Your Resume is Perfect? Check this Check-List First

I really didn’t think there was a need for another article on resume’ writing.  However, after spending the past month reviewing executive-level resume’s, I now know that too many of you don’t know some important resume basics.

What follows is a random list — in no particular order of importance — of considerations for your resume.  Use it as a check-list before submitting your document for consideration by a hiring authority.

As  reminder, “ATS” stands for Applicant Tracking System.  It is a computer program used by most employers to pre-qualify applicants.  Your resume will most likely be subjected to the ATS first, which (on average) rejects nearly 75% of submissions.  If the computer program doesn’t choose you, neither will a human.  So, preparing your resume to be “ATS friendly” is imperative. The system needs keyword-rich information that is context appropriate.

1) With only rare exception, your resume should be organized as follows:

  • Header: name, address, phone numbers, email address.
  • Title:  For ATS purposes, state that it is a resume.
  • Career Objective:  A statement of your intention.

Sample: Seeking a Directorship or C-level position in Operations, Communications, and/or Program Management with a superior and established nonprofit organization that is committed to excellence.  Offering broad skill-set, traditional work ethic, and achievement of expert status with multi-industry experience.

  • Value Statement:  A relatively short bulleted list of your BEST achievements and a statement about what makes you unique.  Nothing vague here! Don’t say “Professional and effective leadership skills.”  Say, “Catalyst for a 75% reduction in attrition after assuming leadership role for support staff.”  (In some cases, this can be combined with the Objective.)
  • Alternative names:  Executive Summary, Summary, Unique Value Statement
  • Education:  From highest to lowest degrees earned, followed by additional certifications.  Spell out the degree, “Masters in Business Administration”, “Bachelors of Arts,” and so on.  The dates the degrees were earned go to the far right. EX:  Juris Doctorate | St. Louis University School of Law | 1991
  • Work Experience:  In reverse chronological order, list your work experience that is relevant to the particular job submission.  Title of your position, Employer’s Name, Employer’s City, State, Zip Code, Month and Year of start and end dates, followed by a brief summary of your responsibilities, and details of your ACHIEVEMENTS.
    • Director of Operations | ABC Co., St. Louis, MO. 63017  | Aug. 2008 – Present
  • Additional Relevant Experience:  Depending on the topic, this is where you would put volunteer service, committee memberships, and so forth — if and only if it is relevant to the position for which you are applying.
  • Awards & Recognitions and/or Publications & Presentations:  If you have ’em, list ’em.
  • Computer Skills:  For some submissions, this is an important area.  List your software skills, including the name of the program and your level of proficiency.

2)  NEVER end a resume with “References Available Upon Request.”  That sentence does not belong on your resume at all.

3)  Keep fancy formatting to a minimum.  No photos, graphics, cool fonts. It’s best to use Times New Roman font, size pt. 11 or 12.

4)  Your personal data (gender, birth date, social security number, marital status, religious or political affiliations) should NEVER be on your resume.

5)  Achievements, achievements, achievements!

Examples of genuine achievements —

  • 13+ years operating an assistance program aimed at the development of healthy, educated, and successful young adults, with 95% success rate.
  • Recipient, Florida Unit Award for enrolling the most institutional memberships in the nation.
  • Managed project life-cycle for direct mail business with a $60 million budget attaining a yearly average of 1.4 million customer resale subscriptions in an increasingly competitive and saturated market.

6)  Less is more.  If you say all there is to say, not only will your document be too long, you limit your ability to sing your own praises in an interview. BUT it is imperative that you cover every aspect of the requirements listed in the job notice.  Key-words and phrases must be used in context.

7)  If you create your resume using a table, the document is less likely to lose its formatting when transmitted.  Just hide the lines of the table after you’re done creating the document, and know the rules about how an ATS reads a table!

8)  A PDF version of your resume is best ONLY if the job submission instructions state that you can upload a PDF.  Some older ATS’s can’t read PDF documents.

The PDF document cannot be accidentally manipulated by the receiver, and it maintains its appearance.  It’s ideal for submissions which go directly to a human reader rather than an ATS.

9)  Do not use “full justification” for any of the resume text.

If you do, it leaves awkward spacing.  Instead, use left-justification or centering, depending on the item.

10)  Achievements, achievements, achievements!

It bears repeating because it’s so important.  A hiring authority wants to know how you stand out from everyone else.  What makes you better than the other guy?  Your past achievements are the best way to demonstrate that you ARE better than your competition.

When choosing your achievements:

Think of things that demonstrate a) a problem, b) your identification of that problem, c) your resolution to that problem, d) how you executed the resolution, and e) the result.

Example:  Solved an emergent trademark issue in 24 hours by creating a new program overnight, saving an organization from complete shut-down.

11) Proper use of the back-slash:

When you use the back-slash or forward-slash key, put a space before and after the keystroke.  In some instances, the divider key ” | ” is a better choice.

CEO/President  — will often be read as one word by a computer.

CEO / President — each word will be found by ATS

12) Spell it out!

With the exception of chief officer titles ( CEO / CCO / COO / etc.), spell out abbreviations and acronyms.  “Mngmt” or “mgmt” or some other version will not be read as “management” by an ATS.

13)  Consistency is a sign of your ability to pay attention to detail.

Thus, if you capitalize the first word in a list, make sure that each first word in the list is capitalized.  Ending punctuation must likewise be consistent.  Here are examples:

Wrong Way

  • Microsoft Word
  • power point;
  • adobe photo shop.

Right Way

  • Microsoft Word;
  • Power Point;
  • Adobe Photo Shop.

14)  Read your resume out loud.

It’s the ONLY way to properly proof read it and find the small mistakes most of us inevitably make.

15)  Tailor your resume to the job description!

It’s the only way to get past an ATS.  This means that every resume you submit must be customized. Yes, it takes work — but you either want the job, or you don’t.  Those who go the extra mile tend to find employment sooner than later.

16)  Paying a professional to write your resume does not guarantee perfection.

Yesterday, I read someone’s resume who apparently obtained a “Bachelor of Psychology”.  On inquiry, I discovered that this was an error made by the resume writer, and not caught by the candidate.  It should have said, “Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.”

17)  Ad nauseum?

Though you may be sick to death of reading, revising, and considering your resume, you need to look it over EACH time you intend to submit it to an employer.  Tailor it, proof read it, revise it as needed — and only hit “send” or “upload” when it is perfected.

Would you like for me to provide you with a free resume evaluation? I’m happy to do so, but please click here to read this blog entry first!

~ Lynda C. Watts

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4 Responses to Your Resume is Perfect? Check this Check-List First

  1. Carla Kooij says:

    Great article — worth reviewing.

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  3. Pingback: Free Resume Evaluations? What’s the catch? | Grown-up Living: Careers & More

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