Guest post by Joe Franklin
Writing a resume that will stand out like a firecracker on the Fourth of July is certainly no easy task. With nearly any job today, there are always more qualified applicants than there are positions to fill. The ongoing challenging economic times are making the job market more competitive, as is the advent of computer scanning technology that can screen resumes just by looking for pre-set keywords.
No matter how great a candidate’s resume may be, since the first set of “eyes” that will likely view it will be electronic, knowing how to write a great business resume will make all the difference between getting left out in the cold and getting a shot at interviewing for the position you want. Luckily, with the use of resume scanning technology has also come a more formulaic approach to resume writing that takes away some of the guess work from the pre-computer resume screening days. Learning how to write a perfect resume for business can make a world of difference.
Perfect Resumes are Specific and Keyword-Driven
The first thing you need to remember when writing your resume is that today’s resume reviews are highly specific. In particular, they are all about keywords. Keywords encompass skill sets, strengths, job experience, prior titles and education, including specific information about degrees, certifications and grade point average (GPA). As an example, if you attended an online university based in Scranton, PA for your undergraduate and graduate degrees, writing “online Scranton University degrees” on your resume is not sufficient. You need to write the specific name of the university you attended, the year you graduated and your GPA, as well as the city and state. Do this for both your graduate and undergraduate degree.
In the same way, if your degree comes from a program that is an AACSB accredited online MBA program, if you use the acronym AACSB be sure to add in parentheses (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International). Don’t make the recruiter hunt for this information; they don’t have time and because of this, they will probably just put your resume in the “no” pile and move on. In terms of using specific keywords, often you can find critical position-specific keywords by reading the job description itself. Once you have found them, you can insert these keywords throughout your resume wherever they fit in naturally and then a computer will pick them up. As a result, your resume will be placed in the “short stack” to be reviewed by a real person.
The next important step in writing the perfect resume is content order. Each recruiter is going to need certain pieces of information in order to even rule you as a candidate. They will need to know your education level and GPA. They will need to know about prior work experience, including the position(s) you have held and your job titles, in addition to what you did at each job. They will also need to know about any relevant certifications, volunteer positions or other credentials that are pertinent.
They will then look for something called an “objective statement,” which tells them why you are applying for their particular position and why you are a good fit. Having all of these elements present and in their proper order will give you a leg up over other candidates, because you will make the recruiter’s job of screening resumes easier. Also, a word about sharing past job roles – for business candidates in particular, using the “STAR” system can really aid in making your resume shine. STAR stands for “situations, tasks, actions, results.” Be as concise as possible, but explain about each aspect when describing relevant work or volunteer experience.
Brevity and Professionalism is Key
Finally, remember that in today’s job market, for every position that is announced, a recruiter might get 100 or 1,000 resumes for that position. While computer scanners can simplify the process, the recruiter will still not want to waste time scrolling through pages of your resume to find the information they need to prescreen you for the position. While a resume up to two pages long can work if you are applying for an executive-level job, for any position lower than that, keeping your resume to one page is best.
Statistics state that the average amount of time a recruiter spends reviewing each individual resume can be 30 seconds or less. Be brief, be succinct by following the STAR system, be sure to proofread your resume and have a second set of eyes do so as well. Finally, strive to make your overall presentation and contact information professional, which includes checking your voicemail message and choosing a professional-sounding email address. If you follow each of these steps to the letter, you improve your chances of writing a resume that can pave your way to landing any business job you want.
About the Author: Joe Franklin is a business school student who has written and re-written his own personal resume several times. It wasn’t until he brought his resume to his student career services office that he discovered the key elements he was missing.