Writing a Resume That Really Sizzles

When you're job seeking in a time of economic downturn, you know you have to do everything possible to make yourself attractive to a prospective employer, including submitting a resume that really sizzles. How do you do that?  Here are five ways:

Make Your Resume Stand Out

The average employer takes only a minute to screen a resume, so it's in your best interest to make yours stands out. Both content and format resonate with the reader, so be sure to:

  • Describe your skills using action words. For example, “supervised 20 employees on a $3,000,000 contract” is much more powerful than, “was a supervisor of 20 employees for a $3,000,000 contract.”
  • Describe your experience and knowledge. If there are specific software applications used in your industry, be sure to mention them. Likewise, mention any awards, certificates, or recognition you've received for your work.
  • Use italics. Don't go overboard, of course, but strategically placed italics can highlight keywords and call attention to important events in your career, such as completing an online degree. Anything italicized should be relevant to the posting in question.
  • When giving your job history, explain short stays (where you left a job after a short amount of time). If you have gaps in your employment because of extended vacations, a return to school, or maternity leave, make sure you explain them within the resume. These things are red flags to employers searching for long-term workers. Also be sure to disclose any positions that were temporary or contract work.
  • Demonstrate positive impact. Rather than listing the job requirements for each position you've held, describe some key accomplishments. These should be things that you completed where you were recognized for your work, such as "led a team to complete a $1.5 million software upgrade within a specific time and under budget."
  • Use your own words. Never copy and paste the job description.

Tailor Your Resume for the Job

You wouldn't wear the same outfit to every kind of interview, so why would you submit the same resume for every position? It's important to tweak the cover letter and objective on your resume to match the position you're applying for. It's just as crucial to tailor the content. If you're applying for a sales position, highlight the sales-related skills you have. If, on the other hand, you're going for a management job, you'll want to demonstrate that you have leadership experience.

By making your resume fit the position, you will make it easier for an employer to see you as part of the company.

Size Matters

Employers differ on exactly how long a resume should be, but a rule of thumb is to keep it to a single page, with a maximum of two pages if you absolutely need that much space. Remember that you don't have to list every job you've ever held. By the time you're 30 and applying for a mid- or upper-management position, no one will care that you once worked at a fast food restaurant in high school. However, if you are applying for a position that requires highly technical skills, you should list everything that is relevant to the job.

Spelling Counts

Whatever the length of your resume, it is vital that you use correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. If the way you speak tells others a lot about you, the way you write does so even more. If you are uncertain about your English usage skills, make good use of this site, GrammarBook.com with its free rules, examples, and quizzes. You may also wish to purchase the excellent reference book that goes with this site, The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. And don’t forget to use your computer program’s spell-check software. In addition, you should always have another person look over your resume before you submit it. Finally, before you hit “Send,” read it aloud once more to make sure it flows. This will help you spot any mismatched verb tenses or odd phrasing.

Know When to Seek Help

It may be a very wise investment of your resources to consult a professional resume writer to help you if your skills just aren't up for selling yourself with sizzle. You should seek professional help if you are changing job markets or re-entering the workforce, especially, because such consultants will help you find the best way to present yourself. When searching for a resume writing or editing service, pick one that is familiar with your field and ask to see before-and-after samples.

Even incredibly experienced interviewers still get nervous when submitting resumes, so don't worry if you, too, are a bit unsure. If you have the skills for the job and you follow our tips to make your resume really stand out, you should have no problem moving on to the next step: the interview.