Five Tips for Better Resume Writing

First the good news. You do not have to be William Shakespeare to compose a solid, well-organized, professional-looking resume. All you need are the ability to express your ideas in proper English and an understanding of how a resume should be organized and written.

Being able to handle the basics of English — grammar, spelling, punctuation, proper word usage, and so forth — has become a critical skill in today's e-mail and facsimile-driven business environment. If you lack confidence in your ability to use English properly, think about enrolling in a writing workshop or community college course. Also, get the classic book The Elements of Style, 3rd Edition, by William Strunk and E. B. White (Allyn & Bacon, 1995).

Now the bad news. You can forget most of the rules and principles you were taught when you were writing reports and term papers in high school or college. Those principles simply do not apply to resumes. Resumes are business documents. They follow certain conventions that business people take for granted but that most English teachers would consider incorrect.

Following are five simple writing principles that apply specifically to resumes. All of them should come in handy when you begin to string words together in your resume, particularly when the time comes to describe your work history.

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Avoid the first person pronoun

The pronoun I has no place in a resume — and for a logical reason: Who else would you be talking about if not yourself?
Instead of this:
I demonstrated professionalism, tact, and diplomacy while I worked with our customers in high-pressure situations.
Write this:
Demonstrated professionalism, tact, and diplomacy while working with customers in high-pressure situations.
Instead of this:
I managed a department whose chief responsibility was to oversee safety audits. I wrote all audit reports and conducted management briefings.
Write this:
Managed a department whose chief responsibility was to oversee safety audits. Wrote audit reports and conducted management briefings.

Notice that the second version of each example begins with an action verb. Beginning most of your sentences with action verbs may not have been standard practice when you were writing term papers, but this practice is accepted and recommended in resumes.

Keep your sentences short and don't worry about fragments

Resumes call for short, crisp statements. These statements do not necessarily have to be complete sentences; you can frequently leave out the articles a, an, and the.
Instead of this:
Spent three years working on major accounts, as both a lead generator and a closer, demonstrating proven skill in organizing and managing a territory with efficiency as well as in developing customer databases.
Write this:
Spent three years working on major accounts. Generated leads and closed sales. Demonstrated proven skill in organizing and managing a territory and in developing customer databases.
Instead of this:
I was involved in the creation and implementation of statistical reports for a large metropolitan hospital, which required the use of spreadsheet software for cost analysis and, in addition, the creation of a database to track patient visits.
Write this:
Created and implemented statistical reports for large metropolitan hospital. Analyzed costs with spreadsheet software. Created database to track patient visits.
Or try a bulleted format: 
  • Created and implemented statistical reports for large metropolitan hospital. 
  • Analyzed costs with spreadsheet software. 
  • Created database to track patient visits.

Use plain English

Don't be victimized by the myth that the bigger the word you use, the more impressed the reader will be with your intelligence. Keep things simple. Go easy on the adjectives. And be especially wary of those grammatical constructions known as nominalizations — that is, nouns that are built around verbs and become part of a bulky phrase that can just as easily be expressed in a single word. See the examples in Table 1.
Table 1 Using Plain English
Bulky Phrase Better
Effected the solution of Solved
Engaged in the operation of Operated
Offered assistance in the facilitation of Helped facilitate

Use bullet statements when appropriate

You usually have a choice when you are writing your resume to combine a series of related statements into a single paragraph or to list each sentence in that paragraph as a separate statement, each occupying its own line. There are pros and cons for each option, and sometimes you have to base your decision on the amount of information you need to get across.
Bulleted information is more readable and tends to stand out more than the same information contained within a paragraph. But bulleted information also takes up more room. Your best bet is to combine the two.

If you decide to express information in bulleted style, keep the bulleted items brief and pay attention to parallelism. That is, try to make all the items in a sequence adhere to a similar grammatical pattern.

Examples of nonparallel statements include 
  • Reconcile all statements for cardholders 
  • Purchases are approved 
  • Have experience in performing training of tellers

Examples of parallel statements include 
  • Reconcile statements 
  • Approve purchases for Marketing department 
  • Train tellers

Go from general to specific

Sequence the information in a section by beginning with a general statement and following it with more specific ones.
Instead of this:
Supervised training of seven toy-making elves. Responsible for all toy-making and customer-related activities in Santa's workshop. Answered customer complaints during peak season. (Note that the second of these two sentences is more general than the first.)
Write this:
Responsible for all toy-making and customer-related activities in Santa's workshop. Supervised training of seven toy-making elves. Answered customer complaints during peak season.

5 ways to address a cover letter besides 'To whom it may concern'

By Debra Auerbach,
One of the most common pieces of job-seeker advice we give on The Work Buzz blog is to personalize application materials as much as possible. This includes the addressing of your cover letter. There may be cases where it's impossible to find a contact associated with the position, but that doesn't mean "To whom it may concern" is the only option. With such easy access to information through social media and websites such as LinkedIn, don't give up on cover-letter customization just because the job description doesn't list a contact.

"You should never use [To whom it may concern] when sending a cover letter," says Jodi R. R. Smith, president of etiquette consulting firm Mannersmith. "Instead, with a few keystrokes on your computer, you can research who the proper person for the salutation of the letter is. Having a name on the cover letter shows that you really want the job, that you took the extra time to personalize the letter and that you are able to work independently to get a job done."

Here, experts weigh in on five alternative ways to address a cover letter.

1. Dear [hiring manager's name]: "The best way to begin a cover letter is by addressing it directly to the HR/recruiter or hiring manager and emailing it right to them personally," says Megan Pittsley, director of talent at restaurant technology startup E la Carte. "In today's quick-apply society, taking the time and effort to respond personally to job openings and doing a bit of research will help to make you stand out. Most people have LinkedIn profiles, so the information is readily available for those who put a bit of effort into it." Other ways to track down a hiring manager's information? Search the company's website or call the company and ask for the name of the person hiring for the coveted position.
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2. Dear [department head's name]: If you've tried the tactics listed in No. 1 and still can't identify the hiring manager, Bettina Seidman, president of career counseling and executive coaching company SEIDBET Associates, suggests looking instead for the department head's name and addressing the cover letter accordingly. That's usually easier to find and still shows initiative.

