Work & Purpose

12 Ways to Get Your Resume Seen

Don't make the mistakes many do in their "summary of experience"

(This article appeared previously on MarketWatch.)

Many boomers, as well as retirees, looking for work are hitting the pavement with outdated resumés.

Of course, you don’t wear out shoe leather anymore. Now you’re sending your resumé through email or applying online — and the resumé that you submit today is substantially different from what you used years ago.

(MORE: How to Win at Job Interviews)

Follow these simple suggestions and your resumé is much more likely to be seen by the recruiter or employer receiving it:
Make it Readable

The single most important thing to consider in preparing your resumé is to write it so that it will get read.

No matter what your resumé says or how it’s formatted, if it isn't read you’ve lost the battle. Once read, the purpose of a resumé is to get an interview.
As you put your resumé together or work with a professional to help you, your efforts must be focused on these points.

(MORE: How to Customize Your Resume)

Two Key Guidelines
Following these two guidelines will improve the likelihood of getting your resumé read:
  • Tailor the general resumé you have written to the specific job and company where it is being sent. Expand your description of the areas of experience and education that apply and cut back the space you have devoted to those areas which have little or no value to the employer reading your resumé.
  • Make sure the first area at the top of your resumé is a “summary of experience” and includes specific applicable experience as opposed to generalities. Consider using words from the job description or posting. This area of your resumé should be designed to prove your value proposition and differentiate you from your competition — and shouldn’t list objectives.
On average, recruiters and hiring managers scan individual resumés for fewer than 20 seconds before deciding if they are going to read them.
Many recruiters separate resumés into three categories; not interested, hold for further review if a better candidate can’t be found and those where the candidates meet most or all of the criteria in the position description. Your resumé must get into this last group if your credentials are appropriate for the position to which you are applying.

(MORE: Why Applicants Don't Hear Back)

Here are 12 questions to ask yourself before submitting your resumé to make it to the viable candidate pile. 
1. Did you list your cellphone for contact? If so make sure there is a professional voicemail message on it.

2. Did you make sure your email address is appropriate for business? Hokey and fun email addresses can cut you out of the interviewing process.

3. Are you using clichés in your summary of experience description? Catch phrases like “result-oriented,” “self-motivated,” “dynamic,” “team player,” and “proven track record” often won't get past the new resumé scanning programs. Better to use words from the job description or posting.

4. If you were self-employed, were you specific in describing the projects you worked on and did you include your client names (with their permission)?

5. Did you include anything other than the name and dates of employment for jobs you had early in your career? Unless they are particularly relevant to the job you are applying for, don’t.

6. Did you include your familiarity with specialized equipment, operating systems software, newer programming platforms, technologies, etc.?

7. Did you include any volunteer work with nonprofits or other charitable activities? (You should.)

8. Did you list the core competencies and “buzzwords” of your job function and industry? These will help with recruiters using resumé-parsing software. At the same time, don't include words like “responsible for” or “duties included,” but rather use language like “managed” or “oversaw." Recruiters and hiring managers react better to that terminology.

9. Did you minimize descriptions of your job tasks and maximize descriptions of accomplishments? (You should.)

10. Did you quantify your accomplishments? Did you include increases and comparisons in dollars, and percentages? Did you use numbers whenever possible? If you can support this information with charts and graphs, do so. Did you provide examples of how you executed the relevant projects you described in your work assignments?

11. Did you create a text-only version of your resumé? This will preserve the formatting when uploading into a company text box. Word documents don't formulate properly when placed in a text box.

12. Did you include a cover letter? In most cases you can assume it won't be read, but your cover letter can serve to better relate your experience to the job to which you are applying. Regardless, briefly include this information in the resumé itself in case the cover letter isn't passed on with your resumé. Visit RetiredBrains to see sample resumés and cover letters in various formats and styles and to find help in either writing or rewriting your resumé.


Art Koff is the founder of RetiredBrains.com, a site that serves boomers, retirees and people planning retirement; he’s also the author of Invent Your Retirement: Resources for the Good Life, published by Oakhill Press. 

By Art Koff
Art Koff is the founder of Retired Brains, a website that provides information about retirement for boomers, retirees and people planning to retire.@artkoff

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