How to make your resume a diamond in the rough

Is This The Perfect Resume?

What's a surefire way to have your résumé thrown aside within seconds of an employer reading it? Including overused, common phrases and words to describe yourself. Employers see this too often to make a positive impression. When you use such descriptions, you are saying absolutely nothing important or interesting about you. Almost everyone says these things in résumés, which is the whole problem.

If you want to be seen as unique and get called in for an interview, avoid those phrases at all costs. Here are several ways to make sure your résumé is a shining star in a pile of monotony:

Let go of the objective.

The Oxford dictionary defines "objective" as "a thing aimed at or sought; a goal." You may wish to work for someone who cares what your goal is, but that is highly unlikely to happen. Take a look at the following example:

"Seeking a challenging position that allows me to use my communications, problem-solving and marketing skills." Here's what you can learn about the applicant from this statement:

  • He wants a challenging role.
  • He has communications, problem-solving and marketing skills.

From an employer's perspective, she has seen statements like this so many times that they've become stale. Most people say they want to be challenged, and "communications" is a broad word. What types of communication is he good at – written, oral, corporate communications, crisis communications, conflict resolution? "Problem solving" is another widely used term. What kinds of problems is he adept at solving – analytical, social, strategic? "Marketing skills" is also vague. What type of marketing is he talking about – mass marketing, graphic design, copy?

If you are not specific, you are not helping the employer achieve her goal, which is to fill the role with a talented candidate. In other words, she wants to know if you can satisfy her objective, not your own. Whether you agree with this or not, it is the reality today as companies receive tons of applications, so you need to change your objective statement into a career profile or summary.

Get specific in your summary.

Read the following statement, and think about what you've learned about the candidate: "Self-starter who thrives in a fast-paced, fluid environment and quickly contributes value." If true, you can assume this person is:

  • a self-starter
  • someone who thrives in fast-paced environments
  • a person who quickly contributes value

Unfortunately, many people claim to be self-starters, thrive in challenging environments and contribute value. The question is how you can make this statement unique and personal. The answer is making examples your best friend. If you are always telling an employer words and phrases to describe you, she doesn't get much from it. You need to show it, which means you need to use examples. How can you prove these things? Think about an instance or two when you demonstrated certain characteristics at school or on the job.

Replace the overused words and phrases with these examples. Here's a sample of what it might look like: "Initiated development and implementation of a new online training program in six weeks, staying within budget." What have you learned from reading this?

  • The person is a self-starter.
  • The person can accomplish a major task in a short time frame.
  • The person made a valuable contribution and saved company resources.

Which candidate would you choose to interview?

Don't use your job description as your résumé bullets.

This is a big mistake that lots of people make. Job descriptions rarely encompass everything you do, and most are by nature very generic. You are not doing yourself any favors by copying your job description into your résumé. Your bullets need to tell the story of exactly what you've achieved in your job, both inside and outside the scope of your formal job responsibilities. (Use those examples above to help with this step.)

Don't let stale phrasing and wording prevent you from getting called for interviews. Phrases such as "dedicated team player," "well-organized and committed," and "results-oriented" are used too frequently. If something sounds bad to you, it probably sounds even worse to an employer who reads a lot of résumés that sound exactly the same.

Do yourself a favor and incorporate specific examples to demonstrate why you have the characteristics you say you do. That kind of résumé will be unique and stand out to a potential employer. A vague, cliched version is simply going to be glanced at and tossed aside. Don't let that be you.

Marcelle Yeager is the president of Career Valet, which delivers personalized career navigation services. Her goal is to enable people to recognize skills and job possibilities they didn't know they had to make a career change or progress in their current career. She worked for more than 10 years as a strategic communications consultant, including four years overseas. Marcelle holds an MBA from the University of Maryland.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

Click through the slideshow below for some great job seeker tips:

7 Tools Every Job Seeker Needs
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How to make your resume a diamond in the rough

1. Email signature.

Your email signature is possibly one of the most important branding tools you're not taking advantage of. It’s your chance to let everyone know what your expertise is, how to contact you and where to learn more about you online. Employees are often required to add the company logo, tag line and contact information to email signatures. As job seekers, an email signature is a subtle way to remind people what you do.

Quick tips: The most important information to include is your name, phone number, email address, desired occupation and link to your LinkedIn profile. An easy solution is to use an app like WiseStamp to create and insert your signature.

(Photo: Getty)

2. Active and robust LinkedIn presence. 

LinkedIn has become a go-to source for companies of all sizes to seek out talent. While your profile will be similar to your résumé, it is not exactly the same. LinkedIn is a social network where people share information. Besides having a profile rich in content and media, you should also share newsworthy articles to help build your online reputation and stay connected with your network.

Quick tips: You must have a headshot, a headline that describes what you do and a summary where you tell your story. But don’t stop there. Embed a presentation that summarizes your experience or includes testimonials. Have you downloaded the SlideShare app for LinkedIn? What about the LinkedIn Connected or Pulse apps? ​These tools give you a better mobile LinkedIn experience.

(Photo: Getty)

3. An easily accessible, on-the-go résumé

There will be occasions when someone wants you to send your résumé ASAP or when you arrive at an interview and your résumé is MIA. Save your résumés so you can easily access them and share them from your mobile device.

Quick tip: Being able to access important documents from anywhere is critical not only in your job search, but at work, too. Learn how to save and share documents using Dropbox or Google Drive, which provide free storage and are easily accessible from any device.

(Photo: Getty)

4. Business cards. 

This may seem old-fashioned, but business cards make life easier. When you meet someone new or reconnect with an old friend, just hand him or her your card at the end of the conversation.

Quick tip: Your business card need only include the information you want to share: your name, occupation (or desired occupation), phone number, email address and links to any social media profiles, like your LinkedIn URL. If you want to use something more high-tech, try one of the apps that allows you to share your card from your phone, like CardDrop. Or pick up a business card with FullContact’s Card Reader.

(Photo: Getty)

5. Your perfected pitch.

You only have one chance to make a great first impression. Don’t blow it. You’ll need it when you meet people and they ask what you do. You’ll also need one customized for every interview you take. Your pitch conveys what problem you can solve for an employer. Use words and language to ensure your unique style and personality come through. And avoid résumé-speak or jargon that isn’t universally understood.

Quick tip: Keep your pitch under a minute, and practice so it sounds natural. If you need some guidance, check out the myPitch app created by Karalyn Brown of InterviewIQ.

(Photo: Getty)

6. Target list of potential employers.

Rather than searching job boards all day, looking for the perfect job and getting lost in the black hole of applications, why not approach people inside companies you would like to work for? This route is more work up front, but it will help you stand out and rise to the top of the referral pile if you make the cut.

Quick tip: There are tons of apps for finding posted jobs, but what you really need is additional help networking. Don’t miss Alison Doyle’s new app called Career Tool Belt. It's loaded with job hunting tips, including the 30 Days to your Dream Job series to guide you day by day.

(Photo: Getty)

7. A dose of motivation.

Job searching tends to lead to frustration. Rejection is an unfortunate part of the process. Invest time doing things that rejuvenate your energy and keep you feeling hopeful, such as exercising, volunteering or learning a new skill. Keep moving forward and create to-do lists and follow-up actions every day.

Quick tip: Whether you use a calendar system or an organizational app like, mapping out your weekly activities helps maintain momentum and puts you in the driver’s seat.

(Photo: Getty)


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