When you’re good at what you do, you don’t typically spend a whole lot of time thinking about what your next job might be, let alone the need to construct a better resume. In our work lives, we challenge ourselves to succeed and excel, and make the sacrifices necessary to set ourselves apart. We focus our efforts on building a future; working hard, working smart, and making the right decisions. We see this as the key to our professional development plan. But sound decisions aren’t limited to what we do on the job. What we do beyond the workplace can have a real and vital impact on how our careers unfold.
As a vehicle for growth, crafting a quality resume can be one of the most important tasks in your professional career. Unfortunately, it also happens to be one of the most underrated and under-utilized growth tools for far too many of us.
The resume has to be more than an accumulation of dates and facts. It has to tell a story. It has to grab attention. It has to send a message. But it also has to be honest and genuine. It should be dynamic and confident. It should be organized and concise. It should show the building blocks of your career. It should help you stand out and stand tall. A better resume is intended to represent who you are as a professional. It is a point of first impression. As such, it demands your effort and attention to ensure that it fills that role.
Every job search is a competition. A company is trying to match their needs with an individual that will best meet all of the different aspects that a particular position entails. Those involved in hiring decisions typically begin the search process by narrowing down the field of potential candidates from among those that have applied. Various strategies may be used to assist decision makers in the process, but one common denominator almost always comes into play – the resume.
The resume is a visual and informational representation of the candidate throughout the hiring process. From entry-level positions to the pyramid heads for some of our largest companies, this remains a constant. If we want to set ourselves apart from the pack, then our efforts should start by building a better resume.
Many minimize the importance of the resume in the overall hiring process. They surmise that a resume alone won’t get them a job. They rationalize away the need to provide too many details. They feel that once they get into the interview process, they can convince the hiring parties that their skills and capabilities make them the best choice. Let’s break this down:
It’s absolutely correct to state that a resume alone won’t typically get anyone a job. Hiring decisions are progressive, and many considerations go into the overall process. However, while a better resume doesn’t guarantee a bad candidate a job, a bad resume can cost a good candidate an opportunity for the position of a lifetime.
It’s true that too many details can hamper a resume. Readers can get bogged down by wordy descriptions and information overload, losing interest as a result. But it’s not the quantity of the words that we use, rather the quality of our statements that set the tone. Choosing our words wisely speaks volumes about our overall ability and understanding of who we are and what we do.
The ability to interview for a job is an opportunity that we create, not a platform that we are granted. We have to earn it, often in more ways than one. The resume document represents a summary of our professional experience, achievements, and competency. If we’re not willing and/or capable of demonstrating our skills and abilities as part of a document that says so much about who we are, what message are we sending?
Building a better resume forces us to actively reflect on our careers, reviewing all of the many events and decisions that brought us to where we are today. In many ways looking back helps us to move forward. A resume is a road map. It tells others where we’ve been, where we are today, and most importantly – where we want to go. By this, we don’t intend to imply there simply needs to be an “Objective” heading to begin the resume. We’re talking about the ability to bring the resume to life.
As we constructively critique the path that we’ve traveled, it helps us to more clearly define the direction that we’re headed as well. By guiding the reader through our past and giving them a clear picture of where we are today, it helps to project where we’re headed. This allows them to better view us in the role that they are trying to fill and see the potential that we can bring to the position. Furthermore, it can give a glimpse into what lies ahead, and the value that we can offer their organization moving forward.
What does your resume say about you? Is it a true reflection of who you are? Are you sure? What messages are you sending? What’s missing? “It’s good enough” is never the right answer. No one wants to hire someone that’s just “good enough”. The best don’t settle for “good enough” – they drive to set themselves apart. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting your career, or leading a program, or somewhere between the two; until you have the right answers to all of these questions, you’re letting yourself down. Take the time to put together a resume that you can be proud of. Send a clear message. You’re worth the extra effort. You’re worth another look. Make sure that others think so as well.
10 Tips to a Better Resume
- Focus on truths, not tricks. Finding a job is about finding a match. If your resume doesn’t truly represent who you are, you’re only hurting yourself. A well-written resume helps build confidence and credibility in a candidate, but that only holds true when it is a true depiction of who we are. “Fluff” and exaggeration have a tendency to come to light at some point during the search process, and once credibility is lost, so is the opportunity.
- Use a resume format that grabs attention, and holds attention. It’s important that you choose a format that is visually appealing, but it also must be easy to read, and easy to follow. The reader must be able to segregate jobs, segregate skills, and segregate other valuable information about the candidate. The resume should be well organized, and allow the reader to take the different pieces that make up the candidate and put them together in a systematic way that paints a clear picture. Allow the decision maker to structure their thoughts in a way that helps them draw a conclusion – and the right conclusion.
- In the most basic of terms, the most important thing on your resume is your NAME. Your name should stand out, and be the first thing that people see when they look at your resume. Isn’t that the point to begin with? We want decision makers to see and remember our name, and who we are. That’s not to imply that it should be in big purple letters across the top of the entire document, but it should stand out. Use a font (typically 18-24) that is larger than the rest of the text.
- Use fonts for the text that offer a professional appearance and are easy to read. A resume shouldn’t look like a wedding invitation or a graduation announcement. Scripted or complex fonts should not be used for your resume.
- Don’t simply post a list of job descriptions. It’s not just the position that you’ve held that’s important, but what you’ve accomplished in that position that will set you apart. Represent your talents, skills and abilities! Did you make a difference? Did you build partnerships? Were you commended for your performance? Was there anything that showcased your abilities? Not if you don’t say so! Remember, if you don’t say so, it didn’t happen as far as anyone else will ever know.
- Choose information that best represents the role that you filled, and what you were able to do with it. What’s most important about a particular role? What’s important to say about what you did in a particular role? We typically won’t have the space to say all that we want to say, so we want to use our available space to send the best possible message.
- Use descriptive words that show action, responsibility, accountability, leadership, cooperation, and potential. Manage, develop, implement, supervise, lead, direct, train…Find power words that accurately describe your responsibilities.
- Education reflects a professional investment. Accurately and appropriately describe your education. For example, if you’ve graduated from college, make sure that you say so. “2005 graduate, University of (Anywhere USA); Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.” One of the most common places that individuals will embellish or misrepresent their background involves their education. If you’ve spent the time, effort and financial resources necessary to receive a degree, you’ve earned the right to display your commitment. Make sure that you do so.
- The proof is in the details. Proofread your resume for any potential errors in spelling or grammar. Ensure that dates are correct. Make sure to display complete contact information to include full address, phone number(s), and email address if available. As simple as it sounds, many will miss basic but crucial details that can cost opportunities.
- Keep your resume current. The best opportunities often come when we’re not looking for them. Waiting until a need or opportunity presents itself may lead to delays, mistakes or exclusions that can prove costly. Show the organization and foresight that comes with being prepared.
For more information on finding a loss prevention career, visit www.lpjobs.com. This post was updated December 20, 2016.