As you sit down to compose or edit your resume, remember its singular purpose is to address an employer's first question: "Can this person do the work that is associated with this job, and do they have the right background to make a potentially strong fit?" Only if you pass this test can you begin to move along the other stages of the hiring process. Use these powers to convey your unique value and distinguish yourself from all the other candidates who have had similar career paths and job descriptions as yours:
1. The power of intelligence. People judge your intelligence by the way you communicate, both orally and in writing. Clarity of language demonstrates your ability to organize and convey your thoughts. Utilize high-level vocabulary, with descriptive adjectives and adverbs, but avoid pretentiousness. Be concise but complete in your explanations of how you exercised the responsibilities that were given to you in current and previous professional roles.
Don't rely solely on your word processor's spell check to avoid grammatical errors. Examples of commonly misused resume words abound: aid/aide; affect/effect; cite/site; council/counsel. The list goes on and on. Faulty grammar, spelling, or vocabulary will be a mark against you, especially when you're applying for a position that requires excellent communications skills.
2. The power of multiple perspectives. Imagine how recruiters, HR screeners, and the hiring managers will perceive and evaluate what you write. These professionals have "seen it all." They recognize boilerplate wording in an instant. When you use the same language as everyone else, you do nothing to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Just the opposite is true.
Will resume readers look at your resume and say to themselves, "Here's one more 50-something-year-old trying to avoid age discrimination by leaving out the date they graduated college or muddling their work history by using a skills based functional resume instead of a chronological one"?
Will the person who reads your resume see in it something so vague that they won't understand what you're talking about? They are invariably pressed for time, and have neither the inclination nor ability to try to figure it out. If they can't quickly gain a very positive judgment about your specific skills, experiences, and accomplishments, they will move on to the next resume.
Will a hiring manager look at your resume and say, "This person did just what I need to have done, using the same tools and methods that we employ here?" If so, you will create a "wow" moment and a desire on the hiring manager's part to enter into a dialogue with you.
3. The power of "how." It is one thing to say you CAN do something, which isn't very impressive. It is another to say you did something, which is better. But when you use each bullet point to say HOW you achieved something, you make your story complete and thereby elevate it to a higher level.
Poor: "Capable of creating and teaching safety programs on a variety of topics."
Better: "Created 12 safety and environmental programs, dealing with A, B, and C."
Wow: "Created monthly safety topic; scheduled and taught training sessions for 82 unionized field technicians in 4 regional locations. Developed and administered end-of-training tests to demonstrate the level of understanding of materials covered by employees. Utilized test results in construction of follow-up classes and resources."
When you develop bullet points like this last one, you give the reader a complete story that provides insights about the scope and context of your work, how you went about it, and your standards of performance excellence.
This is the time to power-up your resume. When you take it to the next level you will increase your chances of standing out from the crowd, and being seen as an "A class" candidate.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.