Writing winning resumes

Your resume is your professional life raft, especially during tough economic times.  Let’s face it, job security is becoming more and more scarce as companies fight to survive and cut costs. It only makes sense to have a quality resume prepared at all times… just in case.

The purpose of your resume

Before we begin talking about what makes a resume good or bad, let’s first clear up a common misconception. Your resume does not get you hired. The purpose of your resume is only to get you in the door, or on the phone.

This may seem like common sense, but my experience in dealing with candidates and hiring managers over the past 10 or so years has taught me that it isn’t.

Hiring managers often view the resume as hard evidence of the existence of skills and experience that they need. It is not uncommon for hiring managers to pass on candidates without even speaking with them because the resume doesn’t have the key words or phrases they are looking for… even when the candidate verifies his or her experience on a cover or supporting letter, or when the recruiter has interviewed them and can verify the relevant skills.

So what does this mean to you, the candidate? It means that you must take the time to create a resume that shows the relevant skills for the job and/or industries you are applying for. How on earth can you do that, especially if you are applying to several different roles? We will talk about that later.

But first…

What makes a good resume?

A good resume is one that attracts the attention of the hiring manager, HR manager, or recruiter. This can sometimes be a difficult task, as these individuals often received dozens, if not more, resumes for each position each day even in healthy economies.

But when you combine high unemployment with limited availability of positions, then the situation becomes even more difficult for all concerned. Candidates seeking jobs find more competition, and hiring authorities face increased work load in sorting through candidate resumes.

Naturally, many hiring managers do not have the time to read every word on every resume they receive, so they scan for the relevant words and experiences. If those experiences do not “jump off the pages” of your resume and attract their attention, you may get passed up without a second look.

Human resources for some organizations also use software to run keyword searches on the resumes they receive. This approach is entirely impersonal and may result in perfectly qualified candidates being overlooked, but it is a reality. And in defense of the organizations that use this method, there are plenty of qualified candidates out there, especially in tough economies.

But all is not lost. There are some things you can do to improve your odds.

1. Be concise. Although it may be difficult to fit everything you have ever done, or everything that you are proud of in your professional life, on 2 pages, you must try. Most hiring managers or HR managers are too busy to spend a great deal of time reading your resume. They do not want a novel. The quickest way to get your resume a place in the circular file is to make it too long.

2. Proof read your resume! And also have another person proof read it. Spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, or unclear sentences will kill your chance of getting that first interview.

3. Provide contact information! Sounds strange, but sometimes I actually receive resumes with no phone number, address or email contact information. Although I can typically find at least one of these on the email which contained the resume, it is still not a great way to make a good first impression.

For example:

Christopher Akins.
123 Happy Lane
Carpinteria, CA 93013
Phone: 555-453-4487
Email: christopherakins@hotmail.com

You should also consider what your email address is saying about you to perspective employers. If it is embarrassing or inappropriate, you may want to choose a more professional address with Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail or another free web based service.

4. Provide, in chronological order with the most current position list first, the dates, company name, and job title for each position you have held.

For example:

August 2005 – Present Rolls-Royce Energy Systems, Inc. – Senior Subcontracts Manager

5. Provide a clear, concise description for each of the companies you have worked for.

For example:

Rolls-Royce Energy Systems designs, manufactures and packages aero derivative gas turbine engines for industrial power generation, and oil & gas extraction and pipeline applications.

6. Using a bullet point format, provide a concise and clear overview of your responsibilities for the position, followed by specific accomplishments. Note, the specific accomplishments are critical. Be precise, provide quantifiable achievements as often as possible. It is also useful to pay attention to key words, such as specific types of projects, products, industries, etc. you worked with during the role.

For example:

• Led modularisation and value engineering projects with strategic suppliers and internal engineering resources resulting in 30% cost savings on high speed flexible couplings, 15% cost savings on air filtration systems and modularisation of high speed gearbox systems.
• Aligned strategic supply chain in support of business capture. Led project teams in developing and implementing sourcing strategies for eleven externally engineered supply chain sourcing groups.
Led contract negotiations resulting in $812,000 USD cost savings during Q1 and Q2 2002.

7. Include relevant training and degrees. There is some debate over where these should be located. I typically advise candidates to locate these at the top of their resumes. My logic is that if there is a minimum educational requirement for the position, the client will look for that, first.

Include the school name, degree, and graduation date. Only include GPA’s if they are 3.0 or above.

For example:

October 2003 – December 2005 University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom
Masters of Business Administration

June 1991 – May 1995 United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, USA
Bachelor of Science – General Engineering Core Curriculum

If the experience is non-degree related, such as technical or vocational, follow the same format, and consider including a 1 or 2 line description of the training if it is not obvious.

For example:

July 1995-July 1996 U.S. Navy Gas Turbine Engineering
Introductory course to the design, operation, maintenance, and emergency procedures of the GE LM2500 gas turbine engine.

It is important that your descriptions are in a language that HR and hiring managers can understand. Try not to overburden HR with overly technical or industry specific language… unless it is appropriate. For instance, the example above uses “civilian” language to describe the training. In stead of using the Navy term “casualty control procedures” the candidate uses “emergency procedures.”

8. Be sure and list any relevant professional organizations you belong to. List these organizations by name, and provide membership numbers if available.

For example:

Project Management Institute Project Management Professional (PMP) certification #39565
Association for Project Management Full Member (MAPM) # R31572
Institute for Supply Management Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) certification #6266
Accredited Purchasing Professional (A.P.P.) certification #39295

9. Consider including a section, usually in the beginning of the resume, with key words that describe your experience.

For example:

                                                  AREAS OF EXPERTISE
           Business Executive      Supply Chain Restructuring     Global Strategic Sourcing
Business Planning       Change Management                 Staff Training & Development
Operations                     Project Management                  Multi-Facilities Management

There are many, many ways to format a resume. The above examples represent one approach. The key things to remember are to make the resume easy to read, interesting to the potential employer, relevant to the job, and concise but clear.

About the author

Chris Akins

Hi! And welcome to my website! I started ChrisAkinsdotCom in 2006 as a part of my own personal growth journey, and over the years it has certainly helped me evolve as a person, and ultimately change careers from a business executive to a mindset coach, and human behavior professional. This blog reflects many of the thoughts, insights, and strategies that have helped me make life altering changes. I hope reading ChrisAkinsdotCom will help you in some way as well!