Straight Talk from a Recruiter - 9 Tips for Resume Writing

By Cori Swidorsky

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 Job searching is an extremely difficult task.  Not only is it time consuming, but with so many changes in job searching strategies, it’s overwhelming and confusing, especially when it comes to resume writing. 

1.  Resume Keywords & Job Descriptions

In conversations with job seekers I mentor and reading posts on social media sites, I am seeing some common questions and confusion when it comes to using keywords in a resume.

Being a recruiter, when I am looking at the job description, I not only look at what the job entails, but I am zoning in on the requirements listed.  When I’m sourcing and reviewing resumes, I do look for specific keywords that are the same as those listed in the requirements.  With that being said, it would benefit a job seeker to take information from a job description and include it into their resume, of course only if it’s relevant.  There could be a downfall to this method.  After receiving a job description, there’s usually a one on one conversation with the hiring manager to go over the hot buttons and top 3 to 5 skills they want to see on someone’s resume.  I can’t tell you how many times the job description and the information the hiring manager gives about the job end up being completely different.  If that’s the case and I am not able to make changes to the job description that’s been posted, the theory of putting what’s in the job into your resume won’t be successful.

2.  The Importance of Keywords in Today’s Job Search

Most resumes are being manually entered, scanned, or automatically loaded into some sort of database; whether it’s a corporate database, a staffing company database, or a job board website.  The database is one of the major tools being utilized when searching for qualified candidates.  The way recruiters search a database is using keyword searches.  There are lots of little tricks and strategies recruiters can use when doing keyword searches.  Having keywords on your resume can increase your chances of being found during a search.  If I have an opportunity for a Software Engineer with extensive experience using C# within the finance industry, I can tell you that the words “software engineer” will not be the keywords I use to start my search.  I would do a search for C# and Finance.    It’s important to include keywords that are related to industry and skills so you can increase the number of times your resume shows up in a search.

3.  Create a Resume for Every Job

I know how much work it is to change a resume every time you apply for a different job.  Who wants to add more work?  Well here’s the thing, you don’t “have to” use a different resume for every job you apply to, but, it will definitely benefit you if you change your resume to reflect the specific job you are applying to.  This doesn’t mean you need to completely revamp your whole resume every time.  If you see skills required for the job that you have but don’t have listed on your resume, then you should be adding those skills.  The next position may require different skills and experience that you may have, so yes, change your resume to match the position.  The same theory stands with a cover letter.  Your cover letter should be targeting the specific company and position you are applying for.   If you want to stand out over other job seekers then you will need to put in a little bit of extra work to make sure you are standing out.

4.  Keywords vs. Resume Format

Keywords are just as important as resume format.  Resume format is important because managers are looking for good written communication skills and want to be able to read a resume quickly and easily.  A resume loaded with keywords can be tossed in a second if the format is not professional or hard to read.  A great looking resume can be tossed in a second if there aren’t keywords jumping off the paper.  So a good resume will have relevant keywords to the job you are applying for and be written in a professional, easy to read format.  That’s why using a resume writer can be so beneficial for people because it’s not necessarily easy to put a resume together.   There’s no rocket science to resume, but as a recruiter of 11 years, resume writing is part of my expertise and I would say I have some inside scoop on resume writing.

5.  Resume Objectives

Objectives on a resume could offer a variety of meanings such as, summarizing your qualifications or stating the type of position you are seeking and your career goals.  I have seen objectives in paragraph form, only being one sentence, as well as just being one word.

I feel that it’s more effective using Job Target instead of Objective.  Job Target states what position you are applying for and should be changed every time you apply for a position that has a different title. 

I personally do not take the time to read an objective too often, I am usually scanning the resume for keywords that will jump out at me, letting me know this candidate has the skills I am looking for.

There are times though, that I do scan through the objective and find that the candidate did highlight how they were a fit for the position they were applying for, so I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer for the question of using objectives on a resume.

My suggestion would be to use a Job Target and then a Profile highlighting your qualifications, such as:

Job Target Marketing Communications Manager

Profile Responsible for all marketing communications material and developing content for websites, newsletters, and sales materials

6.  How to Write a Powerful Resume

A resume has to accomplish 3 goals:

1. To be found

2. To be read

3. To generate a response

In order to accomplish those goals, the information on your resume must have the keywords to be found, be interesting enough to be read, and to include information that tells an employer what you can do for them that will generate a return on their investment.

Resume Format
The resume needs to grab an employer’s attention within the first 20 to 30 seconds of being read. In order to do that, the top of your resume should include a powerful opening statement followed by achievements. 

