1. Know your audience. Think about the position(s) you would like to target. What are the top five requirements? If you already have a copy of a job description, you can use that as a guide. If not, you can run a search on LinkedIn, Indeed or another job board to find positions similar to what you are targeting. Once you review two to three job postings, you will have a solid list of required qualifications.
2. Know yourself. Now that the position requirements are clear, how does your experience match up? An effective résumé clearly establishes that you are qualified in each of the primary desired prerequisites. Your goal is to make it easy for a busy hiring manager to look at your résumé and quickly determine that you are a strong candidate for the open position. A "one size fits all" résumé never works as well as one that is customized to a specific role, because it requires the reader to think about how other experiences relate to desired qualifications. Hiring authorities may not take the time or have an interest in doing the extra work.
3. Move beyond the duties. Most recruiters know the general duties related to careers within their specific fields. What really stands out is the impact and results you had within your career. For example, a sales associate may have duties of making outbound calls to prospective customers and documenting activity in their customer relationship management system. A more unique way of describing this same position is: "Initiated a minimum of 60 outbound calls daily to C-level professionals in the software industry. Exceeded company activity standards with an average connection rate of 20 percent. Planned and tracked sales funnel in Salesforce.com." Almost every role has a measurement of success – customer satisfaction, time to complete a task, volume of activity completed, error rate or even internal performance measurement rankings. Whenever possible, list those accomplishments or the impact you made in the role.
4. Consider "curb appeal." A résumé is a visual document. This means that using a layout that is organized, symmetrical, allows resting places for the eyes with good use of white space and is not overly text heavy or overly styled works best. A document that looks like a novel often scares off the reader because it looks like too much work.
5. Location, location, location. Résumés are often opened first on a mobile device. Take a look at your document and see if the top one-third would entice the reader to scroll down. The most important and tailored information should be at the top to get the most attention.
6. Print and review. Make changes, print and review again. Writing a résumé is not fun. It is tedious and requires thinking about a tremendous amount of detail. Furthermore, to give you the greatest advantage, it requires customization for each position. However, the beneficiary of all of this effort is YOU. Hiring managers look at the résumé as your one chance to make a great first impression. If you take the easy way out with your résumé when you are trying to make the best impression, what will that mean when you are an employee? Take the extra time to print out and review your résumé thoroughly. Have a second person print out and review your résumé too. Then make changes and print out again. It is not uncommon that you may print out five copies before it is error free and exactly what you want.
A résumé is one the most important tools for the job seeker. While it is not a joyful task for most, writing a well-crafted résumé really helps to sell why you would be an excellent employee. A great one displays commitment to making a great impression, professionalism, writing skills, attention to detail, knowledge of a desired profession and assessment of an individual's skills. In 2014, give yourself the gift of a great résumé. It may take a little more time – but the investment is worth it. Happy New Year.
Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.