December 9, 2011 at 3:56 PM

The Best Resume Shows Employers You Have What They Want

"You must customize your resume"

By Patty Armstrong

Where’s My Great Career?

Patty Armstrong is a career counselor and educator on a mission to help people of all ages find careers they enjoy.

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Among the challenges of finding job opportunities in today’s job market is getting your foot in the door to even talk to the employer. These days your first discussion about a company could well be at an official interview in response to an advertised posting. Since this is often the case, you will need to rely on your resume to grab their attention out of the virtual or real pile of applications they’ve probably received. You want them to call you in, eager to learn more about you and what you can do for them.

Here’s your test for whether your resume is up to the task of getting you the interview: If you’re getting called for interviews most of the time, it’s doing the job. If you’re only getting a few calls for all the jobs you’ve applied to--and know you’re well qualified for the position--then your resume can use some improvement. If you’re not getting any calls for interviews, your resume is probably stuck in the past along with the rest of your job search skills and not up to today’s job search demands.

First of all, your resume must be in a readable format that can be attached to an online application, if needed. Some computer applications will only accept Word, but if the program accepts PDFs, I recommend you convert your document to PDF. Everyone’s computers can access PDFs these days, and your document will stay in the format you created. Secondly, title that document with your first and last name and the word "resume." A document titled “LANL resume” could be overwritten by someone else who applied for the same position with the same document title and your resume will be lost.

Then, you need to look at the job posting. Even if you’ve only got a small newspaper advertisement to go by you can often get a more detailed description from the company’s website or Human Resources office. If nothing else, you can do an Internet search for a similar job description from another company. The first place I look when critiquing a resume is the minimum qualifications for the job. If your resume doesn’t clearly – and I mean clearly – show that you meet those qualifications, then you’re not likely to get anyone to read your offering any further.

Once you’ve demonstrated that you meet the minimum qualifications, and hopefully many or all of the preferred qualifications, look at the skills and tasks listed in the job description. Computers, Human Resources staff and hiring managers all are looking for key words that show you have what they’re looking for and recognize the language of the career field. You don’t need to copy their sentences verbatim, but you will want to use important words and phrases like “Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite, proprietary databases and Internet research” that show you’re knowledgeable and up-to-date in your skills.

You must customize your resume. Some jobs are so similar you can use the same resume over and over. But not only will you need to be sure you’ve addressed all their stated needs, you may have to dump some of that excess baggage from your career that is of no interest to the employer and may even work against your goal. “But, I worked my butt off for that Master’s degree! I deserve to put it in there,” you might say. Think about this: Is that Master’s degree a job requirement? And if not, could it make the employer think you are overqualified and likely to get bored and leave – or even try to take the boss’s job, instead of concentrating on doing your own well? It’s not dumbing down your resume to leave out irrelevant experiences and achievements. It’s actually being smart to have a resume that shows you’ve got exactly what they need and nothing more to distract or make them doubt you. That’s how to get their attention.  

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