Writing Your Resume for the Reader Print E-mail

By Alesia Benedict , CPRW, JCTC

Developing your resume can be a nail-biting experience. Most people use their resume every few years at most - it's not an every day activity! While there are many components of a great resume, such as content, wording, style, format, and design, the most important part is strategy. Unfortunately, this is where most people miss the boat and wind up in the water.
Many job seekers tailor their resume to their own preferences. Big mistake! A resume should be written for the reader - the hiring manager, recruiter, or decision-maker. Here are some things to consider when writing your resume for the reader.

Be Objective

As a job seeker, you're emotionally connected to the information in your resume, and so you may have a skewed perspective on the ideal content. I'm continually amazed at the information I see on executive resumes -- high school sports activities, hobbies, college club memberships, work experience from 35 years ago, and even physical appearance! While the job seeker is emotionally connected to these details, they have no place on an executive resume. If you have difficulty taking a step back from your attachments, a professional resume writer can help you create a resume that is more objective.

Use the Right Format

Readers want the resume in a certain format -- list your past work experiences in reverse chronological format, as opposed to grouping your experience by function performed. No matter who has "sold" you on a functional format -- do not listen! While a functional may make you feel better about representing your skills, it isn't what the reader wants and you could suffer the consequences.

Face Challenges Head On

Don't think you can hide an elephant in your resume. If you have a large employment gap or other potential "red flag," it's better to handle it head-on rather than try to cover it up. Watch for over-the-top flowery wording, too. "Existential thinker" may sound really good to you but will elicit an eye-roll from the reader. Professional but conservative is always a safe bet.

Don't Let Details Get You Down

Many people write their resume with inclusive aims. They want to get as much information, no matter how irrelevant, into the resume because that one little thing (like that Eagle Scout designation from 1972) may be the one thing that turns the tide in their favor. However, the first task facing the reader is to eliminate as many potential candidates as possible and narrow the field. Hiring managers and recruiters are looking at the resume not only for the skills they seek but also for information that might indicate the candidate is a hire risk or a poor fit. Only include absolutely relevant facts on your resume -- don't let a small detail rule you out!

Give Your Reader the Right Keywords

In today's job hunt, your first "reader" will actually be an online database search engine. Recruiters use both external and internal database search technology to look for resumes that meet their criteria -- this is called "datamining". Recruiters select specific keywords that they're looking for on the resume and the search engine crawls the resumes in the database to find those keywords. Be sure to include industry buzz-words and lots of nouns on your resume to be found. Once you've posted your resume online and been found in an online database, you're then on to the human test. Because your resume will have such different readers, submit both a scannable version and a human-friendly version.

Know Your Market

It all boils down to knowing the market, knowing what the reader wants to see or needs to see, and being able to create a resume strategy that meets those needs. The purpose of the resume is to get interviews. A resume will not win a job -- only you can do that through a complete, effective presentation throughout the entire process from resume to interview to follow up. Being well-informed about your market is a sure-fire way to be top-notch from the very start.

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