3. Dear [name or title of the position's manager]: "If the posting says 'reporting to the senior associate manager,' query on the organization's website until you find out who that person is and use [his] name," Smith says. If you can't find the name, just use the title.

4. To the [name of the department]: Callista Gould, certified etiquette instructor at the Culture and Manners Institute, recommends using the section or department name, if a direct contact can't be found (e.g.,"To the consumer affairs department").

5. Dear [hiring manager/personnel manager/human resources director]: If you've done your research and still can't find any specific information to include in the salutation, Sherry Mirshahi Totten, president of career marketing company Roadmap Career Services LLC, says it's OK to address it generally. But instead of "To whom it may concern," use "Dear hiring manager," "Dear personnel manager" or "Dear human resources director." "Dear recruiter" or "Dear decision maker for X position" works too.

5 ways to give your résumé a makeover

By Susan Ricker, 

Fashion and style change over time -- and so should your résumé. What may have been a trendy way to format five or 10 years ago could now be considered outdated. And with technology changing how jobs are found and applied for, being current is more crucial to your job search than ever.

Take the time to update your résumé with these five tips:

1. Swap out dated categories for modern information

Résumés used to serve as a different form of introduction than they do today. While hiring managers used to wonder who you were and what you were seeking, as well as if anybody could vouch for you, today's hiring process is more streamlined. "Today, like the understanding of the unspoken objective, everyone knows that a job candidate will provide references when and if they advance to the next stage of the hiring process," says Karen Southall Watts, business coach, consultant and author.
Instead, find a way to use your résumé's valuable space more wisely. "The top third of your résumé is prime real estate and should not be home to something as obvious and outdated as an objective statement," Watts says. "The reader already knows you are looking for a job like the one advertised. It's better to put a personal branding statement or skills summary in this key area." Below your contact information, write a short summary of your achievements and years of experience and highlight your skills.

2. Use the latest technology to your advantage
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When designing your résumé, keep in mind both who and what will be receiving it. Bruce Blackwell, managing partner of Career Strategies Group in White Plains, N.Y., says, "Rule No. 1 is to keep your design simple. Make sure it is compatible with the résumé database programs used by employers and recruiters. Called applicant tracking systems, these programs electronically "read" incoming résumés, parse their keywords and slot them into a database file. Résumés with headers on the name and address lines, with bullet points in the contact area, with fancy lines and other graphic effects, often cannot be read and end up in the garbage."
Having more than one format of your résumé is crucial to your search. "There should be a résumé that works no matter where you need it to go: A printed paper version for traditional employers, a PDF version that can be scanned and a hyperlinked version that ties to samples of your work or your social media links," Watts says.

3. Skip the buzzwords and give specific results

Instead of describing yourself as a hardworking, creative, talented team player, quantify your success and include achievements in your work experience section. "Emphasize specific actions and the results achieved," says Michelle Proehl, president of Slate Advisers in Sunnyvale, Calif. "For instance, saying that you 'identified $1 million in administrative cost savings that enabled the sales team to add head count' is far more powerful than 'conducted analysis of division financial plan and budget.'"
Abby Kohut, human resources executive, recruiter and author of "Abby's 101 Job Search Secrets," says, "Avoid buzzwords designed to sweeten your résumé, but don't really hold any meaning. With more companies relying on computers to vet résumés before sending to hiring managers, it's crucial to weave the appropriate keywords into your résumé and professional online profiles. Learn the difference between a buzzword and a keyword, and your résumé will rise to the top of the stack."

4. Give context to your experience

While you may know what your past places of employment did or believe a company name is big enough to be recognized, hiring managers may not. Jon Mazzocchi, partner and general manager in the accounting and finance search division at Waltham, Mass. based recruitment firm WinterWyman, says it's crucial to give context to your past employment experiences. "Even if the hiring manager is familiar with your past employers, it is a good idea to point out the similarities between those companies and the one you hope to join. Similarities in size, culture and industry definitely help."

5. Give every detail a professional polish

To avoid quickly being discarded, triple-check your résumé for errors, and be sure you're presenting yourself as a professional. When it comes to getting in touch with you, Watts says it's important to give multiple contact methods. "It's highly unlikely that HR is going to send you a letter in the mail. Your résumé should include a phone number, an email, your social media links if you use them professionally and your website if you have one." Laurie Morse-Dell, personal branding coach in Bismarck, N.D., adds, "Make sure you have a professional email address. If your email is or could be perceived as vulgar, cutesy, juvenile or cheesy, get a new one."
Most importantly, your résumé should prove you're a qualified candidate for the job. By taking the time to put your best résumé forward, you're sure to create a great first impression.

Source: careerbuilder

Reinforce your résumé with an effective referral


Job seekers know the power of networking in their search for employment. But it's not just who you know; it's also who your contacts know. An effective way to make the most of your connections is by asking for referrals.

A referral is just one piece of the hiring puzzle, but it can support a well-crafted résumé and help your application rise to the top of the stack. It's a recommendation made to a hiring manager, on your behalf, by someone who knows you both.

What can a referral do for you?

You may have one of several goals in mind when asking a contact to refer you: Perhaps you're hoping to set up an informational interview. Or maybe you've applied for an open position and hope to cement your candidacy with a personal endorsement.
A thoughtful recommendation gives context to your résumé and adds a stamp of approval from someone the hiring manager knows and trusts. It's a personal introduction that connects you with the company on a level that's deeper than the rest of the application process allows. A referral says, "This is someone to pay attention to."

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What's in a referral?
A strong referral has all the hallmarks of an effective cover letter -- it's persuasive, engaging and relevant. The advocate introduces you and explains how she knows you. Then, the person highlights the characteristics, values, experiences or skills that led her to endorse you. In closing, it might include a personal note or comment that reinforces the connection between your contact and the hiring manager.
A referral does not have to be formal. It can take many forms, from an email or social media message to a quick phone call or hallway conversation.

