Is Your Resume Working for
10 Steps to a Killer Resume
Guest Author Louise Fletcher founded Blue Sky
Résumés after leaving a 15 year HR career. Her company provides
job search coaching and résumé writing services to senior executives
and arts, entertainment and creative professionals. She is a Certified
Professional Resume Writer and a member of the Professional Resume
Writers Association, the Career Masters Institute and Society for
Human Resources Management.
You know the feeling. You spend hours, or even
days, creating a résumé. You pore over every word of your cover
letter and agonize over what to say in your email. Then you hit
‘send’ and wait. And wait. And wait. No one calls. No one
You don’t know if anyone even saw your résumé.
When this happens, it’s easy to get dejected and worry that
employers are not interested in you. Don’t! Remember, they
haven’t met you. They have only seen your résumé and that may be
An overwhelming majority of job seekers make
basic mistakes with their résumés - mistakes that ensure that
they will not get the interviews they deserve. If you feel as
though you’re sending your résumé into a black hole, try this
‘Ten Step Program’ to diagnose problems and get your résumé
working for you.
1. Is your résumé the right length?
You may have heard that your résumé
should fit on one page. This is nonsense. Recruiter or hiring
managers don’t care if your résumé is one or two pages long. But
they do care whether it is easy to read and gives key
information upfront. Your résumé can be one, two, or
(occasionally) even three pages. The only rule is that the
length should be appropriate for you. If in doubt follow the
(very general) rule of thumb that less than 5 years experience
probably only requires one page and more than that may need two.
2. Does your résumé clearly position you as
someone who can meet the needs of the employer?
Think of a résumé as an advertisement
for a product, only this time the product is you. Just like any
other advertisement, positioning is everything. The person who
receives your résumé will scan it quickly perhaps for no more
than 20 seconds to determine whether you can help her company.
Your job is to say quickly, clearly and loudly that you can!
Don’t just launch into a chronology of your
career history. Instead, determine your own positioning by
spelling out your message at the start of the résumé and giving
the reader your version of events upfront. For this reason, you
should use the first 1/3 of your résumé to create a compelling
personal profile which highlights your key strengths in an
attractive, easy-to-read format.
3. Does your résumé begin with an
Don’t start with an objective.
Recruiters and hiring managers don’t like them because they
focus on the needs of the job seeker rather than the needs of
the potential employer. Consider this objective statement:
“Seeking a software engineer position with a progressive
employer where I can contribute to the development of new
technologies and work with bright, committed people.”
This may be very honest but it is irrelevant
to the reader, who does not care what you want and only cares
what you have to offer. Instead of an objective, try using a
positioning statement that clearly and concisely explains what
you have to offer.
“Senior Software Engineer with 10 years
experience developing leading-edge technologies.”
Now the reader can immediately see your value
to the company. (For even greater impact, tailor this statement
for each position so that the reader immediately sees a match
between his/her needs and your skills.)
4. Does your résumé contain specifics?
5. Have you outlined achievements as well as
You must place your achievements in
context by providing specifics. For example, don’t say something
vague like “contributed to product design.” This tells the
employer nothing about your actual contribution. Instead be
specific about what you did: “Conducted market analysis for
(name of product) to determine design and mechanics. Led changes
to original design spec. despite initial developer objections.
Received critical acclaim and sold over 4 million units.” See
how being specific makes a difference? This level of detail
shows the reader the contributions you have made in the past
(and therefore the contributions you can be expected to make in
Don’t provide a laundry list of
responsibilities without showing what results you achieved. Most
employers already know what the main responsibilities of your
job were. They want to know what makes you different from all
the other applicants. An effective résumé summarizes job
responsibilities in a few sentences and then provides details of
Focus most of your résumé on the results you
accomplished, not the regular duties of your job.
6. Are there any typos?
Your résumé has to be perfect.
Proofread it over and over again. When you are sure it’s
perfect, have other people proof it! If even one word is
misspelled the reader will assume that you didn’t know how to
spell the word (this is bad) or that you didn’t care (this is
even worse!) Nothing puts the reader off more quickly than
misspellings or typos.
7. Is the résumé easy to read?
At least 50% of the impact of your
résumé derives from design. A strong résumé design will pull the
eye through the document, making it easy to keep reading and
will highlight your key strengths clearly. But if your résumé is
badly laid out, disorganized or hard to read, it will be
discarded before the reader knows how qualified you are.
To see examples of how to lay out your résumé,
go to the library or bookstore and look in the career section.
You will find collections of sample résumés. Take time to
understand how the page has been laid out and then apply what
you’ve learned to your résumé.
8. Have you listed irrelevant information?
Don’t list your hobbies unless they
directly support your qualifications for the position. Don’t
detail your marital status or the number of children you have.
Don’t mention non-professional affiliations such as political or
religious volunteer work unless it directly relates to the
position you are applying for. Any personal information runs the
risk of turning the reader off. However proud you are of
personal achievements, you should not run the risk of alienating
someone before you even have your foot in the door.
9. Are you too modest?
Don’t be uncomfortable about blowing
your own trumpet. Too many people play down their achievements.
While you should never exaggerate on a résumé, you should
definitely take credit for the things you’ve accomplished. Some
people feel uncomfortable boasting on paper preferring to
explain in an interview. But if your résumé doesn’t spark
interest, you may never get that opportunity, so don’t be
10. Have you created an internet-ready
version of résumé?
If you have to post your résumé
online, or apply to a job via an online system, you will need to
convert your résumé to a text-only format. If you don’t do this,
your résumé will be almost impossible to read because most
online systems cannot support the type of formatting used in a
résumé (bold, italics, bullet points, lines etc.)
When you send your résumé out, it must speak articulately for
you. You can’t explain inconsistencies, clear up confusion or
fill in things that are missing. Your résumé has to make your
sales pitch in a clear and compelling manner within 20 seconds.
Invest the time to make it exceptional and you will see an
immediate increase in the response rate.