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Employers and Recruiters Know How to Read Resumes

Most people understand the importance of the resume. As “the” first impression, a resume must speak to the reader with sufficient enthusiasm to serve as an incentive to call in the candidate for an interview. Therefore, when developing the resume, the writer must understand that the person reading the resume will likely not view it in exactly the same way as it was meant to be read by the writer.

What does this mean? The number one goal of most people is ensuring that the resume is as complete as possible. Unfortunately, in the rush to include “everything”, the result often sounds more like a set of job descriptions. Remember, the readers have a good idea regarding what they seek. They do not need all the details. But they do need the big picture interwoven with “who are the candidates," “where have they been”, and “what have they accomplished.”

Those basics are the door openers, but there is more. Resume readers look for other clues that either qualify or disqualify. Without due consideration to these other criteria, the opportunity for an interview drops dramatically.

For example, many candidates whose skills are readily transferable may consider a change in the type of work they want or, may not have any idea what to pursue. As a result the resume objectives and the accomplishments highlighted are inconsistent, with no clear focus. Since the experience and accomplishments conflict with the stated direction, this inconsistency and lack of focus will be apparent. Therefore, the resume must have a consistent logic and a clear focus, with only the most important skills, responsibilities and accomplishments highlighted.

However, in the case where there is a career change, that fact must be clearly stated. The accomplishments identified must then reflect transferable skills appropriate to the new job or career. In fact the cover letter should be even more explicit, noting the change in career and the skills and accomplishments relevant to that change.

Lateral moves are also a concern, whether within one company or when moving from company to company. This is a big red flag. If someone moves to another company or department, the question always arises as why the move was lateral and not upward. This is particularly challenging for the job hopper. But it needs to be addressed.

Significant accomplishments help. And, there are many people who really love and are fulfilled by the technical challenges their jobs present. They have no interest in the managerial or administrative responsibilities promotion provides, despite the added perks and salary. To overcome this issue of lateral moves, the resume should clearly identify your enthusiasm for your work, explain the differences between the moves and describe how each move added to a highly focused skills inventory.

Even a long and fulfilling career at one firm can be a problem, especially in these days of upward mobility expectations. The rule here is divide the tenure into logical multi year components with different assignments and accomplishments. Emphasize the accomplishments and reflect the trust and exposure built over a long period of time. If the firm enjoys a strong positive reputation, look for assignments that helped build that reputation.

Numbers are important. While most accomplishments exhibit important qualities such as leadership or creativity, nothing spells success better than numbers. Wherever work had a positive impact on metrics, internal metrics as well as external metrics, cite the numbers. Describe the role clearly, but make sure the results are stated wherever possible.

Finally, take a good look in relation to peers within the job category or industry. If, after a certain number of years, someone is expected to move to another level and has not, that is also a red flag. As with lateral moves, it is essential to describe how the career path represents excellent professional value. Of course, if the career path is accelerated, that must also be loud and clear.

Make sure the resume is an honest reflection of a personality that has unique or special qualities that differentiates the candidate from all other. The use of action words and examples are critical in attracting the reader’s attention.

Finally, be honest, but not modest. Of course, describing collaboration with others is important. But toot your horn as best you can. No one else will.

- Judit Price Berke and Price Associates Skills for Career Success, Career Counseling/Career Coaching services jprice@careercampaign.com

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