Sunday, November 22, 2009

8 Tips to Differentiate Your Resume

Most employers and staffing companies receive five times more resumes for a job post than we did a year ago. Stafflink reviews as many as 2000 resumes in a month. A hiring manager or recruiter at a Fortune 500 company may review even more. How can you make your resume stand out and be one of the few that makes it to the next stage? Some keys to differentiating your resume are:

  1. Readability
    Layout and ease of reading are essential to getting your resume noticed. All too often the best candidate does not have the best resume. Sometimes a weaker candidate with a more readable resume gets to the interview. Make sure your font is readable on a variety of computers. When friends proofread your resume ask them for feedback on size and clarity of the font and layout you have used. Use consistent formatting. Your headings should be the same style throughout the document. Use bold text, indents, lists and tables to assist recruiters with finding the information they are looking for. You may be the most qualified but if people cannot quickly scan your resume and find the relevant points you will not get the job.
  2. Use of Tables or Charts
    Use a table to summarize your number of years of experience with skills. For example, hiring managers love to be able to look at a resume and see that the candidate has 7 years Java, 7 years Oracle and 5 years in the banking industry, without having to flip through the entire resume. Staffing companies routinely summarize candidate’s skills for clients. Why not do it yourself and make sure your experience gets noticed.
  3. List Your Accomplishments
    While it is important to list the key job responsibilities for each position you've held, it is equally important to list your accomplishments. For example: “Reduced payment processing time by 30% when new business intelligence tool was implemented.” Your accomplishments show the added value that your bring to a job.
  4. List the Technical Environment For Each Position
    List all the tools that you worked on with each project. Make sure these tools correspond with the table listing the number of years of experience with skills. A recruiter should be able to look at each job and know immediately what technical tools you used to complete a project. Describing the technical environment is a good way to add relevant keywords to your resume.
  5. Key Words
    Almost every recruiter will try to fill their requirement by doing a Boolean search on their applicant tracking system, Web 2.0 tool or online job board. Put as many key words as possible into your resume. Recruiters do not have time to read every resume they receive. Usually recruiters will search resumes using keywords relevant to the job. Keyword searches enable recruiters to create a shortlist of resumes that rank highest in searches. These are the resumes that we take the time to open and read more closely.
  6. Cover Letter
    A good cover letter or email introduction with an attached resume is another way to get your resume noticed. Make sure it is specific to the job you are applying for. This needs to be no more than three paragraphs. List your most relevant qualifications in bullet points. The main purpose of the cover letter is to get the recruiter to read your resume. I recently received two page cover letters. I can guarantee you that a lengthy cover letter does not help a person get hired.
  7. Volunteer Work
    This is valuable work that not only helps society but can lead to your next job. Do not just mention that you worked for Big Brothers. Talk about what you have done for Big Brothers and some the skills that you developed and contributed to this work. If two candidates are identical in technical skills, sometimes volunteer work will differentiate you as a desirable candidate.
  8. Review of Resume
    Have at least five different people read over and comment on your resume before you post it. Some clients will not interview you because you have a grammatical error on your resume. Do not differentiate yourself with a spelling mistake. While spell check is a great tool to start with, make sure you have some human eyes read over your resume as well.

Tim Collins

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