Tech & Work

Four steps to draw more attention to your resume

Resume expert Kevin Donlin gives a TechRepublic member several actions to take that will get his resume noticed above the others a recruiter may have received.

Kevin Donlin owns and runs Guaranteed Resumes, a resume and cover letter writing service that also provides job search assistance. He fields questions from TechRepublic members and offers advice based on his experience and expertise.

Question
I've never used the resume that I’ve asked you to review. When I migrated from my last job to my current one over a year ago, I didn’t need a resume. But I would like to try this one out. Do you see any glaring errors?

Answer
Overall, your resume, shown in Figure A, is on the right track—it's fairly concise at two pages and boasts a solid focus on achievements. But you could pump it up by being more specific about the amount of time and money your software implementations have saved your employers.

In critiquing your resume, I propose making four changes to the content and writing style:
  • A stronger opening objective
  • A more formal writing style
  • More white space
  • Less wishy-washy language
Figure A

Strengthening the resume objective
Here’s the opening objective from your resume:

"My intent is to secure part-time employment to supplement current income. I have a solid foundation of a broad set of computer-related skills, but I always welcome new learning experiences and the opportunity to acquire new knowledge.”

Keep this in mind: An employer reading your resume wants to know how you can solve his or her problems. Your opening focuses on you (“my intent”) and your needs (“part-time employment to supplement current income”), and lacks specifics—“a broad set of computer-related skills” could mean anything, so it really ends up meaning nothing.

I suggest a more concise, one- to two-line objective that better summarizes your career and tells the reader what you can do for him or her.

An objective like this might work better:

Seeking a position where nine years of project management and network administration experience will add value.”

Think of your objective as an arrowhead—it should quickly penetrate the reader’s interest, or the rest of your resume will simply bounce off and fall into the trash can.

Developing a formal writing style
Your resume is written almost as a letter to a colleague. While that tone may work in a cover letter, the resume itself could be tightened up and made more effective with a more concise, professional tone, such as one you would use in a report or memo to the board of directors.

An example of language to boil down, with my suggested edits, follows:

BEFORE

“I was responsible for ALL end-user support issues as well as maintaining servers and performing typical administrative tasks with the goal of standardizing across the companies, conforming to corporate guidelines.”

AFTER

“Managed all support issues for 213 end users on five sites, while maintaining and administering five servers. Successfully standardized operations across all sites, on time and $4,300 under budget.”

By boiling down the language and focusing on results, you provide more information in less space and in a more professional tone that enhances your image.

The need for more white space
Faced with a stack of resumes, employers and recruiters want nothing more than to get through each one as quickly as possible. That’s why I recommend breaking up the many text-heavy sections in your resume in favor of shorter, two- to three-line paragraphs.

This simple editing trick will make your resume easier to read and therefore more effective.

Use less wishy-washy language
Finally, avoid qualifying statements at all costs. Be confident enough in what you put in your resume to state it as strongly as possible, or leave it out.

The following sentence, plucked from near the top of your resume, comes across almost as if you’re apologizing for putting it in:

I have dabbled in simple web page design.

Try stating your case simply and leave out the weakening adjectives, like this:

Familiar with web page design

This example, and others, jumped off the page after one minute of perusing your resume. You may have missed them simply because you’re too close to your own experience to read your resume objectively, which is very common.

That’s why I suggest that all IT professionals creating a new resume ask three friends, whose judgment you trust, to review it and point out strong and weak points. You’ll likely be amazed at what they uncover and what an objective, fresh look can do to improve your efforts.
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