only a minute or two assessing each candidate’s résumé. That’s why job seekers have to be savvy about their résumé’s content and presentation. Unfortunately, even the most talented, qualified candidates sometimes write weak résumés. Whether they’re in a hurry, lack writing skills or are unsure how to market themselves to employers, they fail to score interviews because their résumés don’t immediately demonstrate what return on investment they offer employers. To sidestep this dilemma, consider Susan Britton Whitcomb’s 10 tips for writing great résumé copy, excerpted from her book, “Résumé Magic”:
1. Know your audience before you begin to write. What skills and competencies are they looking for? What knowledge do they require? What trends are they capitalizing on? What opportunities are they interested in tapping? What problems do they need fixed? What projects can you help them move forward?
2. Pack your résumé with keywords — those words that describe your title, knowledge base, skill set, impressive “name-brand” companies or Fortune 500 employers, prestigious universities attended, degrees, licensing, software experience, affiliations and so on.
3. Find keywords by reviewing relevant job postings online or detailed classified ads in newspapers, reading job descriptions or content at your target companies’ Web sites, reading your association’s newsletter or trade journals, conducting informational interviews with industry contacts and so on.
4. Position critical information at the “visual center” of the page. Weave keywords throughout your Qualifications Summary and Professional Experience sections, as well as in your cover letter. Create a Keyword Summary section for electronic versions of your résumé.
5. Resist the temptation to outsmart applicant-screening software by, for instance, planting the keyword “project manager” nine times throughout the résumé when you might have minimal experience as a project manager.
6. When writing job descriptions, try to keep your paragraph to around five lines. Summarize any redundant statements and present the material with an emphasis on transferable skills. Always highlight your accomplishments.
7. If you’re writing a functional or skills-based résumé, focus on three to five skill areas and lean toward occupational skills (such as event planning, marketing or project coordination) instead of personal skills (such as analytical skills, problem-solving skills or organizational talents) for category subheadings. After you have selected your subheadings, develop two to five sentences, along with specific accomplishments that encapsulate your range of experience for each subheading.
8. New graduates with limited professional experience will normally place their Education section near the top of the résumé, after the Objective/Focus or Qualifications Summary.
9. For categories such as affiliations, publications, presentations or awards and honors, consider presenting information in a bulleted list or two-column format to save space and add visual appeal.
10. Think like an advertising copywriter: Be concise, but give enough data to create interest and a desire to meet you.
Selena Dehne is a career writer for JIST Publishing who shares the latest occupational, career and job search information available with job seekers and career changers. She is also the author of JIST’s Job Search and Career Blog (http://jistjobsearchandcareer.blogspot.com/). Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SelenaDehne.