5 Resume Writing Rules Every Job Seeker Must Know to be Effective

Posted on 05. Aug, 2013 by in resume

Resume writing is harder than ever before, and resume writing rules are constantly evolving. I have been a professional resume writer for 15 years and what used to work even three years ago does not work today.

Here are five resume writing rules you must consider for your resume to be effective.

1. Understand the Applicant Tracking System

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is the software that many companies now use to read resumes and rank them according to keywords. Hugely important, a recent Forbes articles indicated that as many as 75% of qualified candidates are weeded out because their resume was not readable by the ATS, so here are some key rules.

The ATS looks for special words that tell it what section of the resume it is looking at. These are PROFILE or SUMMARY for your opening paragraph, then EXPERIENCE, EDUCATION, CERTIFICATIONS, and AFFILIATIONS. If you do not use these phrases then an entire section of your resume may not be seen. Also do not use text boxes or MS Word tables as the ATS cannot read them.

2. Your Profile has to have a Value Proposition

Studies show that everyone will read your opening Profile, so this is the most important real estate to consider when writing a resume. If your opening does not distinguish you from the other few hundred people vying for the same job, then the rest of the resume may not be seen.

Does yours stand out? Read just the opening paragraph and strike out any phrase that anyone can say and see what’s left. A good value proposition essentially says “Here is what I can do for you”. It is your promise of value and sets the tone for the entire resume.

3. Use the Harvard Format for the Experience Section

The Harvard format means that your roles and responsibilities are in paragraph form and your achievements are in bullets making them easy to see in a quick scan of the resume. Because of the Applicant Tracking Systems, you need both roles and responsibilities to earn keyword points and a high ranking from the computer. Then you need strong achievements to impress the human who subsequently sees the resume.

A great technique to use is the C-A-R method where you indicate what Challenge you faced, what Actions you took, and (in bullets) the Results of those actions.

For example:

Challenged to turnaround location suffering from lagging sales, high turnover, and poor morale. Quickly assessed staff capabilities, eliminated poor performers, and introduced new training programs.

  • Led store from ranking #29 in sales to #2 in less than 1 year.

4. Have Proof Statements

Your value proposition says here’s what I can do for you, so now you have to prove it. If your opening states “Sales Executive with over 10 years of Top Ranked Performance”, then you now have to substantiate that claim. So indicate what percentage of quota you achieved and your ranking against your peers.

Sales is an easy example. Not all accomplishments can be quantified but that does not mean you were not successful. Think about how success would be recognized for the tasks you performed and showcase that success.

For example, for an events planner:

  • Managed over 55 events ranging to $400K, 3-day programs with over 1,000 attendees and consistently recognized for delivering highly rated experiences at less cost than budgeted.

Or, for an executive assistant:

  • Noted for consistently meeting aggressive and “impossible” deadlines.

And for an IT Executive:

  • Introduced tools and project management methodologies that dramatically reduced the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and increased the ROI from IT investments.

5. Do Not Have Flowery or Irrelevant Statements

Keep your resume focused so do not have statements that are not relevant to the job you are seeking. If you are a sales person, although it’s nice that you created a new filing system for the office, it’s not why someone is going to hire you.

Avoid over the top words or statements, like visionary and dynamic. I do not know many real visionaries other than Steve Jobs so do not use that term lightly unless you can really back it up. Also avoid flowery sentences like: “Rocketed performance to stellar heights”. People just don’t speak like that; I have never heard an executive tell the HR person “We need someone who can rocket performance to stellar heights”. Remember, people hire people they like so don’t make your resume read like an amateur poet wrote it.

Follow these resume writing tips and your will have a dramatic improvement in your results.

This blog posting was contributed by Don Goodman, Got the Job.com. Click HERE for a free resume evaluation and to take advantage of his professional resume writing skills. Don was recognized earlier this year as Resume Remodeler’s top resume writer of 2013. Visit his site now to see how he can make a difference in your job search. Or, check out my review of gotthejob.com and Don Goodman resume writing services.

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