Tips from the New Resume Writing Book I’m In!

Resume from Modernize Your Resume Resume bookBuild a more compelling resume by using the tips below from Modernize Your Resume, a new book of advice illustrated with resumes from noted resume writers including myself.

This image of the page featuring my resume for “Steven Sanchez” isn’t large enough for you to read. That’s okay, because the lessons it demonstrates are clear even from a distance.

One lesson this resume teaches is that even a professional publishing company can make a mistake. If you look very closely at three columns near the top, you may notice that the indenting is uneven.

You can believe this sent me running to my file to see if I had made that mistake in the original. Nope, this error was introduced in the editing of the book. The moral of the story is: proofread, proofread, proofread!

Now here are some words of wisdom from the book’s authors, Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark.

Start with the Wow!

Figure out what’s most impressive about your experience and skills – your key selling points – and make sure they appear prominently near the top.

This resume (used by the kind permission of my client, whose real name isn’t Steven Sanchez), starts with a concise headline, subhead and summary that immediately communicate his key strengths and skills. I wrapped up the summary with an rave recommendation from his LinkedIn profile. Wow!

Improve Readability and Skimmability

Avoid large blocks of text, which are daunting to the eye. Here there is no paragraph longer than four lines. Each bullet item is surrounded by white space.

Here’s how to do this in Microsoft Word:

  1. Select Paragraph in the Format menu.
  2. Under Spacing fill in “5 pt” or “6 pt” in the After field.
  3. You can quickly copy that format to other bullets by using the Format Painter function.

Integrate Your Critical Keywords

This resume is loaded with the important keywords from his target job postings – keywords like buyer, strategy, negotiation, team leadership and management. I front-loaded a lot of those in the “competencies block” (the section with the checkmark bullets) but didn’t stop there, making sure they appeared throughout.

These three tips above are especially significant, but the book describes many other ways to ensure your resume looks contemporary, savvy and powerful. You can buy it from Emerald Career Publishing.

Get Help from a Certified Resume Writer

Even the best resume books can’t talk to you, look at your experience, and strategize for your unique situation. Contact me for resume coaching or writing, if you want to ensure your resume helps you get a great job, sooner!

How to Get Useful Resume Feedback

How can you be sure your resume has the impact you intend?

Recruiters are usually too busy to give detailed feedback on resumes, and the compliments you may get from hiring managers at interviews don’t tell you much.

Actually asking for resume feedback at an interview is a faux pas. The employer isn’t there to help you with your next application!

Some major job search websites give free resume reviews, which can be somewhat formulaic. More customized reviews are available from individual resume writers. For example, I often provide a very brief resume review as part of the process of providing a quote for a resume rewrite.

It can also be useful to get feedback from a variety of people, to benefit from varied viewpoints. But this can backfire.

As another fine job search blogger has written, “Be careful not to ask too many UNQUALIFIED people their opinion of the resume you just got.  I asked people . . . and the information I got was misleading (making me think it was great, while it really kept me out of interviews).”

Here are some tips for getting resume input in a way that really works.

  • Select people who know your industry, if possible and appropriate. People with strong writing or editorial skills can also be very helpful.
  • Make sure your reviewers know the requirements of the job you’re targeting. Show them a written job posting if possible.
  • Ask them these questions: “If you take just 10 seconds to skim this resume, what’s your first impression? Then, after reading it more thoroughly, what impresses you most? And what could be better?”
  • Take all opinions with a grain of salt. If you show your resume to five people, you will hear five different viewpoints, some of which may directly contradict the others! Look for common themes and use your own judgment.
  • If you are working with a professional resume writer, be collaborative by telling her or him that you’ll be seeking feedback from others. Have this conversation before you even agree to work together. Discuss how best to bring the outside input into the agreed-upon writing process. If the process includes a draft before the final resume, it’s usually best to gather input at that point, rather than when the final product has been delivered.

Keep in mind that skilled resume writers study surveys of employers’ preferences in resumes, so they have a broad view of what employers look for in a resume. This broad view may be more useful than direct input from one recruiter or manager, who may have individual idiosyncrasies and preferences that are not typical.

There is no resume that will impress every employer in the world. With care, however, you can get one that will communicate powerfully to the vast majority of its readers – and open the right doors for you.

The “Multi-Path” Resume

The "Multi-Target Resume"Does this sound a little like you?

Roger Willco (not a real person) says “I have experience as an underwriter, a financial analyst and an executive assistant. I’m not sure which direction I’m going now, so I need a resume that can work for all these jobs.”

“I need a job as soon as possible, so I want to be flexible.”

The thinking almost makes sense: Being open to a wider range of possibilities increases your chances, right? Wouldn’t a multi-goal job search give you more ways to succeed?

Usually the result is just the opposite. If your resume looks unfocused, the employer may have trouble picturing you in the role they’re hiring for, or may doubt your commitment to that specific job – leading to fewer opportunities, not more.

This is especially true when applying to jobs online, where you are competing with hundreds of other applicants. The more candidates, the more your resume needs to point straight at the job, like an arrow landing in the bull’s-eye of a target.

The best advice for Roger would be to narrow his search down to one type of job: the one that fits him best and/or is in strong demand by employers. Or, if he can at least narrow it down to two target job titles, to prepare two different versions of the resume. That approach can be tricky, though. Some job seekers have found that both versions turned up on the same hiring manager’s desk – or in an Internet search – making a very inconsistent first impression!

Another danger of the “multiple resumes” approach is spreading yourself too thin. If you have two types of job you’re pursuing, how much energy and commitment can you put into pursuing each one? And how will you brand yourself on LinkedIn, etc.?

If you’re not getting interviews, a buckshot approach is not the answer. Step back and rethink not only your resume but your overall strategy. For example, if you’re spending more than a quarter of your job search time answering online postings, you probably need to do far more networking.

Usually the answer isn’t multiple goals, but a well targeted resume and a comprehensive job search strategy.