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An Effective Resume for Today!

image There is so much advice about resumes available out there! Everyone has an opinion, and I certainly have mine. You have to decide what seems right to you as you’re the one that knows your background best, and the only one that’s ultimately responsible for what you present to potential employers.

However, there’s no question that things have changed in the last few years and what may once have been considered a great resume may not be effective today. Furthermore, a ‘beautiful’ resume and an ‘effective’ resume are not the same thing. It can be both, but effective matters more than beauty every time.

So what are key points for an effective resume in today’s job market?

Here are a number of things to consider:

* Most companies find you primarily through a keyword search. It’s rare these days for someone to actually read through a stack of resumes on their desk. They either search online, or their database, or their emails for keywords on resumes that have been submitted. If your resume doesn’t contain those keywords, it may never be seen at all.

Make sure your resume has the keywords they will be searching! Use wording from their job description. Dig and find out their lingo and use it, not your own that may mean the same but uses different wording.

* Your resume will get an initial scan of only 15 to 30 seconds. If they are reviewing several resumes (and in today’s market, they always are), they only scan it quickly to see if you may be a fit or not. If they see an obvious fit, they may read more. If your fit for the role isn’t obvious right off the bat, they will move on.

In a quick scan, ‘sound bites’ get read, paragraphs do not. Creating an image of yourself in short phrases as their eyes run down the page is key to surviving the scan. Writing in short, substantive, phrases is better than detailed sentences every time. Furthermore, your resume can be as long as you like, as long as it’s two pages or less! Anything beyond two pages will not get read.

* They want to know what you can do for them, not what you want. An ‘Objective’ statement at the top of your resume is all about what you want in your next job. They don’t particularly care! What they do care about is whether you will be able to accomplish the responsibilities the position requires and if you will do them well.

Instead, you might headline your resume with a broad title of what you do, like ‘Project Manager’, and give brief bullets of highlights of your experience and accomplishments.

Also, under each description of your previous positions should emphasize those things most applicable to the position you are applying to.

* If they can not see where and when you gained the experience you claim to have, they will move on. A purely ‘Functional’ resume without showing your employment history and connecting where you gained your experience makes it appear as if you’re making stuff up.

In order to get a call after you apply to a position, you must be able to show them that you have relevant, recent experience that relates directly to the position you are applying for.

* Don’t write in a first person, or a third person voice. A resume is not a personal letter, so writing “I was responsible for…” is an inappropriate form for the document. Similarly, writing “John was responsible for…” sounds as if someone else is writing about you, when you are the one responsible for what you present. Simply write in direct statements: “Responsible for…”

A professional representation of your background without being too personal or too detached is best.

* Include contact information, and make it easy to find! Amazingly, people occasionally send a resume with no contact information, or perhaps only partial contact information (an email address but no phone number). Or they may list their contact information at the bottom of the page where it’s not necessarily easy to find when viewing their resume on a computer screen. Although, it may seem obvious, if they can’t find how to reach you easily, they will move on.

Provide multiple ways you can be reached: home phone, office phone, mobile phone, email address, street address, and possibly a website (although be sure the site is only professional).


In order to achieve all of this for each job you apply to…
You must tailor your resume for each job!

“Isn’t that a lot more work?” 

“Is that really necessary?”
Not if you don’t care about getting noticed for the position.

“I can’t tailor hundreds of resumes for all the jobs I apply to online!”
Right! It’s far more effective to apply to 15 well qualified and targeted openings than 100 to see what may stick.

There is no perfect resume. However, if you apply these principles you will have more success in getting the attention of recruiters and hiring managers you want to target in your job search!


Thank you for visiting The Wise Job Search. I truly appreciate your interest. If you like the material here and would like to help keep it viable, please peruse and visit book recommendations, and other resources posted throughout the site. Best wishes on your continued search, and feedback is always welcome!


Mark Cummuta said...


You are dead on with your final summary - "You must tailor your resume for each job!"!

Most job seekers, even many executives I know, create a single version of their resume and then either email enmass to every and all kinds of recruiters (the 'shotgun' method), or, they submit the same resume over and over again to job websites, employers' websites, and to each individual opportunity they come across. The industry standard is that this approach results in less than a 10% return, that is, the conversion ratio of their resumes into FIRST interviews only occurs less than 1 in 10.

However, for those that spend the time to customize their resumes using the tips you have provided - focusing entirely on the specific details, terms and needs of the individual job opportunity - tend to see their resume-to-interview ratios triple or even quadruple! I've personally experienced consistent ratios of over 60%!

Sure it takes time - I've refined my process from 3-4 hours per resume, down to now only 1-2 hours per resume (you can read more about it here: A CIO Job Search Update). But better to spend time on processes that work to get me in front of hiring managers, then wasting time on tasks that don't work!

Great post!

Mark Cummuta

Blog: CIO Job Search: A Real Life Chronicle
LinkedIn: http://www.LinkedIn.com/in/MarkCummuta
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/TriumphCIO/

Daniel Smith said...

Yes, great post Harry. Using key words are very important, especially for technology-related positions. And tailoring your resume to the position always helps with the actual purpose of a resume - getting that all important interview!


carol mahoney said...

Good advice. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to explain the facts of life about resumes to well-meaning candidates. The keyword search angle is not well-understood by job-seekers. Nice post!

Karen said...

Glad you said there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all resume...because there really isn't one. Putting in a little more work to make sure you are noticed by the right company for the right position saves everyone a lot of headache later on. Those first 15 to 30 seconds are key, so it's good to put down all of the information they need to know about you in the first few sentences.

Karen, The Resume Chick (on Google or Twitter)

Melissa Cooley said...

"There is no perfect resume."

I love this! Too often, job seekers agonize over resumes and cover letters. Yes, they need to be customized. Yes, the details matter. But a person can't second-guess everything, or nothing would ever get sent out! Sometimes, you just have to do the best you can with the information you have and then say, "That's good enough" and be done with it.

Anonymous said...

I thank you so much for the advice..it has been eye-opening for me...

I do have a question; How would you write a resume that taps into the "hidden job market" if you do not have an open job ad to use as a basis to ensure that you have "taylored" your resume?

Harry Urschel said...

Thanks for your question... generally, opportunities in the "hidden" job market come from networking and conversations you have with people. In those situations, you wouldn't necessarily present a resume until after you've spoken to someone that is able to provide some information to you that would help you tailor your resume for that role. Otherwise, there certainly are situations where you would need to have a more generic resume as well. It's best if you can avoid having to use that though.

Best wishes,


HeatherEColeman said...

As usual, you are right on target. I teach all of the areas you highlighted here in my "Current Resume and Employment Trends" workshop - I particularly emphasize, as you do, that it *is* a lot more work to tailor each resume - and don't you deserve that type of commitment to yourself, as a job seeker?

This is excellent - I'm spinning this out and posting it on my FB pages and LI groups. Thanks for all that you do for career seekers everywhere!


Unknown said...

Store each unique resume and intro under a resume folder using this format:
date Company, position & Company, date, intro
The final product in the folder will look like this:
It is easy to see when and where you applied
Good luck !
Tom Knutson MN

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