How to use a referral

Tap into your network to find potential advocates -- and to help them help you. Here's how to ensure a strong referral:

  • Ask the right person. Review your closest contacts -- friends, business associates, former managers or colleagues, coaches or mentors. Also make a list of companies you're targeting and positions for which you're applying. Then, determine where the two intersect. Reach out to prospective advocates who have ties to those companies, requesting that they speak on your behalf. Don't send a mass email, which will seem too impersonal. Many companies have incentive programs that encourage employees to refer qualified candidates for open positions. But your advocate doesn't have to work for the company you're pursuing. Your contact and the manager may be connected socially or through a professional or charitable group, for example.

  • Provide enough info. Arm your advocate with enough information to make a solid recommendation. Share your résumé and also be clear about how your skills and experience align with the requirements of the open position. Don't assume your friend or colleague knows why you're right for the job. The more thorough you are, the better able the person will be to make a case for your candidacy.
  • Follow up. Once your contact makes a referral, the ball's in your court. Follow up quickly so you don't lose momentum. If your advocate copies you and the hiring manager on an email, reply by acknowledging the introduction, attaching your résumé and requesting a meeting. If your advocate sends a written letter or recommends you in person, wait a day or two and then reach out to the employer, mentioning your contact by name and asking to connect. You may not always be able to follow up, but do so whenever possible.
  • Rise to the occasion. When a contact makes an introduction on your behalf or endorses your capabilities, the person is putting a little of his own reputation on the line. And if you don't shine brightly, it'll reflect badly on him. You owe it to your advocate to put your best into anything that follows from the referral. That means, for example, responding quickly to any inquiries from the hiring manager or thoroughly preparing for a resulting interview.
Final thoughts
Be sure to thank anyone who provides you with a referral. Send a handwritten note or a small gift card or take your contact out for coffee. And if someone you've asked for a referral politely declines, don't press. Not everyone is comfortable or feels qualified to provide a recommendation -- no matter how talented you may be.

Yes, You Really Need a Cover Letter!

By Kate Lorenz,

It's the age-old question from job seekers: Must every resume be accompanied by a cover letter? The answer, according to professional career counselors, is a resounding yes. And not just any cover letter. It must be tailored to the specific job to which you are applying.

Experts say that it takes just seven seconds to make a first impression. If a hiring manager sees you don't have a cover letter upon first perusing your application, it's possible you could lose all chances of being contacted for that job.

Here are some tips for a foolproof cover letter.

Cover the basics.
Your letter should be brief, easy to read, and always include your full name, address and phone number in case your cover letter becomes separated from your resume. Don't forget to proofread to avoid spelling errors and typos. Make sure the job title and employer name are correct, too.

Target it.
Avoid using "Dear Hiring Manager" and find out the name of the company's human resources contact or recruiter. You can find this information by logging on to the company's Web site or calling the main phone number and asking a receptionist for the name and title of their corporate recruiter. Once you have a contact name, experts recommend using the person's formal title such as "Mr.," "Ms." or "Mrs."

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Be detailed.
State which job you are applying for in the very first paragraph and make sure to include other specific details such as a job ID number (if one was provided) and where you heard about the opening. The reason for this detail is simple: Many recruiters are responsible for multiple openings within their companies and must be able to determine which job your application is targeting. And if you were referred to the company by an employee, be sure to mention this in your letter as many companies have employee referral programs.

Have personality.
One of the objectives of a good cover letter is to make a personal connection with the reader. Gone are the days when you could simply change the name of the company in your salutation, attach it to your resume and fire it off to the employer. Recruiters see right through these types of letters and recognize them for what they are - a lazy person's attempt to find a job.

Do some legwork.
A winning cover letter will require some research into the company's history and recent accomplishments. It should show the reader that you have some knowledge of their company and that you made an informed decision when you decided to apply for a job at their company.

Show your worth.
When writing your letter, keep the requirements of the job in mind and address them specifically. Remember, it's not what the company can do for you; it's what you can do for the company that counts.

Get the interview.
Go ahead and tell the hiring manager you want that interview. Express that your cover letter and resume are just the tip of the iceberg and you look forward to a face-to-face conversation.

If you are still unsure about where to begin when writing a winning cover letter, you can find samples of dynamic cover letters online and at bookstores. 

Is shaving experience off your résumé a good idea?

By Alina Dizik, 

Just because you have enough work experience to cover three pages doesn't mean you need to include it all on your résumé. In fact, trimming your résumé to create a more targeted message about your skills and achievements can be a better way to land your next job. 

Most employers are interested in knowing only the most applicable ways your skills can help their organization, and a concise résumé is the first step. "It's vital to make sure the relevant information is at the forefront and easily viewed by the reader," says résumé expert Charlotte Weeks and founder of Weeks Career Services. 

Not sure which experience to leave off your résumé? Here's what to consider.

Decades-old experience
Most hiring managers don't care what you did 20 years ago, unless it was something truly spectacular. As you revamp your résumé, be sure to focus on the last 10 years of your experience, with only a few mentions of previous achievements to provide breadth. But there's always a caveat: If the role you held 20 years ago is still essential to your experience and it won't make you appear overqualified, leave it in. 

Appearing overqualified
Jam-packing your résumé with too much experience can hinder your chances of getting hired. Most recruiters and hiring managers are looking for candidates with just the right amount of experience. As a general rule, shave off experience "when you've been working a lot longer than the years required for the job," Weeks says.
Unrelated industry jobs
Once you've racked up enough experience, it's OK to skip the mention of your summer college job or a position you held in an unrelated industry. While leaving it on your résumé can demonstrate work ethic, it can also create a cluttered document that can confuse recruiters. As you gain more experience, most recruiters expect that irrelevant positions will no longer be listed on your résumé. 

Short-term jobs
Even if it pertains to your field, there's typically no need to include a short-term position. For example, if you're applying for a marketing manager role and you held a three-month stint in a marketing department five years ago, feel free to take it off. The only instance where keeping a short position on your résumé is beneficial is if it is the only proof of industry experience.

When you're just starting out, your internships are everything. However, as you progress in your career, these internships should be replaced with a more solid employment history that includes more permanent positions. 

Create different versions
As you whittle down your résumé, there's no need to think you need to make the same trims for every position, Weeks says. For each position, she suggests looking at the specific job positing to see what of your experience is most relevant. "See what requirements they're seeking, and make sure you include this information -- if you legitimately have it -- on your résumé," she says.

