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Your Resume: Key to Success

Your resume is the single most important tool you have to help you land the job you want. But how can you make sure yours stands out?

Experts say a strong opening is important. That means your resume begins by grabbing the reader's attention.

"From a reviewer's perspective, few design elements will get you noticed faster than starting your resume with an attention-grabbing, articulate, and creative professional/executive summary," says Adam Zajac. He is the head resume and LinkedIn profile writer for Vocamotive, Inc. He is one of only 54 Nationally Certified Resume Writers in North America.

"Conversely, it does not matter how good the rest of the resume looks if your intro is uninspired or merely average. You have approximately six seconds to grab the reviewer's attention; make the most of it!"

While there are lots of templates out there to create visual resumes that look like they might also grab the reader's attention, tread carefully.

"I do not believe using resume templates is a good idea," says Zajac. "There is a great deal of strategy that goes into correctly laying out a resume, and templates do not allow for flexibility. It is a much better idea to invest the time and effort necessary to correctly write a resume from scratch."

Professional resume writer Lynda Spiegel agrees that templates are not the way to go, particularly if the company requires you to upload your resume to an applicant tracking system (ATS). She owns Rising Star Resumes.

"Templates often don't make it past the ATS, so I use a simple Word document without any boxes, lines or other template-y features," says Spiegel. "A pop of color for the headings makes the resume noticeable, yet professional."

"Resume formatting and keyword selection require special consideration if the resume is going to be uploaded, as these factors can make the difference between an application passing through an ATS system successfully or being discarded altogether," says Zajac.

"Email is the best way to send a resume, in which case you can PDF it," says Spiegel. "Uploading it for online submission is trickier, as ATS software tends not to read PDF and sometimes scrambles text."

If you must use an ATS, Spiegel says your best move is to use LinkedIn or the company website to identify the hiring manager, then email that person directly.

Here are some of Zajac's tips for crafting an effective resume:

  • 1. Open strong. "Start off with a distinctive headline," says Zajac. "A powerful phrase or statement can be a great way to generate interest."
  • 2. Put the job title in your headline. "Frame yourself in the way you want to be seen and indicate position types for which you want to be considered."
  • 3. Show, don't tell. "Do not just list skills, but rather list value statements and then support them with facts from your employment background."

Zajac also recommends creating an ATS-friendly version of your resume that you can use when applying through automated systems. He has special tips for that:

  • 1. Don't get fancy. "Pictures, graphics, text boxes and even more basic formatting choices like column layouts can send your resume to a virtual trash bin, never to be seen again."
  • 2. Stick with common wording. "Use standard section headings. For example, use 'Employment Experience' in the place of 'Career Progression' on your ATS-compliant resume."
  • 3. Watch out for hyperlinks. "Make sure to turn off (or remove) the active hyperlink (the content which turns blue) when you type your email address or LinkedIn URL. Some older systems have trouble reading active links."

" More and more employers are using ATS systems with every year that goes by," says Zajac. "While the algorithms used by ATS developers and providers become more sophisticated with each upgrade, these automated candidate screeners still pass over thousands of qualified applicants every day.

"Avoid rejection by optimizing your resume!"


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