When is the last time you looked at your resume?

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When is the last time you looked at your resume?

With the holidays around the corner, you might find yourself at a family function landing on the topic of your career.  Perhaps the conversation sounds like “What do you do for a living?” or “Oh, you’re job hunting – what are you looking for?”  There seems to be a lot of curiosity around what job you have, what job you don’t have, how to get a new job, how to get a better job, how to get a better paying job, how to be happier in your job – the list goes on, you get the picture.

At the center of that conversation is one common denominator:  your resume.  Your resume is the foundation of your professional profile, and is probably complimented by other ways you represent yourself such as through your LinkedIn profile, a personal blog, portfolio website or social media platforms.  However, when applying to jobs or speaking with a recruiter it most often starts with your good ‘ole resume. 

As a corporate recruiter, I often get frantic emails or phone calls from family and friends that sound something like “Can you take a look at my resume?  I need to apply to a job tonight.”  We often need our resumes under tight circumstances which is all the more reason to review and update your resume often.  

To avoid the last-minute scramble, consider dusting off your resume as we head into the end of the year. Take time to reflect on new accomplishments and successes and make sure they are showcased in your resume. Use these following tips to ensure your resume is making you the most competitive candidate the next time you apply for a job.

Save a copy of the job posting before you even apply (and don’t forget where you saved it because you’re going to need it).  

Why this matters?  Competitive resumes should be tailored to the job for which you are applying.  The easiest way to do this is to pull in keywords from the job posting and thoughtfully incorporate them into your resume.  In its most basic form, take a highlighter as you are reading the job description and highlight the words or phrases that seem significant.  Then review your resume and try to match those key words to your experiences.  Re-write your statements by incorporating those words that you highlighted.     

Example:  

Job posting says:  Maintains financial accounts by processing customer adjustments.

Your resume says:  Responsible for processing 30 financial accounts per quarter for new customers. 

Bottom line:  Although it takes time, customizing your resume to the job or company is going to make you stand out.  And since you saved the job posting, you can reference it before the interview and use it to help you prepare.  Oftentimes, by the time you’ve reached the interview stage the job posting has been removed from the website.  If you forgot to save a copy and it is no longer online, you can always ask your recruiter for a copy but that may not make the best impression.

Add the “meat and potatoes” under your job experience section.  Provide quantifiable details to bulleted statements explaining the impact you had in current and previous jobs.

Why this matters?  A recruiter and hiring manager want to easily see not only what you did, but understand the scope and impact you had in your work experiences. Just like the meat and potatoes fill you up at dinner, using numbers and outcomes in your resume will add substance and credit to your experiences and qualifications.  

Example:

Good:  Developed and maintained strong relationships with vendors.

Better:  Developed and maintained 8-10 relationships per months which resulted in new vendors spending an increase of $15,000 in revenues quarterly.

Bottom line:  Now is the time to toot your own horn and show your future employer how impactful you can be for an organization.  Don’t shy away from explaining how awesome and successful you have been.  Also important to note here, don’t ever lie or over embellish when it comes to your work experience or anything on your resume for that matter. 

Decide between a chronological vs. functional resume.  Or go crazy and have one of each to use depending on the situation.

Why this matters?  Some situations may be better suited for a chronological or functional resume.  A chronological resume is more common and typically suitable for an early or mid-career job seeker.  It looks just like it sounds – a resume that lists your work experiences, education and accomplishments in chronological order with the most recent experience at the top.  On the other hand, a functional resume focuses on skill sets, competencies, accomplishments or abilities that you may have acquired from various experiences. Usually job seekers will use a functional resume if they are trying to switch careers, re-entering the workforce or have gaps in employment and would rather focus on their skill sets and less on the job title or company. 

Example:  Hit up Google for inspiration!

Bottom line:  Format your resume however you feel most comfortable.  Maybe do a little trial and error.  If you are applying to a lot of jobs and not receiving interviews, it may be time to change it up and try a different resume style.  Ask for feedback among your network to get various opinions. 

There are a lot of articles and resources out there regarding resumes.  What I usually tell people is that your resume is pretty personal so if you are asking someone to help you with your resume and review it, take it with a grain of salt.  Only you will know what is going to be best to market yourself in a way that feels true to you and your experiences.  

I will leave you with my personal recruiter pet peeves when it comes to resumes:

1.    Use a similar font and font size throughout (recruiters can tell if you’ve copied and pasted when your formatting doesn’t line up).

2.    Expand your page margins and make sure to use all white space on the page.  Consider adding columns to break up a bulleted list of skills or classes. 

3.    Save your document as a PDF.  It will be easier to upload into an applicant tracking system and you don’t have to worry about a Word document formatting funny. 

4.    Be mindful how you save the actual document file.  It is quite embarrassing on the candidate’s part when a recruiter opens a resume with the title “Sally Sue’s Coca Cola Resume” and you are applying for a job at Dr. Pepper. 

5.    Remember your tenses.  If you no longer work in a job, your bulleted job responsibility items should be written in past tense.  When you list your current job responsibilities, they should be written in present tense.

While this advice might seem like common sense, believe me, recruiters see mistakes all the time. As women who want to flourish in our professional lives, we must showcase ourselves and create the most competitive opportunity for us to land the jobs of our dreams.


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Meet the author

Before starting her professional career, Katharine completed El Camino de Santiago, a journey that consisted of a 37-day walking pilgrimage across northern Spain. The journey had a profound impact on Katharine, one which she believes can easily be compared to the winding path and progression of a career. Her own journey has led her to a point today in her career where she sees lives changed through job opportunities.

Katharine has worked in Recruiting for over 10 years and currently serves as the Manager of Employment and University Relations for a Fortune 50 company. She graduated from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Development and Family Studies. Katharine sits on the Board of Directors for Project QUEST, an organization whose mission is to strengthen the economy and change lives with highly qualified employees for in-demand, living wage careers.