Condense work experience
Not sure how to fit in your most recent experience on your résumé? One trick is to condense other bullet points. The older the job, the less information you need to provide about your role and achievements, Weeks says.
As you build your résumé, it's important to take time to reassess the applicability of your experience. Since most résumés are one to two pages, it's important to constantly edit to keep only the most relevant parts of your experience. This can be difficult with a 20- or 30-year employment history, but it's often the only way to get hired.

Words that hurt: 10 overused terms to remove from your résumé

There are certain résumé words and phrases that have become so ubiquitous they do little more than induce yawns and eye rolls from hiring managers. Employers are so accustomed to hearing from "team players" and "problem solvers," for example, that those descriptions are now essentially meaningless. To distinguish yourself from your competitors, you'll need to cut the clichés – or at least expand upon them with concrete details that back up your claims.

Robert Half recently asked more than 1,300 managers at companies across the United States and Canada to name the most overused résumé phrases. Based on our survey findings, here are 10 terms to retire:

1. Hard worker
Nothing causes a hiring manager's eyes to glaze over faster than seeing this hollow descriptor. Why? Because virtually all applicants – even the least-motivated clock-watchers – claim to work hard.
To impress a prospective employer, you'll need to explain exactly how you've gone the extra mile. Do you regularly meet aggressive deadlines, handle a high volume of projects, exceed ambitious targets or volunteer to tackle tasks outside your role?

2. Self-starter
Companies seek astute candidates who can get off to a strong start without excessive managerial direction and handholding. (In another Robert Half survey, managers cited mastering new processes and procedures as the greatest challenge when starting a new job.)
Unfortunately, simply saying you're a "self-starter" won't convince anyone of your initiative, resourcefulness or ability to quickly make meaningful contributions. Instead, illustrate how you've thrived when managing important projects with little or no supervision.

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3. Team player 
This term is the cliché of clichés. Working well with others is imperative, but get specific. Spell out the ways you've collaborated with colleagues. Did you dive in to help an overwhelmed coworker deliver a high-priority project or lead a key cross-departmental initiative?

4. Highly qualified
When it comes to your qualifications, show, don't tell. Skip this empty expression and describe what you'll bring to the position. Whenever possible, quantify your biggest achievements (think about money you've generated or saved your employers, for instance).
In addition, emphasize your most pertinent skills and certifications. Researching the firm and doing a careful reading of the job posting can help you determine which aspects of your background to focus on.

5. Dynamic
What does this well-worn term really mean? That you're bursting with innovative ideas and positive energy? If true, just say that. Characterizing yourself as "dynamic" is boastful and sounds unnatural. Unless you regularly don a cape as part of a crime-fighting duo, you can safely banish blasé buzzwords such as this.

6. Problem solver
While being a "problem solver" beats being a "problem creator," employers want tangible evidence of your effectiveness. What specific solutions have you devised? How have you overcome hurdles? Have you helped your boss or colleagues out of jams or streamlined workflow inefficiencies?

7. Reliable
Don't waste space touting "strengths" that are basic requirements of any job, such as reliability. It's expected that you – and every other potential hire – will be dependable. Showing up on time and doing your work isn't worth bragging about. After all, anything short of reliable would be unacceptable. Delete it.

8. Familiar with
Many job seekers rely on this ambiguous phrase to obscure a lack of in-depth knowledge in a particular area. For instance, a person can technically claim to be familiar with a software program they've used just once.
This type of wishy-washy wording raises red flags. It won't give employers any sense of your level of expertise, but it will dilute the impact of your more relevant core competencies.

9. Flexible
Change is the only constant today. As such, companies seek versatile professionals who'll adjust easily to new situations. But go a step beyond merely referring to yourself as flexible. Underscore your adaptability by explaining how you successfully responded to a major change at work or deftly dealt with unpredictable aspects of your job.

10. People person
Interpersonal skills are critical for most positions. Employers value professionals who can communicate effectively and build camaraderie with a diverse array of internal and external contacts. Cite examples of how you won over a challenging coworker, client or customer, or helped a group of stakeholders reach a consensus.
The bottom line is that clichés aren't memorable, powerful or persuasive. While there's nothing inherently wrong with the skills and traits listed above, they alone won't deepen an employer's understanding of who you are and what you offer. Stop using generic content as a crutch and embrace clear and specific information instead. As a job seeker, it just might be the most "dynamic" thing you can do.

5 things to leave off your résumé

It's never easy to figure out what to put on your résumé. What will that one line be that hooks the hiring manager? Will the way it's formatted affect the decision? You may think that it's safer to err on the side of including more, but if you load your résumé with unnecessary fluff, it could guarantee your place in the reject pile.

Here are five things you should consider leaving off of your résumé:

1. Objective statement: Objective statements, which usually start with, "I'm looking for a job that..." have long been considered passé. Employers aren't reviewing your résumé to find out what you want in a job; they want the résumé to tell them why they should want you. If you're going to include a statement at the top, make it a personal summary that acts as a condensed version of your elevator pitch. It should touch on your top skills and any major achievements worth highlighting.

2. References available upon request: Including a list of references or the statement, "References available upon request," isn't necessary, because it's expected that you have references, should an employer request them. Instead of taking up valuable space, create a separate document that lists your references and their contact information, and have it ready to email or hand out as needed.

3. Outdated or irrelevant information: Résumés are about quality, not quantity. Hiring managers don't have time to read through three pages' worth of positions held, dating back to when you were a dog sitter in high school. Consider removing any experience that is more than a decade old, especially if it's not applicable to the position for which you're applying. Focus instead on experience and education that show you're relevant and up to date on the newest skills and technology.
4. Personal attributes: Unless you're applying for a modeling job or another position where looks are a factor, leave your picture off your résumé. Most employers shouldn't -- and legally can't -- care about your appearance; they just want to know why you'd be good for the job. The same goes for listing personal attributes, such as your height, weight, race or age.

5. False claims: This should go without saying, but inaccuracies or over-embellished education or experience have no place on a résumé. Besides running the risk of getting caught (were an employer to do a background check, talk to references or conduct a social-media search), why would you want a job if you're not adequately prepared for it? If you don't know what you're doing, the jig will be up quickly, and you'll just find yourself jobless again and having burned important bridges.

