4 Ways to Jazz Up Your Résumé

Typing a RESUME.
By Arnie Fertig

If you've lived through the recession clinging to the security of your current job, bravo! But if you think that loyalty to your employer will be rewarded with a big raise, you are likely in for disappointment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While nearly a quarter-million people were hired in June of this year, and the unemployment fell to 5.3 percent, salary increases overall are languishing at just 2 percent. This means that to truly boost your income, you'll likely need to advance your career by climbing the corporate ladder with a new job at a new company. In order to get that job, you'll need to create a compelling personal brand and demonstrate your worth with a résumé that's up to date in both form and content.

Bear in mind that today's résumés have changed from the antiquity of the 1990s. Functional résumés are out! Objective statements at the top are out! Endless bullets beginning with "responsible for ..." are out!

Your résumé is not your autobiography. While absolutely everything you state in it must be factually accurate, you should see it as a marketing document that demonstrates how your background meets the needs of your target employer.

Here are some key elements of today's most compelling résumés:1. Add a headline and personal branding statement.

At the top of the résumé, just below your name and contact information, create a simple headline in large type that highlights the job type or title you seek.

Follow the headline with a short branding statement in a smaller point size. The statement should describe who you are at this moment in time, the kinds of accomplishments the reader will find in greater detail lower down in the résumé and things at which you are particularly adept. There are many articles about how to create a personal branding statement, but in essence, think of it as a statement about the value you offer to your next employer.

2. List professional experience.

This is where you list your employers, dates of employment and job title(s). Because you'll only get about six seconds of eyeball time on the first pass of your résumé, and one of the things a résumé reviewer looks at is the timeline of your career, make your dates easy to find and comprehend. In the vast majority of cases, employers aren't (at least initially) concerned with how many months you worked at a given place, so dispense with them!

Before you launch into your bullet points of experience, it's important to give context. A one-line description of the company can be helpful, especially if your current and former employers are not commonly known. Even if you have experience working for a major, well-known company, you should identify the division, group or department in which you operated.

If you have worked for a single employer for many years but have held multiple roles or job titles during that period, give an overall date span on the line in which you name the company. For example: "XYZ Company, 1998-2010." Then give delineated sections for each of the positions, with dates for the particular position underneath.

3. Use your bullet points to show how you handle your responsibilities – not what they are.

Each bullet point of your résumé is an opportunity to tell your story in more vivid detail. Rather than listing responsibilities, think of objectives you needed to meet, and explain them in an italicized "challenge" statement under your job title. The statement should summarize the overall set of your responsibilities. For example: "Charged to manage and oversee the entire production of green widgets with a workforce of 85 individuals"

Then describe what you did in order to meet your mandate and the specific results you attained. Some things, like sales, are easily quantifiable and reportable in dollars and percentages. Other results, however, are also important to highlight, such as adding efficiencies to your team or department, enabling a standardized process and so forth. Take appropriate credit for everything you have done or touched by using action verbs at the beginning of each bullet. Include words such as crafted, created, contributed, collaborated and reviewed

Other sections of your résumé should be used to detail your education, certifications, licenses, awards and volunteer activities.

4. Proofread.

It will likely take several hours and much editing and rewriting to get your résumé in perfect shape. By the end of it all, you may be impatient to just save the document and send it off for that perfect job you saw advertised. However, now is the time to stop, get up from your seat, clear your head and think about other things. Then, later, go back and check grammar and spelling. Don't rely on spellcheck alone for editing! Make certain to print your résumé and carefully read it line by line. Ask yourself if every single sentence makes sense.

When you've done all that, you are well on your way to creating an effective résumé that will be a key marketing piece for your job search campaign.

Happy hunting!

Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.
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