Resumes: Marketing brand ‘you’

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resume3This week, I’ve been updating my résumé (for grad school applications, boss) and I must admit I have not been following my own advice.

I’ve repeatedly told readers to update your résumé frequently, whether or not you are in the market for a new job. And by frequently, I mean at least every few months. Why? Because you’ll likely forget key details of the things you are most proud.

That’s the situation I’m in now. I’m trying to retrace my professional steps, piece together my key accomplishments and find the data to back them up. I did rewrite my résumé about two years ago (following my own advice, thank you very much) but a lot has happened in those two years. Thus my task is becoming a bit daunting and taking longer than I would like.

If you are like me and need to refresh your résumé, or just haven’t taken a look at it in several years, here are some quick tips for revising that document that is your No. 1 marketing tool:

Focus on quantifiable accomplishments. Use specifics when detailing your past accomplishments — the amount of money you saved the company, the number of employees you managed, etc. Rather than saying you saved the company millions, state precisely that you “saved the company $2.4 million.” Actual numbers and percentages sound much more credible.

Avoid half-truths and gross exaggerations. Most hiring managers and recruitment professionals have had their share of résumés pass across their desks during their career. So they are usually adept at deciphering embellishments in a résumé. They know that spending the last 10 years as a “domestic engineer” means you simply were home with your kids.

Use keywords. Rather than embellish your titles and accomplishments, use recognizable industry keywords that will jump out at hiring managers reading your résumé and communicate exactly where your expertise lies. Keywords also help your résumé get flagged if you’re submitting it electronically or posting it on a job site.

Change titles only if it clarifies your position. If your title uses little known, company-specific jargon, such as being called an “office contact,” when you performed duties consistent with an “administrative assistant,” then go ahead and use the better suited title. You could list your title on your résumé as “office contact/administrative assistant.” Of course that doesn’t give you the latitude to promote yourself to “vice president of administration.”

Address gaps in your résumé. Instead of fudging the dates of your past jobs to cover an employment gap, address the lapse in your résumé or cover letter to maintain chronological clarity. Hiring managers understand, especially in this economic climate, that workers sometimes encounter extended periods of unemployment for a number reasons.

Half-finished degrees should not be listed. If you “almost” completed your degree, you cannot list it as an earned degree on your résumé. Nevertheless, no education is ever wasted. Be sure to give yourself credit and list any completed coursework in a particular major or concentration.

Discard irrelevant information. It  keeps the reader from seeing your selling points. Weigh each portion of your experience from the hiring company’s perspective to decide what to include and what to emphasize. If you’re applying for an engineering position, for example, don’t devote a whole paragraph to your job as a camp counselor unless the position has elements that are transferable to the engineering job. And never include information about your marital status, personal situation, hobbies or interests unless they are relevant to the job for which you’re applying.

Still not sure about your résumé? Click here to get a free critique from CareerBuilder.

  1. Well Dwight, I’m sure that Ms. Lorenz is quite comfortable in knowing that you won’t be taking her position as a writer. Did they lock you up in grade school?

    Kate, excellent article. Shame on you for not keeping your resume updated, but all of your ideas here are right on point.

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