HD Résumé: Making Things Crystal Clear

By now you've heard several times that the job market is competitive and it's more important than ever that you stand out to employers through your cover letter and résumé.
Well, you're about to hear it again.

"While it is always important to have a remarkable résumé, a bad economy makes it even more important," says Kathy Sweeney, a certified professional résumé writer for The Write Résumé. "With this situation in mind, it is more important than ever to communicate the value you bring to a potential employer."

Here are a few pearls of wisdom: Communicating your value to an employer is not done by crowding your résumé with phrases like "results driven" or "motivated." It won't be done by listing what you think is an impressive list of job duties, and it sure as heck won't be done by sending out one standard résumé for every application. None of these mistakes will help pave your way for an interview, but you can bet they will aid in digging your career grave.

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So what is the easiest way to grab an employer's attention? Simple: Spell things out for them.
"The primary function of a résumé is to get a candidate noticed in an effort to gain interviews," Sweeney says. "It is a marketing document, in which a candidate sells his or her value to the employer. If the meat of the résumé is simply job duties, it will not do the job seeker any favors."

If you need help creating your high-definition résumé, here are five common résumé errors you might be making, and how you can make things crystal clear for employers:

1. You aren't quantifying resultsApplicants often don't know the difference between quantifying results and just stating a job responsibility. A job responsibility is something that you do on a daily basis and a quantified achievement is the result of that responsibility, Sweeney says.
"In this tight economy, employers want to know whether you can make or save them money," Sweeney says. "By quantifying results, you show the next employer the results you have been able to obtain, either in dollar figures, percentages or comparative numbers."
To truly impress an employer, you need to highlight situations where you went 'above and beyond' your normal job duties. If you developed a process or procedure that reduced time in completing a certain task, finished a project 10 days ahead of schedule or recommended a way to cut costs, included those in your résumé, Sweeney says. All of these can be calculated out to show dollars saved for an employer.

2. You didn't include keywordsWe hear a lot about using keywords in our résumés and letters, but many job seekers just don't get it. They don't know what they are, where to find them or how to include them in their résumé.
Keywords are usually found in the job description for an available position. Keywords are not "team player" or "good communication skills," Sweeney says. Keywords are specific to the position. For an accountant, for example, keywords might include "accounts payable," "accounts receivable" or  "month-end reporting."
"The whole goal from an employer's perspective is to drill down to the least amount of candidates possible for interviewing purposes," Sweeney says. "Keywords are utilized to trim down applicants to the most qualified candidates."

3. You buried your achievementsPerhaps you did list some accomplishments on your résumé, but they are mixed in with your job duties. What good is that going to do you? This method will not allow an employer to quickly assess your ability to produce results, which is ultimately why they want to hire you.
"If a candidate buries his achievement in a job description, nothing is going to stand out. A job seeker needs to outline what his duties are, as those are what most often match the job posting," Sweeney says. "On a job posting, you will see duties listed. For instance, 'Candidate will be charged with creating relationships with customers and selling XYZ product line.' However, job postings will never say, 'Must produce at least $5 million per year in revenue.' While it is important to list that you 'develop relationships and sell products' as a job duty, you need to separate your daily functions from your results, as employers do not want to 'wade through' your job descriptions to identify your achievements."
In order to make your achievements stand out, Sweeney suggests listing the job duties first in paragraph format, and then incorporate a bulleted area below the paragraph entitled "key accomplishments" to list your achievements.

4. You didn't include a summaryIncluding a summary on your résumé is one of those steps that many job seekers forget to take -- and if they do remember, they usually include the wrong information. Your career summary should portray your experience and emphasize how it will help the prospective employer, Sweeney says. It should be very specific and include explicit industry-related functions, quantifiable achievements or your areas of expertise.
"You will lose an employer's attention if this section is too broad," Sweeney says. "Know the type of position you are targeting and use the keywords that relate to it based upon your background."

5. Your résumé isn't targetedThe best way to make things clear for an employer is to target your résumé to that company and its open positions. If your résumé is generic, it makes the employer have to guess at the type of position you want.
"Human resources managers do not have time to figure out what position will best suit a candidate," Sweeney says. "Let an employer know where you fit into their company."
You should target all areas of your résumé to match what the employer is asking for -- if nothing else, change the summary, because it will be the first area read by hiring managers, Sweeney says. "Look at what is important in the position posting. Then, tweak your profile and perhaps some of your position descriptions to match your qualifications to the position," she adds.

Now what?Now that you've got your HD résumé, you need to put it in front of the right pair of eyes. Don't just post it to a job board and wait for something to happen. Utilize your networks, post on social and professional networking sites and answer questions on industry forums or blogs in a well-thought-out manner, Sweeney suggests.
"You might have a great résumé, but if no one can find it, it defeats the purpose," Sweeney says.

Source: careerbuilder

Stop Making These Resume Mistakes

grammar mistakes on resume

Your tie is straight and your hair is neat. You've practiced that perfect handshake. You're more than ready to dazzle a potential employer ... but none of that matters if you haven't yet gotten the call for an interview.

Remember: It's not only your experience or skills that will make or break your application; in many cases, it's the grammar on your resume.

Your resume is the first thing about you a potential employer sees -- and even though your skills and past experience will be carefully evaluated, so will your professionalism. One of the fastest ways for a potential employer to get a sense of your professional character is the spelling, grammar and punctuation on your resume. A resume without typos can mean the difference between being called in for an interview or being passed over for another candidate.

More than two-thirds of all office jobs require a significant amount of writing, making written communication a key consideration in hiring. The bottom line is that employers need to be totally sure you're able to fire off emails, reports and other documents quickly and flawlessly --and your resume is an effective measuring stick.

Although that seems obvious to many job seekers, a recent Grammarly study found the average candidate makes up to six spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes in his or her resume. Six! With that many errors in a document meant to showcase your talents, imagine how many mistakes might end up in an email or report.

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Here are a few steps to ensure your writing will not scare off potential employers:

1. Use spell check.

Seriously. When you stare at your resume for too long, simple mistakes (such as spelling "and" as "adn") can go unnoticed. Only contextual spell checkers like Grammarly (full disclosure: that's where I work) account for words that are spelled correctly but not in context. Examples include confusion between "your" and "you're" and "then" and "than."

