4 Tips to Get the Mediocre Out of Your Resume

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Resume written on old typewriter

As we were growing up, our mothers dutifully worked hard to make us humble, hardworking, good team players, and punctual. That's fine and good, but if you dare put any of those characteristics on your resume, either in a summary or listing of capabilities, you are effectively guaranteeing that your resume will be tossed rather than read. Your resume is your shot at showing why you're special, not how well you were brought up. Unfortunately, too many people write their resumes as if their mothers (rather than hiring managers) were reading the document.When crafting a resume, turn off your mother's voice. Ironically, all the characteristics that might make you a great human being translate on a resume to a potentially mediocre and boring employee. Your assignment in writing your resume is to paint a compelling picture of why you're a phenomenal candidate. No one is perfect, but you should be exciting, amazing and someone that the hiring manager just wants to meet. It's all in the words and phraseology that you choose to describe yourself.

Example: At the very top of his resume, one friend listed the following as his main qualifications: "Solid organizational skills, good communication skills, knowledgeable in social media."

Can you spot the implied mediocrity in his choice of adjectives?

If I'm hiring a coordinator or administrator, I want them to be great at organization and amazing at communicating with clients and customers. If I'm hiring a social media assistant, I want the person to be far more than just "knowledgeable." My grandmother is knowledgeable about Facebook. My social media assistant is a whiz kid.

Luckily, there are many tools today to help you turn yourself from just another nice person into a serious prospect worthy of consideration for an open job. Here are a few of them.

Remember your high school English teacher and use action verbs. Every year there are standard resume buzz words and loads of advice on how to use them or abuse them in a resume. For instance, check out these research results from a CareerBuilder survey that show common resume terms that make recruiters cringe.

Instead of buzz words, consider sprinkling your resume with power words, verbs that put oopmh or action into your resume. Here's where high school English class comes in handy. There are distinct differences between adjectives and verbs in resumes. Verbs are true power words generally showing you can get things done. Examples include: launched, managed, led, developed, and created, to name a few.

Contrary to power verbs, buzz words are frequently overused adjectives such as unique, detailed, solid, good, adaptable or flexible. These words imply that you don't have results to report and are punting to describing yourself instead of your work.

Think of your high school math teacher and show your work. Contrary to popular belief, your resume is not about you. It's about your work. This is the most common mistake I see on many resumes sent to me for review. Worse, I usually see this error at the very top of a resume in a summary that describes the person and what she wants in a job rather than the prospect and what he can bring to the job.

The person: Dependable team-player interested in working in a challenging environment
The prospect: Effective project manager known for motivating teams under tight deadlines.

Resumes are your chance to "show your work." Your work--not your self-descriptions--should make you shine. That's why numbers that show results are so powerful. For instance, which employee are you most likely to invite for an interview?

Person A: Dedicated salesperson with exceptional attention to customer service and meeting all
sales quotas.

Person B: Effective sales representative who grew accounts by 10 percent in three months and created a new sales category to grow business by $25,000 in the first quarter rollout.

The math wins every time because it goes beyond describing you as a person, and instead shows the results of your work.

Show your varsity letter. Mom taught us how to be nice people, and we frequently hear how people like to work with people they like. Certainly, hiring managers don't want to hire difficult personalities, but before they spend even a minute assessing your personality they first want to know if you're a great prospect who can do the work, get the work done, and not be undone by the work in high-pressure situations.

You can be the best team player in the world, but the hiring manager needs specialists in building her team. Generally, we make the mistake of selling ourselves as a cheerleader when the team needs a solid quarterback to call plays, or a broad-shouldered offensive lineman who can take getting bruised, or even a flexible goalie who can keep his eye on the puck and where it's likely to go.

It's important to know the role you're interviewing for and how you have trained to perform that very position for the good of the team. That is very different from being a team player.

In summary, remember the old saying "it's business. It's not personal." Your resume is about you as a business person. Although it's a reflection of you, it's not about you. It's about your work and how you're effective in a business environment. Use your resume to show what you've done and how you've done it. You can let your smile and handshake in the interview show them you're a nice, solid, stand-up kind of person. You need your resume to first get you in the door to that interview. Mediocre and nice won't cut it.
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