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5 tips for writing an effective resume

What feels like a lifetime ago (but was in reality just 2.5 years ago) I was a corporate recruiter. At any given time we had 25 open positions so my day was built around reviewing dozens and dozens and dozens  of resumes and then interviewing potential candidates. Because of this experience, I've sat on more than a few interview committees at my current job. It's safe to say, I've seen my fair share of resumes to evaluate. And I kind of love it.

Everyone agrees resume writing is the worst. It is such a chore! It feels like such a daunting task when it really doesn't have to be. I've run these tips by a few HR friends across industries so I hope you can benefit from them regardless of your career path.

The summary or objective section is the first thing on your resume and, if written well, acts as a lens for which the rest of your resume should be read. Think about what skills you bring to the workforce, who you are professionally, and what your career objectives may be. With this information, the reader can better understand the rest of your resume and the picture you are trying to paint which is that you are a totally hirable asset!

The cold hard truth is that most recruiters or HR professionals aren't going to spend more than 30 seconds looking over your resume the first time around. This means the first page is the most important. Following the idea that a summary is a lens, be thoughtful about what you want the next section to be. With a little over 6 years of professional experience under my belt, I want to highlight my career achievements and responsibilities that fall in line with the job I'm applying for. My education, while still valuable, is not as relevant as the work I was doing last year that directly relates to the job I'm applying to. If you are a recent college grad and your work experience doesn't yet speak for itself, put your education before your professional experience. When I graduate from my MBA program, I'll likely move that education section back to the front page.

You should use the exact same words from the job posting where you can for a few reasons. The first being that a lot of companies employ software to screen resumes in the first round of screening and the software makes selections based on keyword matching. Meaning unless the software picks up on certain words in your resume, your resume is headed straight to the trash. Even if your experience seems to be a direct match, ensure the computer knows that by peppering in words from the job posting so you know there isn't any guessing. Like the computer, a human reading your resume is trying to pick up on certain skill sets too. Let's say one of the job responsibilities for the job you're applying for is "foster relationships with prospective donors". If you list "cultivated relationships with prospective donors" as one of your past job responsibilities, it seems pretty safe to assume the reader will understand how your experience directly relates to what they are looking for. Instead of assuming, make it EASY. Don't make it any harder for the reader than it needs to be. Use the same word the job posting to ensure the reader knows exactly how you're qualified. 

One of my favorite things to read on a resume is what a candidate did above and beyond their normal job duties. If you're title is a Team Coordinator, I may be able to gather a pretty reasonable sense of what your job entailed from your title and the first few bullets listed. I want to know what made you an A++++ Coordinator. What major accomplishments did you achieve in that role? What leadership projects did you work on? How did you take initiative to do more than just your job responsibilities? Don't be afraid to show off!

This should go without saying but proofread your resume! Ask a friend to help. Go to bed and read it again in the morning.  You don't want a super easy to fix spelling mistake or a grammatical error to be the reason you don't get called for an interview. I can't tell you how many resumes I've read with glaring grammatical or spelling mistakes. True story: I read a cover letter that said "I am extremely detail oreinted". I'm no copy editor (as you can probably tell since you're reading this blog) so I don't read resumes to notice grammar but some people do. I know recruiters that will absolutely toss your resume for a spelling mistake. While I'll have some leniency for grammatical mistakes, you won't know if the reader will offer you the same grace.  Don't take that chance. 

Do you have any additional tips? Any specific questions about your resume? Leave 'em in the comments or tweet me :)

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1 comment

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