2. Review your grammar.

Linguists and writers consistently argue about the specific rules related to proper use of grammar. And, although "grammar" is a pretty broad term, for the purposes of your resume and job search, there is only one true metric that potential employers consider as they look to decipher the grammar in your resume: Does this make sense?

When talking about past work experience, consistently use verbs in the past tense. Job seekers who talk about a current position should use the present tense ("lead" versus "led," etc.). Makes sense, right?

Use a thesaurus to find words with the same meaning so that you don't sound like a broken record. A wider vocabulary shows your potential employer that you are creative and resourceful, while "I am a dedicated person who is dedicated to my job" does not. It just makes sense!

Read your writing aloud when proofreading. You will catch errors you might miss otherwise. You will also notice if your sentences make sense or sound odd, which is something spelling and grammar checkers cannot tell you.

3. Use consistent formatting.

Choose a format, and stick with it! Having bullet points in one section of a resume and numbers in the next is distracting. Make sure all your fonts are the same type, size and color (which should always be black). Review your resume or document for general uniformity, and if one section stands out, tweak it to match the rest.

Checking for all these seemingly minor errors might make you cringe, but many resources online can help. Websites such as Words and Answers are just a few of the online resources you can use to catch mistakes and improve your writing.

Good resume writing can help you land that dream job interview -- and, once that's in order, you can take advantage of that perfect handshake.

Make sense?

Source: AOL

The elements of résumé style

Writing wisdom from Strunk and White

The The classic "The Elements of Style" by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White is not just for term papers. If your copy has been buried in a box since graduation, dust it off and polish your résumé with its timeless advice.
Elementary rules of usage and composition
· "Use the active voice."
· "Put statements in positive form."
· "Use definite, specific, concrete language."
As the book's introduction states, the authors are all for "cleanliness, accuracy and brevity." They want writers to select words that convey exact meaning -- an excellent idea on résumés when you want to make a big impression in a small space.
"I often see dry, passive language that makes the job seeker appear as a follower or simple doer rather than a leader or someone who drives results," says Abby M. Locke, master résumé writer and personal brand strategist for Premier Writing Solutions in Washington, D.C. "For example, 'Responsible for the development of new programs and services' works better when rewritten with active, engaging language like 'Conceptualized and created revenue-generating programs and services that increased the company's bottom line by 20 percent.'"
Locke also reports that candidates get stuck in a rut of using the same verb over and over again, such as "developed new brochures," "developed marketing materials" and "developed a system." "When bullets like these are read very quickly, the only words that the reader remembers are 'developed, developed, developed.'"
Another elementary rule to remember: Watch tenses. Strunk and White note that "shifting from one tense to another gives the appearance of uncertainty and irresolution." Tiffani Murray, a résumé writer and career consultant for, says that she's seen gaffes where the applicant has used two different tenses in the same sentence.
"For past roles, you should use past tense," Murray says. "For the current job that you are working in, present tense works unless you are referring to a project that is completed. You want to be consistent and accurate with your tense in portraying what you have done in the past for an employer and what you are doing now."

Words and expressions commonly misused
Many a candidate writes that he "lead a team" when he meant "led." Another common dilemma: "effect" versus "affect." (The former can be a noun meaning "result" or a verb meaning "to accomplish" or "to bring about." The latter is a verb meaning "to influence.")
Carolyn Yencharis Corcoran, assistant director of the Insalaco Center for Career Development at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., reports that job seekers often confuse:
· "to" and "too"
· "your" and "you're"
· "there" and "their"
· "then" and "than"
· "wonder" and "wander"
· "its" and "it's"
· "a" and "an" before a word that begins with a vowel (as in "a excellent opportunity" when it should be "an excellent opportunity")

An approach to style
· "Avoid fancy words."
"Using language that is too formal or too academic can make an applicant's résumé and/or cover letter sound derogatory or speechlike, which may appear like you are trying to fool the employer about your qualifications," Corcoran says. "The best way to set yourself apart is with examples that use industry-relevant words from your experience, not formal words that may make the reviewer feel stupid or -- if used incorrectly -- laugh at your application."
· "Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity."
"Most people write about their titles and functions in terms they understand, instead of taking into account if it will be understood by a hiring authority," says Tony Beshara, author of "Unbeatable Résumés: America's Top Recruiter Reveals What Really Gets You Hired." "Likewise, most people write the names of the companies they have worked for with no explanation about what the companies do. There are 7.5 million companies in the United States ... most of us don't know what any of them do. It needs to be explained in detail."
· "Do not overstate."
Finally, heed Strunk and White's warning, "When you overstate, the reader will be instantly on guard, and everything that has preceded your overstatement as well as everything that follows it will be suspect in his mind."
"I advise students not to say they are 'excellent speakers who have extensively ... ' or other similar phrases," says Cynthia Favre, director of career services at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn. "Comparative words like 'excellent' raise the question: Compared to whom? And most hiring managers will have a hard time believing a 21-year-old new graduate has done anything 'extensively' anyway. Instead, give evidence, and let the reader decide if it is excellent or extensive."

Why Your Resume Stinks (And What To Do About It Now)

There's nothing like a 90-minute session with a resume maven to point out how little you know about your own accomplishments-or how lame you look on paper. I knew I needed help, but when Miriam Salpeter, a job and social media coach, began her critique, my head started spinning.

Everything about my resume screamed: Discard before reading.

My laundry list of prior jobs included descriptions of my duties, but said nothing about what I actually did or achieved. As Salpeter explained, I was leaving that for employers to try and figure out -- and who was going to bother?

The Challenge: Proving Your Accomplishments On A Resume With some professions, showing accomplishments on a resume is easy: "Increased revenue by X percent." As a journalist looking to transition to another field, I would have to find other ways to demonstrate my value. On the resume I showed Salpeter, I stated that I helped to re-launch a national magazine. Her response was: "So what?"

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Blunt, but spot on. What did I actually contribute? What was the result? What skills did I use that would translate to other professions? I had to start from scratch.

