A Dozen "Do's" for Resume Excellence: Distinguishing the Good Resumes from the Flops

(As Featured in the Upcoming Book Resumes from Heaven)

12. Nail The Cover Letter
Do your homework on the company to which you are applying. Use your cover letter to demonstrate what you know about their history, accomplishments, and goals, and how you will fit into the corporate picture. A cover letter is also an excellent opportunity to explain yourself if you are making a career change, seeking relocation, or have other job search circumstances that will help them understand where you are coming from and where you are going.

11. Customize Your Resume To Match The Job Description
One size does not fit all! Customize your resume to meet the requirements of the job you are applying for. You alter your cover letter to call attention to specifics on your resume. But you can't point out something that's not there. Example: You are applying for a sales management job that requires experience managing data within Microsoft Access. You have these skills but haven't listed them on your resume. Before you apply to this job, you add the specifics of this skill and "tie it" to a particular position you have held.

10. Quantify Your Skills, Responsibilities, And Accomplishments
There are many ways to quantify your accomplishments, and let prospective employers know that you will hit their bottom line in a positive way. You can quantify in terms of money (revenue generated, profits increased, dollars saved), time (spent, saved, managed), volume (projects completed, documents created), or people (customers served, colleagues managed).

9. Demonstrate a Cohesive Career Path
You want your resume to demonstrate a clear career path, i.e. how you got from Point A to Point B, and how that will lead you to Point C. Hiring managers are gate-keepers, and if you do anything to violate their etiquette or trust, the buck stops there. Red flags are raised if your resume fails to tell a story of how your skills evolved. Sudden, unexplained promotions or radical, frequent job hops contribute to an inconsistent story, and make hiring managers question your honesty. Typically the way to capture the evolution of your skills is through a chronological resume with your most recent experience at the top. There are rare cases where a skills-based resume makes more sense. Exceptions include: move education and training to the top because your professional experience isn't what the hiring manager is looking for; another is you do have the skills for the position, but have not used these skills recently; another example may be if you have been working on a contract basis, and are seeking a permanent position and you want to minimize the perception that you are a job hopper.

8. Say It With Action Verbs
There is a reason this is the oldest trick in the book. Whether you are writing in paragraph form with complete sentences, or listing your skills in bullet form, demonstrate that you are a person of action! A few handy examples: resolved, supervised, provided, developed, designed, researched, negotiated, handled, organized, maintained, reduced, and planned.

7. Use Resume “Objectives” With Caution, Or Not At All
Generic resume “Objectives” such as “Work at a great company, with great people, on great projects” look ridiculous, and are a waste of space on your resume. However, a resume “Objective” that conveys specific goals, changes in career direction, relocation requirements, or other vital job search necessities can be useful. Consider whether this information is better communicated in your cover letter.

6. Get Input From People You Trust
Sometimes you’ll find yourself eager to shoot a resume off for your dream job. Before hitting that send button, share your resume with friends or colleagues whose opinion you trust. Sometimes the language we use to describe our jobs is proprietary to our current employers, and those on the outside won’t understand it. Extra sets of eyes can catch typos and inconsistencies, and offer perspectives that you wouldn’t have considered on your own.

5. Be Selective
The internet encourages mass communications – it is not uncommon for people to send their resume to hundreds of prospective employers and recruiters. While you maximize your exposure with this strategy, you also run the risk of appearing desperate - don’t blast your resume unless you are.

4. Decide Which Experience Is Most Relevant, And Put It At The Top
Recent college graduates often grapple with the question: what should they put at the tops of their resumes: their strong educational background, or their more recent – but possibly less relevant – work history? Here is one scenario to consider: an educational background in criminal justice, but a one-year work history in an administrative position. If you’re applying for a job in the law enforcement field, list your education first. Don’t forget to mention your stellar grades and class rank!

3. Be Consistent
Less important than whether or not you use an Oxford comma, write in the first or third person, or use bullets or complete sentences, is that you remain consistent throughout the document. Whatever your style is, be aware of it and stick to it.

2. Give Your Work A Context
This tactic is especially useful if you need to beef up the content or your resume. Instead of jumping right in to your responsibilities and accomplishments, consider providing a description of your company, its purpose and goals, and the customer and competitive environment in which it operates.

1. Keep Your Resume Updated At All Times
Creating and updating your resume should be something you do at least twice a year, even if you're not on the job market. Your resume is a living document that needs maintenance. Your memory will fade over time, and you want to remember all of your accomplishments, the context of your responsibilities, and the day-to-day victories of your job. If you are diligent about keeping your resume updated, you'll have one on hand when opportunity knocks and you have to respond quickly.