Build a Resume that Wins the Interview

You can build a resume that breaks through the clutter with just a little extra effort. But first, you must know what you’re building. In this article, we’ll explore the most important things that you can do to build a resume that stands out from the crowd.

I receive hundreds of resumes for advertised job positions every day. Companies who are hiring have the same experience. No wonder the average hiring manager, corporate recruiter and HR professional spends just seven seconds on average reviewing each one.

close up of a resume

What, exactly, do you want your resume to accomplish? How can you build a resume that cuts through the clutter? To answer those questions, imagine this: You’ve found a potential position that seems like a perfect fit and post your resume and cover letter to apply for the job. Several hundred other eager applicants have done exactly the same thing. Competition is fierce.

Now imagine the prospective employer looking at the hundreds of applicants. They don’t want to have to sift through the dry, boring documents but they have to do it, so they sit down and get started. After a short time of quickly scanning resume after resume after resume they find it hard to focus. Then they get to your resume. They perk up as soon as they start reading it. The more they read, the more they want to know about you. Your resume gets read from beginning to end, then is set on top of the very few that make the first cut. You’ll be called in to interview.

You can build a resume that accomplishes the one, specific goal: Winning the interview. Building a resume that presents you in the best light–that convinces the employer you have what it takes can be done can be done with five key steps.

Step One: Resume Writing Appeals Directly to the Employer’s Needs

Resume writing is not difficult, but an effective strategy makes a difference. Most people build a resume entirely about themselves, their history, and they use the same resume for every single job. I’m here to tell you that those are not the effective resumes that get more than the seven-second glance.

If you want more than the seven-second glance, put yourself in the employer’s shoes. Carefully read the job description and ask yourself: What does the employer really want? What would really set a great candidate apart from just a good one? Once you have answered those questions, build a resume with the intention of demonstrating to the employer that you are truly the exceptional candidate.

When building a resume, start with the job description; pull out key words matching your experience and abilities. Analyze the advertised job carefully. Write those down and prioritize which qualities and abilities you think would be important to the person who is hiring. Then in draft form, write down everything you have ever done showing you can deliver on what is needed by the employer. This is the first step in writing a good resume.

Step Two: Effective Resumes Make Assertions

Effective resumes make clear assertions about your abilities, qualities and achievements. Never stretch the truth, but don’t be afraid to show off a little, either. This step alone will set you apart from most candidates, who focus on history alone.

Effective resumes make assertions that get the employer interested in you, so put this information right up front, using the resume objective and summary sections. No matter which resume format you use, these sections will help you build a resume that sells you to a prospective employer.

Step Three: Don’t Forget to Add the Evidence

When writing a good resume, back up your assertions with solid evidence in the “Experience” and “Education” sections highlighting the experience the employer is seeking most. Most resumes are simply a listing of “evidence” such as work history, descriptions, affiliations, etc. No matter how well done, this material is usually dry and is best placed in the second half of your resume. Put the sizzle (assertions) at the top and the evidence below.

List your most recent experience first. Decide whether your job titles or names of the companies you’ve worked for are the most impressive and consistently build a resume that lists one or the other first, perhaps in bold type.

Step Four: Effective Resumes Are Visually Appealing

A simple, easy-to-read resume format keeps the focus on you, not your presentation. Unless you’re going for a very creative position, don’t stray too far from the basic layout.

Keys to a good-looking resume include symmetry, plenty of white space, and the smart use of bold headings and bullet points for easy scanning. Be consistent. For instance, if you used italics for your job title in one place, use it in all places. If you put a period at the end of a bullet point, a period should be at the end of all bullet points.

Keep it to the point; short is (usually) better. As a rule of thumb, keep paragraphs to no more than 6 lines long. Keep sentences short and direct. Don’t repeat information or make it longer to make it appear more important than it is. While the “keep it to one page” rule no longer applies, longer does not mean better.

Of course, you must include all the basic, expected information including your name, address, phone number (one that will be answered) and email address at the top of the first page, a listing of jobs held (most recent job first), and education and degrees completed. If you don’t have an appropriate job search email address, make one. Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and many others are all free.

Finally, use the resume objective and summary sections to sell the sizzle, as discussed above. Your resume is designed to get the interview, so it is perfectly fine to leave them wanting more.

Step Five: Fine Tune Your Resume Writing – Edit, Proof and Proof Again

Your work building a resume is nearly complete. Next, let your perfectionist style reign. If you are not a perfectionist by nature, find a friend who is and ask them to proof the resume for you. Avoid mistakes like these at all costs. There is no room for error; you will not get a second chance to make a first impression.

In addition to proofreading, be sure your assertions, education, dates of employment and other details are accurately presented. Yes, you want to make great assertions and claims, just be sure you can back them up. I have seen more than one candidate lose a job after accepting an offer because of sloppy details that make them look untrustworthy.

These are the basic steps of building a great resume, but there’s more. Click on the links below for additional resources to help you build an effective resume that stands out from the crowd!

Good Luck!

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