Resume Writing Skills

Résumé Strategies – Executive & Entry-Level
By Louise Kursmark, Best Impression Career Services

A résumé isn't designed to get you a job. A résumé can't make you qualified for positions outside your area of expertise. A résumé won't, all by itself, open up doors or knock down obstacles in your path.

But there is a lot that a good résumé can do... and those job seekers with them have an edge in the job search.

To be competitive, your résumé needs to communicate more than just your work history, job duties, and even key results of your efforts. At the executive level, hiring authorities want to know more than just "what" you did; they want to know "how" and "why" so they can better assess your fit within the organization and its goals.

Compared to entry-level or mid-level résumés, executive résumés tend to be longer (two or even three pages is the norm), a bit more detailed, and emphasize strategic contributions. Everything in the résumé should support a specific career target, and the entire document should present a sharp, focused, cohesive picture of who you are and why you're valuable.

Proofreading is a must. Neglect doing it and you could send out a résumé with simple mistakes that could have been avoided. Before you send yours to an employer, follow this checklist to ensure it is the highest-quality representation of yourself.

Consider these strategies for a powerful executive presentation of your capabilities.

1. Don't Lie
The first rule of thumb when applying for a job is to never lie on your résumé. If you put information on a document and submit it for consideration for employment, it better be valid information. There is nothing worse than being offered a job only to have that offer rescinded when your background is thoroughly checked.

2. Start with a summary rather than an objective.
Objective statements on résumés are passé. Instead, begin with an overview of your strongest selling points -- those things about you that will make a reader sit up and take notice. Make sure this summary clearly indicates the type and level of position you're interested in, and be certain to include highlights of your career contributions.

3. Show your chronological work history.
If you're sending résumés to recruiters and responding to print or online ads, you'll do yourself a huge disservice if your résumé shows a confusing career history. Nearly all executives are best served by a traditional reverse-chronological format introduced by a powerful summary. Even if you're trying to downplay some less-than-stellar recent experience in your work history, be certain to show job titles, employers and dates of employment. Otherwise, you risk being quickly eliminated in a flash.

4. Don't write "job descriptions."
Your résumé should be more about what you did than the duties of the job itself. Briefly describe your scope of responsibility, then highlight your achievements and contributions -- things you did that improved revenue, profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction or contributed to other business objectives. As an executive, you should be more focused on strategic contributions than day-to-day administrative duties: Be sure you're communicating the "big picture" in your résumé. Keep in mind that résumé readers are pretty intelligent. They can make assumptions based on job titles and general descriptions; they don't need to have every task spelled out for them.

5. Be specific.
Avoid vague qualifiers such as "substantially" and "significantly." Instead, use hard numbers to lend credibility to your accomplishment statements.

6. Describe context and challenge.
Your accomplishments will have even more impact if you present them in context or in relation to a specific challenge. Instead of writing "increased revenue 23 percent," it might be even more meaningful to write "reversed a five-year declining-revenue trend by focusing business development efforts on niche markets; grew revenues 23 percent and achieved profitability for the first time since 2002."

7. Be concise.
Even though a two- or three-page résumé is acceptable for an executive job search, it's still important to use a tight writing style so that you can communicate important information without losing your reader in a sea of text. Edit ruthlessly to remove information that isn't essential to your message.

8. Use format to increase impact.
Make it easy for readers to skim through your résumé to pick up important information. Use type enhancements, bullets and indentations to create an organizational hierarchy that makes your information easy to absorb. Above all else, make sure you don't make spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors.

Your résumé is important. If it's powerful and focused, it can help advance your career. If it's vague and unconvincing, it can leave you languishing in a protracted job search. Time, energy, thought and care spent on résumé development is an excellent investment in yourself and your career.

9. Include lots of personal information.
It's fine if you enjoy fly fishing on Sunday afternoons, but unless your hobby relates to your career, it doesn't belong on your résumé. The same goes for your height, weight, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or any other facts that could potentially be used against you.

10. Assume spell-check is good enough.
Spell-checkers can pick up many typos -- but they won't catch everything (manger vs. manager, for example). Always proofread your résumé several times, and ask a friend to give it a final review.

11. Education section

When you have a degree, list only the year that you obtained your degree. When you list your dates, (i.e.: 9/1998 to 1/2002) many résumé-scanning systems will not recognize that you obtained a degree, only that you attended college for a period of time.

12. Address gaps in your résumé.
Instead of fudging the dates of your past jobs to cover an employment gap, address the lapse in your résumé or cover letter to maintain chronological clarity. For instance, if you were out of work for a year during which time you took courses to enhance your education or professional credentials, list this academic stint on your résumé, rather than pretending the period of unemployment never happened.


varsha said...

A good post on An important point is a resume and cover letter should be the marketing tools that help candidate to land the position that is perfect for him.


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