Polish Your Resume for 2015

By AJE Recruiting Specialist
America’s Job Exchange

Polish Your Resume for 2015The New Year is always the best time to revamp your job search efforts. A flurry of hiring happens in the beginning of a new year. Companies expect and are geared to receive a large number of applications and resumes at this time of year. Outside of networking, your resume is the single most important tool to get you that interview because it is what hiring managers use to categorize job applicants. Despite this knowledge, job-seekers are using basic and boring resumes when applying for positions. As a job seeker, you must put in the effort to make your resume shine to the max and draft and redraft your resume a few times. Once you invest the time and create a brilliant resume, you will have an easier time tweaking this main document to fit all job applications.

Below are some tips for polishing your resume from an AJE Recruiting Specialist:

Check Resume for Attractiveness

Your resume, especially an electronic copy of your resume, should be visually attractive, relevant to the job you are seeking, concise, and current. Formatting is important as anything that is easy on the eyes and reader- friendly has a higher chance of actually being read.

Additionally, a resume that does not tell a story with a laser-sharp focus is practically useless. Recruiters do not spend much time scanning a resume so it needs to have a hook and engage the viewer, or it's lost. Remember that a resume is not your personal history – nor your employment history – but a document that clearly shows why you are the perfect candidate for the job you are seeking. Moreover, if you are applying for multiple positions, please do not use the same resume. It is most crucial to tailor each resume to the position you are applying for with skills highlighted that shows that you are the one for that job!

Concentrate on highlighting the most relevant education, training and experiences from the past 7 to 10 years; beyond that, your experiences are simply background information. De-emphasize anything older than about 15 years of experience – with anything beyond the 10-year mark focused on one or two key bullet points. It's best to list experiences older than 15 years in bare-bones fashion with no dates or bullet points under a heading such as "Previous Professional Experience."

How to Begin a Resume

Many recruiters and hiring managers have confessed to not being able to scan more than one-third of candidate resumes for initial screenings. So how do you make yourself stand out and not have your resume overlooked in the competition?

Start with a headline – just under your name and contact information – that clearly identifies you or the job you seek. You can follow the headline with a more detailed statement further highlighting your brand or qualifications. So remember, a headline and then a couple of sentences elaborating that headline with well-chosen words that give pertinent information.

Have a Succinct Summary

A qualifications summary (which goes by many other names, including Career Summary, Summary, Professional Profile, Skills Summary, Summary of Qualifications, Professional Summary), highlights the 3-4 most important elements that demonstrate your fit for the job you seek. Ideally, these points match directly, the job requirements from a job posting. Elaborate each bullet point with specific examples and numbers.

Align Work Descriptions to Focus on Specific Accomplishments and Impact

The most important way to polish up your resume is adjusting and rewriting work experiences from passive job descriptions to active portrayals of your experiences that focus on accomplishments and positive results. Explain the work you completed in each relevant job in short bullet points that clearly demonstrate your impact on each job – and with each employer or organization. Current and recent jobs should have more bullet points than older jobs. Also, remember to include relevant accomplishments from non-work experiences.

Utilize Keywords Based on Job(s) You Seek

Nowadays, most resumes are scanned into databases from which hiring managers can search for the most qualified candidates. It is therefore vital that your resume contains specific and relevant keywords and keyword phrases relating to the skills and experiences the employer is seeking. Keywords can be job-specific/ industry-specific skills, technological terms and descriptions of technical expertise (including hardware and software in which you are proficient), job titles, certifications, names of products and services, industry buzzwords and jargon, types of degrees, and the like. You can incorporate these keywords throughout your resume or include a keywords (Key Skills, Proficiencies, Competencies) section on your resume.

Include Most Relevant Information

Your resume should tell a story – one that conveys your brand and tells the employer the benefits of hiring you. Your resume is not your life story, and should not include all the details of your work life. Job seekers tend to worry a lot about resume length but you should be more concerned about resume relevance. Too many job-seekers are focused either on including everything on the resume or struggling with the number of pages. Be as concise as you can (as current trend is toward shorter resumes), but focus on making your resume as long as it needs to be to tell the story of why you are an ideal candidate and thus should be interviewed for the job. Finally, remember a cardinal rule of resume-writing is that include no negative information or details. It can certainly get you eliminated from contention.

Fix Grammar, Spelling, Typos

You can start reviewing your resume with spell-check, of course, but that's just the bare minimum. Proof-reading is essential to weed out other misspellings and typos a spell-check program won't catch (such as spelling "manager" as "manger," "possess" as "posses," or "thorough" as "through"). Be especially careful about company and software names, which are frequently misspelled and can damage your credibility. Try reading your resume backwards – as well as enlisting a trusted friend or family member to proofread your resume.

Adjust and Brand Your Resume to Specific Jobs

Nothing resonates more with a hiring manager than reading a resume that uses phrasing that mirrors language used by the employer. A very simple way to add an extra level of effectiveness to your resume is modifying the ways you describe yourself and your experiences using some of the same words and phrases the organization uses to describe itself. Browse the company's website and job descriptions. For example, a job-seeker applying for a position with the Walt Disney Company might include words such as magic, dreams and innovation.

Another effective method for branding yourself is with the file name of your resume. Instead of saving it as "resume," use your name and a branding statement – such as "Jane Smith: Sales Professional."

Final Thoughts

Remember that all the elements of your resume must be truthful. Including a misrepresentation on your resume is the fastest way to not only get booted from consideration but also damage your reputation.

Also remember to send your resume in a PDF format and not as a Word document as that can look very different on different computers. If possible, check to see if an employer has a preference for formatting of documents before submitting.

So now you should be all set in taking that old resume and adding some effective touches that will get your resume to the top of the pile!

America's Job Exchange also offers some tools to assist with your resume writing and distribution.

Good luck!