15 Items for Your Resume “To Do” List

Do you want to create a more “user friendly” resume to submit to recruiters and hiring authorities? Here are 15 suggestions for composing more compelling and targeted resumes.

1. Create a resume headline. Headlines sell newspapers. They can also sell job search candidates. Hiring managers don’t really read resumes, but rather scan them to determine the candidate’s fit for the job. Help make that fit more obvious by creating a resume headline that tells the reader your strengths such as Award Winning Television Executive Producer, Entry Level Public Relations Assistant, or Information Technology Product Developer.

2. Create a profile section. Hiring managers tend to focus on the top third of the first page of the resume. They may only read on if your profile grasps their attention quickly. Communicate your value-add in the profile section. List powerful and consistent examples of how you help the companies you support make money, save money, save time grow the business, and maintain the business.

3. List core competencies. One of the first things hiring managers will be looking for is a sense if you have the skill set necessary to do the job. Your areas of expertise should be displayed prominently early on in the resume. Try to use the keywords, or phrases that are important to your job function and industry. If you are not sure what the appropriate keywords are, look for consistent wording and phrases on job postings for positions in your field to better align your qualifications with potential job specifications.

4. Include brief descriptions of the companies you have worked for. For each organization you were part of, include information on the company including the industry the company represents, size, and revenues if publicly-held. The company description is particularly important if you have worked for new, small, or lesser-known firms. Refer to the company’s website and “about us” page to secure additional data for your description.

5. Discuss operating budgets and staff size. Include information on budget and staff size to help your reader gain a better understanding of the scope of your responsibilities.

6. Minimize descriptions of job tasks. While it’s important to convey a brief overview of job tasks, this information does little to differentiate candidates. Many candidates have experience doing similar job tasks. What makes them unique and memorable is the accomplishment within the task. Spend no more than 3-6 lines discussing the job tasks associated with each position and save space for more valuable accomplishment-focused information.

7. Maximize use of accomplishments. Employers are interested in reading about your accomplishments. Past accomplishments are a better predictor of success than a discussion of job tasks. Accomplishment statements are those that clearly indicate how you help the companies you support make money, save money, save time, grow the business, and maintain the business.

8. Group like accomplishments into categories. After you develop your accomplishment statements, look for trends within your achievements. Do some accomplishments represent increases in sales while others represent decreases in costs or process improvements? By grouping accomplishments by theme, and creating category headings within the chronology for each position, you can better communicate your personal brand and value add and make it easier for your reader to follow the accomplishments achieved within each key critical competency.

9. List appropriate hobbies. Only include hobbies when they are relevant to your job search or in synch with you target audience. For example, an IT technician might mention his knack for fixing up old cars and an event planner might mention her involvement in community theater. Hobbies can also be used effectively to counter potential age bias. For example, the over 50 candidate might mention that she is a marathon runner to imply overall stamina, health, and fitness and to dissuade any bias that as an older worker the candidate lacks the necessary energy to do the job.

10. Include appropriate volunteer experience. Again, include what is relevant and discuss the competencies gained from the volunteer experience that elevate your candidacy. For example, a career changer seeking an entrée into the healthcare field might discuss the volunteer work she did in a hospital or a technology professional might mention teaching computer skills to disadvantage youths.

11. List relevant professional affiliations. Include relevant and recent professional affiliations and make special mention of any leadership roles held within these organizations.

12. Report employment history by years. Hiring managers generally expect to see the years you were employed by a company, not the months and years. Exceptions to this include candidates who have less than one year of tenure in a position or students reporting on summer employment or internships.

13. Focus on past 10-15 years of employment. Generally, hiring authorities are more interested in recent accomplishments than those achieved over a decade ago. Weight information on your documents towards the past 10-15 years and minimize the amount of space dedicated to earlier work experience.

14. Include graduation dates. Sometimes job seekers omit their graduation date on their resume to mitigate the potential of someone discovering their age and possibly using this information to bias their candidacy. But by omitting the date, you may actually be calling more attention to the very issue you are trying to hide because employers may question why you chose to omit the graduation date. They may even assume that you are older than you actually are.

15. Omit “references available upon request”. It is understood that candidates will provide references when asked. Save the space for more compelling, accomplishment-driven information.