Here Are The Steps Salpeter Laid Out For Me
Make sure the job fits before applying: The first thing I needed to do was to copy the job descriptions for positions that I was interested in and highlight the parts I had experience with. If I couldn't highlight at least 80 percent, I shouldn't apply.

Use the ad's exact words: Whatever words employers used in their job description, I had to use in my own descriptions of prior jobs. Applicant tracking software scans for keywords, so including them increases the odds that an actual human being will see my resume. Employers won't think I'm a parrot, according to Miriam -- they'll think I'm a good match.

Focus on accomplishments, not what you did: Every job experience on my resume should show not just what I've done, but also what my effort produced. And every item should be bulleted ... no running text.

Be selective about what you showcase: The point of a resume isn't to list everything you've done; it's to show prospective employees what they want to see. I needed to create movable parts that I can swap in and out depending on the position. Or, since I'm interested in a few different fields, have a basic resume for each one.

It took me five hours to rewrite my resume.

At first I couldn't figure out how to connect my previous positions to the one I was applying for, but once I began using the employer's keywords as my guide, it became easier. If an item wasn't relevant, I deleted it. In the end, I looked remarkably like the person in the job description.

I sent off a job application. We'll see what happens. But I feel much better about my chances now that my resume actually says something.

What does your resume say about you? Does it list accomplishments, or just actions?

Source: AOL

Don't have much experience? Here's how to boost your résumé

It's one of the most frustrating experiences any job seeker faces: After a rigorous search, you've found a job that you're really excited about, where you'll work on interesting things with like-minded people and in a great location. The catch? The job requires experience, often more than a recent college graduate has under his belt. As disheartening as this situation is, it isn't necessarily the end of the line.

Here are some ways you can boost your résumé to help you secure your dream job:

Become an intern
Many colleges and universities require students to complete an internship prior to graduation. This might lead some to believe that internships are only for students, which is untrue. Some internship programs do require that their interns receive class credit, but those are typically unpaid and rely on the class credits as compensation. Many paid internships have no student-status requirements or age limitations. Internships offer excellent experience and networking opportunities, and they can often lead to a full-time job offer.

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Experience doesn't have to come from the private sector. While volunteer work is mainly associated with altruism, there's no reason you can't benefit your career by volunteering your time as well. Doing nonprofit work that is associated with your education and your desired job is a great way to hone your skills, gain real-world experience, and help others in the process. Many companies encourage their employees to volunteer their time, which is a great opportunity for you to network with professionals and show how you'd fit in with the corporate culture.

Keep learning
Just because you've graduated, it doesn't mean that you're done learning. One question employers commonly ask in a job interview is how you've been spending your time since graduation. Telling them you've been sleeping late and filling out the occasional application isn't going to make you stand out. However, talking about continuing-education classes or industry-related seminars you've attended, and discussing how they relate to the position, will likely make a lasting impression.

Strengthen your cover letter
The cover letter is your opportunity to explain to an employer how your experience measures up to the company's needs. Highlight similarities between work you've done in the past and the work that will be required in the open position. Smart employers don't make their hiring decisions based on years of experience alone. This is your chance to sell them on why your specific experiences make you uniquely suited for the job.

Source: careerbuilder

Using The Right Keywords On Your Resume Will Be Very Important In 2013

About 85 million Americans work as white-collar professionals in the private sector, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

Most of these jobs come with good, even outstanding salaries and generous benefits. Which is why competition for one of these gigs is intense.

Deloitte LLP, a global professional services firm frequently on the Best Companies To Work At lists, is no exception. The company, which employs roughly 50,000 professional services workers, most of them accounting, auditing or tax professionals, says it receives about 500,000 applications a year. And only about 3.5 percent -- 17,000 -- are hired.

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That's an acceptance rate lower than Harvard's.

So how exactly does one make it into the ranks of that 3.5 percent? Jen Steinmann, picture above, is Deloitte's chief talent officer and oversees hiring. In an interview with AOL Jobs, Steinmann spoke frankly about what it takes to make it through the hiring process onto Deloitte's staff.

And yes, she said connections can help -- a lot.

Q: Are you getting lots of applications from totally unqualified people, or do many of them seem to be in the right ballpark?

A: We get a lot of people who are truly qualified, on paper. At a minimum, a majority of applicants have the right experience. That's why everything [in the application process] matters; someone will form an opinion of the job applicant during every single interaction.

Q: Lots of job hunters are frustrated by the online application process. How large a role do computers play in weeding out resumes?

A: A human being will look at all the resumes that come our way. A computer may help with keyword searches to sort through resumes, but we have people looking at resumes. Deloitte is a company that specializes in professional services, so that's how we operate. We can tell when someone has put in a standard form and are canvassing a lot of companies. Yet if that applicant has the right metrics, all the things we want to see, we'll talk to them. But we will make a note of what we glean.

Q: Is a cover letter necessary? What do you want to see on it?

A: Cover letters should be short and hone in on who you are and who you are addressing. It's better to have a name if you can get it. And try to answer the question: What in your experience makes you qualified for that particular role? It's about storytelling, and the cover letter shines the spotlight while the resume tells the broader story.
Q: What are some of the common mistakes that get people's applications rejected?
A: Generally, a typo is a [deal-breaker.] It's a small thing, but it's evidence of how seriously you are taking this. Everything matters [in the job application process]. Any applicant will have anywhere between three and 10 interviews before they're hired. We pay attention to how you present yourself, from eye contact to your handshake. So another big mistake we see is what people do to follow up after an interview, such as forgetting to write a follow-up thank-you note. It's about how you present yourself.

People should have fun with [the whole application process]. Show enthusiasm. How do you differentiate yourself? The question is, "Why would someone want to engage with me?"

Q: What about references?

A: Once we've determined we'd like to make someone an offer, we'll check references. It's relatively late in the process, and that depends on the company. For people coming out of college, that might mean [calling] young employees who went to school with the applicant. Or we'll ask the greeters from the on-campus recruiting what they thought.

Q: How much do connections help?

A: We take referrals from our people very seriously. For our experienced hires (people who don't come from campus channels), approximately 45 percent come through the referral process. That also means a lot of people do not come from referrals.