  • Opening Statement: Think of this statement as your own personal branding tool which means marketing yourself in a unique way. The opening statement should include: who you are, your biggest strength, and what benefit you bring to them.  Example: An experienced Retail Operations Executive, who engages cutting–edge technologies to help global retail companies achieve aggressive revenue growth and improve operating, cost objectives.
  • Achievements: This section should include 3 to 5 achievements that include what you did and the result. It’s the tasks you did and what the outcome was when you completed the task. This section can include any awards or recognition you received for the work you have completed.  Example: Enhanced staff morale through a six-month incentive program that also instigated a major increase in sales.  The remainder of your resume will include Professional Work History, Education and Training
  • Keyword Competencies: This section could be at the beginning of your resume or very end of your resume. This is a list of relevant keywords that recruiters and HR use when searching for resume. You should put as many relevant keywords that describe your technical skills, potential job title, and anything that would be considered “buzz” industry words. Look at job descriptions in your field to get an idea of what keywords seem to be consistent throughout those jobs.  Example: A computer programmer could have a keyword section that looks like this. C++, Java, HTML, software development, application development, troubleshooting, problem solving, project management.

7.  How to Grab an Employers Attention – Resume Tip

Grab an employer’s attention with an accomplishment section on your resume.  Competition is tight in today’s job market.  There are more job seekers than job opportunities so it’s an employer’s market. 

The job search is no longer about a job seekers skills and experience.  It’s about what the job seeker can do for the employer. Why should the employer hire you over hundreds of other job seekers with the same skills?
Selling skills is just not enough these days. Focusing on specific accomplishments will improve your chances of being interviewed and separate you from other candidates.

Here are 4 results oriented accomplishments that show how you helped organizations.

  • How you made the company money
  • How you saved the company money
  • What goals did you meet or exceed
  • How did you improved the company work life

Adding any of the four result oriented accomplishments will impress an employer and they will want talk with you further.

8.  Close the Unemployment Gap on Your Resume

People have been laid off and stayed on unemployment for as long as they could.  Some are still collecting and many people were lucky to benefit from the extension of unemployment benefits.  The situation I am seeing is that job seekers have a gap on their resume from the time they were laid off until now.  That gap could be as short as a few months, but I have seen a lot of resumes with a gap of almost a year.  Of course no one asked to be laid off and it was and still is a very difficult scenario for people to be in.

Unfortunately, that gap on a resume from being unemployed is becoming a turn off to employers and recruiters.  I have talked to several job seekers within the last few months that very non-chalantly say they took time off or have been looking for a job in between doing projects around the house etc.  Employers are looking to hire motivated, energetic, and hard-working people who will help their company succeed.  That message doesn’t come across if you have been riding out unemployment without doing anything else besides looking for a job.

Ways to close that unemployment gap on your resume include:

  • Look into free workshops that offer new skills or keeping up to date with your current skills.  An employer can see that you are motivated to continue keeping up with your skills or that you are someone who likes to continue learning new things.
  • Volunteer your time.  If you can find a volunteer opportunity that is related to your experience and industry, that’s a bonus!  In fact that could lead to your next job.  Any volunteer work shows an employer that you are willing to help out and not just sit around.
  • Offer to do similar work in your field for free.  If you are in accounting, offer to help a friend or relative to help them with their taxes or offer a small business a free service.  A web developer/designer can offer to set up a website for free.  Someone in marketing can offer creating campaigns or social media content to nonprofit organizations or someone you know who has a business and a very tight budget.
  • Offer your services for a small fee and be an independent consultant.  An employer will see that from the date you were laid off to present you are doing “something.”  When talking to someone who has been unemployed for a long time and hasn’t made any effort to do anything besides collect unemployment, it’s a turn off.

We don’t choose to be laid off, but we do choose how we handle our situation.  My advice to job seekers who have been unemployed:  don’t choose to handle being laid off by sitting back and hoping for a job.  Get involved and show employers that you are ready to get back into the workforce and working hard while looking for a new job.

9.  Resume Formats – Is there a right or wrong format?

There are many different resume writing theories and techniques.  There isn’t just “one” right way.   It depends on who is looking at it and if you have the information they are interested in finding. 

How I approach resume writing is by stressing that the resume is your marketing tool, it’s what gets you a face to face interview or even initial contact.  Companies want to know how you are going to help them be more successful, what you will be able to do for them to help them be more productive, and how you are able to help them make more money.

The resume should make them want to talk to you further. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong format to use, as long as it does what you need it to do.

Resume Writing EBook
Straight Talk from a Recruiter: Resume Writing Strategies and Easy To Follow Techniques
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