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Rather than be part of some sludge pile of cookie-cutter resumes, take extra time to tailor your resume to each potential employer so you have a better chance of standing out from the crowd. Your resume shouldn't just regurgitate your chronological job background and education. It should depict your vision, career mission and objectives, and show potential employers what you bring to the table. Use your resume to sell yourself and you stand a better chance of landing the interview.
The Human Sell
It takes about 15 seconds for a potential employer to decide to keep your resume or to pitch it into the trash. Sell yourself by creating a resume that is easy to read. Keep to traditional fonts like Times New Roman, size 12 point. Include only the last 15 years of work experience, keeping your resume to a single page. Be concise and relevant. Tailor your resume to each potential employer. Focus on the specific requirements it mentions in the job posting instead of merely listing generic skills that are not relevant to the job.
Use Keywords for a Digital Touch
Computer algorithms routinely weed out online resumes, parsing through text for relevant keywords. Recruiters and potential employers often use applicant tracking software (ATS) to manage applications, resumes and the interview process. Your resume should use keywords from the ad, job description or company site so that the ATS can return your resume in the employer's database search. Sell yourself digitally by keyword so your resume won't get lost in the virtual shuffle.
Snap Into Action
Show employers your passion. Use action verbs to entice the hiring manager into wanting to know more about you. Passive verbs weaken your resume by reducing the clarity of what you want to say. Use derivatives of the passive verb "to be" like "was" judiciously, writing an active verb like "prospered" instead. Take this example: "After I took over sales, the company was prosperous a decade later," and instead write: "The company prospered, meeting its sales goals 10 years down the line." Action equals results, and results sell.
Examine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). Conducting a SWOT analysis of yourself, your career and where you want to be in the next three to five years gives you a road map of what influences your choices and how those paths you choose might lead to personal and career possibilities. Competition is fierce. The more insight you have, the better you can set your resume apart from the heap.
Example: Your Personal SWOT Analysis
Build a grid listing your SWOT, brainstorm and strategize. You want the management job within your company. One strength is that you saved your company $100,000 last year in premiums. One weakness is that you are detailed to a fault causing you to waste time. An opportunity might be related to your job objective: your experience tells you that you can manage your department because of your noted strength. Competition threatens your chances for the management job. Knowing these four SWOT elements and translating them to your resume gives you an edge on defining yourself for the position you covet.
- Columbus Technical College: The Job Search and Preparing Your Resume
- AOL Jobs: Where Does Your Resume Really Go When You Apply Online?
- Live Career: Use Your Resume to Sell Yourself
- University of Kansas: The Community Tool Box: SWOT Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats
- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center: Passive Voice
Cheryl Hosmer teaches online courses in writing and community journalism. She has written for various newspapers since 1983. She teamed up with author Marshall Terrill in 2001 as an editor of celebrity biographies. Hosmer holds a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies from Madonna University. Her educational emphasis was poverty studies and journalism.
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