How to Write a Winning Résumé

At the 2008 Summer Olympics, Michael Phelps became an international swim sensation after working hard to perfect his skills. Although he is only 23 years old, Phelps has already achieved worldwide recognition for his unparalleled achievements. What do you and Phelps have in common? You both have the ability to bring home the gold.

Practice makes perfectWinning résumés and victorious athletes share several features; they both rely on extensive preparation and hard work.
As you begin to create your résumé, you need to invest time researching the subject. Visit a local library or bookstore and review professionally written résumés that focus on your job title, area or industry. Concentrate on content, format and style. Will you need a section for professional experience, education, technological skills and affiliations? What type and size font should you use? Should your writing style be formal or casual? Once you decide on and are comfortable with your résumé's appearance, style and content, then you are ready to take the next step.
Job advertisements and official position descriptions are a treasure chest for résumé writers. Not only do they include required skills and experience, they also contain industry buzzwords or keywords. Employers use keywords as part of their selection criteria and incorporate them into their scanning software. Determine which keywords and phrases emphasize skills, strengths and achievements, then weave them into your content.

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Leverage your strengthsHow will your résumé differentiate you from the competition? In order to have a competitive advantage, your résumé needs to identify factors that define your unique value proposition. What information can you include that will impress prospective employers and convince them of your value?
Including a profile or qualifications summary in the beginning of your résumé is an opportunity to form a positive image in the employer's mind. Take time to develop and write your profile. Ask friends, colleagues and family to describe your personal and professional strengths and attributes. Find similarities between your personal and professional attributes and the competencies listed in the job announcement. Incorporate positive endorsements and testimonials into your profile. Remember your goal: You need to prove you are the best candidate for the open position.

Celebrate your successesResearch reveals that hiring managers review résumés for no more than 10 to 15 seconds; therefore, your writing needs to contain a "hook" that will immediately engage the reader. Although résumé writing is not an exact science, there are a few formatting guidelines you can follow.
· Limit the résumé's length to one or two pages.
· Try to present work experience in reverse chronological order.
· Do not include employment more than 15 years old.
· Focus on achievements, not tasks.
Employers are not interested in reading about your daily routine. They want to see accomplishments! What are you most proud of? How did you add value to your position or company? Did you increase profitability, reduce expenses, improve efficiency or boost productivity? Can you quantify your achievements? These are some questions your résumé needs to answer.
A proven method of identifying achievements is to ask, "What problems did I encounter?" "What actions did I take to solve them?" and "What were the results?" In her book "Job Search Magic," Susan Britton Whitcomb states this "creates a consistent, balanced visual impact and gives the appearance of a strong, long-term history for taking on challenges and delivering results."
As Michael Phelps discovered, winning the gold means working harder than your competition. Investing your time and energy to convince employers you will be a valuable asset to their team will heighten your chances of bringing home the gold.

Source: careerbuilder

Do I really need a cover letter? New thoughts on an old standard

Including a cover letter with your résumé is commonly considered a "golden rule" of job searching. But in this age of online applications and recruiters who need to scan material quickly, is this practice outdated?Consider the following: For his book "Unbeatable Résumés: America's Top Recruiter Reveals What REALLY Gets You Hired," author Tony Beshara asked hiring authorities from a variety of disciplines the question "How important is a cover letter when you are receiving résumés?" Of the more than 3,000 respondents, 86 percent said "not very important."
So if only 14 percent of the people seeing your résumé consider a cover letter important, is it worth doing?

To send or not to send
"Unless the employer specifically requests a cover letter, I would recommend that candidates do not include one," says Jen Rallis, author of "Ugly Résumés Get Jobs." "Many recruiters only spend a few minutes scanning a résumé and disregard cover letters all together." Instead, she favors a well-written summary of qualifications specific to the position being applied to at the top of the résumé.
Many experts, however, make the case that a concise, targeted cover letter has value. "In a cover letter, you can precisely match your qualifications to job requirements and/or to the company to a degree that is difficult on a résumé," says Pennell Locey, senior consultant for Keystone Associates, a career management consulting firm headquartered in Boston. "Choose no more than five key points where you feel your qualifications directly make you a standout, and highlight the specifics of those in your letter. Bullet points rather than a narrative can make it easy for an employer to read."

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"From a recruiting standpoint, I would likely look at a cover letter after reading someone's résumé," says Tracy Cashman, partner and general manager of the information technology division of Winter, Wyman -- one of the largest staffing firms in the Northeast. "I am more interested in examining a person's work experience and skills than reading the sometimes 'fluffy' nature of a cover letter." Still, she notes that a cover letter can be helpful, especially when it explains something that can't really be covered in the résumé itself, such as a gap in employment history or a position outside the person's obvious career track. Cashman's colleague Beverly Morgan -- a partner in Winter, Wyman's human resources division -- adds that a cover letter should mention anyone you know within the organization to build a personal connection.

Making the decision
Obviously, if a job ad asks for a cover letter, one should be included because failure to do so looks like you aren't following directions. Likewise, the decision is already made when an online application only allows space for a résumé. For other cases, it is difficult to tell what role a cover letter may or may not play in the hiring process.
While a cover letter is typically placed before a résumé, Beshara's survey respondents frequently said that if they read a cover letter at all, they did so after examining the résumé. Thus, applicants may want to reconsider how they approach their material, realizing that their résumé must be the attention-grabber.
When an applicant does include a cover letter, Beshara stresses that it must be concise. "I can't tell you the number of résumés I receive with a full-page cover letter that will rarely, if ever, get read ...You have to make an impact quickly, with specifics that say 'You need to interview me.'"
Other tips Beshara has for job seekers who choose to send cover letters include:
· Having a phone conversation with the hiring authority beforehand and then referencing that call in the letter.
· Using bullet points to list accomplishments that apply to the specific job opening.
· Quantifying achievements using numbers, statistics and percentages.
· Focusing on what you can do for the company, not on your own needs.
Lastly, Beshara and others urge candidates to ditch any generic cover letters. "As a rule of thumb: If your cover letter could be true for any job/company you apply for, then it isn't targeted enough," Locey says. So if you've decided sending a cover letter is worth your time, do it right and let the reader know you wrote it just for him.

Source: careerbuilder