"The challenge of life, I have found, is to build a resume that doesn't
simply tell a story about what you want to be, but it's a story about
who you want to be."
-- Oprah Winfrey
It can be hard to imagine now, but Oprah Winfrey, who's worth many millions, probably used resumes many times while trying to land jobs. She wasn't born to her wealth, and she started her career with jobs in radio and television broadcasting. Those early jobs on her resume would have reflected who she wanted to be -- someone working in broadcasting.
How might you use a resume to further your career goals? Well, here are 10 signs of a world-class resume. See how many you can incorporate into your own.
- Make it look good: The resume should be visually appealing. It should be clean and clear, offering the most vital information up top -- such as a link to your professional web page -- which may be your LinkedIn profile page -- along with your contact information. Don't have multiple phone numbers and emails -- keep it as simple as possible. It's also smart not to have an old-fashioned email address, such as from Earthlink or Hotmail. A Gmail address is often best. Favor bullet points, or short sections, instead of dense, long blocks of text. Your resume will need to be easily scanned by the reader.
- Avoid amateurish touches: Don't use the pronoun "I" much, or at all. Don't state the obvious, such as "References available upon request." Only use clear and simple fonts -- nothing fancy. Some of the best fonts for resumes, per the folks at Monster.com, are Calibri, Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, Cambria, and Garamond. Avoid the passive voice -- such as saying that you were "responsible for" or you were "in charge of" something. Instead, use active verbs, such as presented, forecasted, analyzed, organized, wrote, negotiated, designed, etc.
- Consider a summary statement instead of a "professional objective" one: Objectives can often be bland, such as, "My professional objective is to secure a challenging position in the field of marketing." Instead, try to crystallize your past and present with a view to your future. Use words that are relevant to the position, and try to convey how your expertise is just what is needed. Here's an example from theinterviewguys.com: "Project Manager with 10+ years experience specializing in web production, education publications, public outreach and consumer packaging. Professional, creative, flexible with proven analytical skills. Adept at researching and crafting award-winning marketing campaigns for a wide variety of clients and products."
- Use reverse chronological order: Your most recent jobs will likely be the most important and most relevant to the hirer. Put them first. If you're not a whippersnapper any more, perhaps focus just on your past decade or so of work, or on your last two to three jobs. If you're 52, where you interned 25 years ago and your college achievements won't be very relevant. Only recent graduates should lead with their educational background.
- Be specific: Don't just say that you "led a marketing campaign." Explain just what you did, and offer specific results. For example, maybe you designed and coordinated a marketing campaign that increased sales of a certain product by 17%. If so, say that. If you brought in $4 million over a single year as a development associate, say that. If you came in under budget for five years in a row, by an average of 6%, say so.
- Offer extra information: If your current or former employer isn't well known, you might add a few words describing it. So instead of saying you worked for six years at AccuMart Initiatives, you might refer to it as "AccuMart Initiatives, a major retail consultancy with 185 employees and dozens of Fortune 500 clients." If you mention that you were named employee of the month three times in five years, you might add that you were competing with 600 other employees.
- Help the bots: These days, it's likely that a prospective employer will, in some way, be relying on software to sift through resumes and highlight certain ones for human review. You want your resume to make the cut. It can help to include words from the job description in your resume, so that there seems to be a good match.
- Highlight your accomplishments: You might do so in a separate section or within the summaries of your past positions. You want to make it clear that you didn't just hold jobs -- you delivered results. Highlight how you used key skills, too -- especially those critical to the job you're applying for. You want the hirer to be able to imagine you doing the job you're applying for.
- Make every word count: If, for example, you have "summer intern" on your resume, consider changing it to "finance intern." That says a lot more.
- Be unique and memorable: You don't want to come across as a weirdo, but you might include some specific and unusual interests at the bottom of your resume. For example, you might list "Wooden jigsaw puzzles, Indian cooking, kiteboarding, mushroom hunting, and collecting comic books." If one of your resume reviewers shares any of those interests, you may end up with a common bond that can be helpful.
A little time searching online will yield even more helpful resume tips, along with examples of very effective and well-designed examples. In many cases, it's the applicant who has done the most homework who gets the job.