Making Your Resume Stand Out

by Brad Karsh, President of JobBound

Resume Stand Out

You've dedicated a large amount of time and effort to your job search, and you've accomplished a great deal. Your friends, family, and co-workers are aware of your initiative and hard work, but when it comes to landing a new job, you need to make sure you convey your credentials to the person making the hiring decision.

With the improved job market and rise in job recruiting and hiring, it's not easy to make your resume stand out. Competition can be fierce when hundreds, even thousands, of people apply for the same jobs. With so many candidates, the hiring manager or recruiting director may only spend about fifteen seconds reading your resume.

Fortunately, if you know how to write a great resume, and you understand what the organization wants in an employee, you can move to the interview stage. Your resume is an advertisement for you; it's all about understanding your target and making your message appealing to them.

There are simple tips for expressing your jobs and activities in a compelling, relevant way that will help your resume survive the recruiting director's fifteen-second scan. The most important element of resume writing is focusing on your specific accomplishments. This is the area where a vast majority of candidates falter. Most job seekers write job description resumes. They simply tell the reader what anyone in that particular position would do, as opposed to what they specifically accomplished. Here's an example:

Account Executive, DDB Worldwide, October 2004 - Present
  • Managed a variety of integrated marketing programs for client.
  • Authored creative briefs that satisfied brand's business objectives while maintaining its strategic positioning.
  • Perpetuated cash flow profitability on all jobs by ensuring accurate and timely billing.
  • Managed creative and production processes to ensure on-time and within budget delivery.

While this may sound decent, it's really quite generic. The fact is, ANY account executive in the history of the advertising industry, whether at DDB or not, can write this exact same statement. All you've done is tell the reader what an account executive does. And guess what? The reader probably already knows that!  In your mind, you know what you did and what you accomplished, but you fail to convey those achievements when you write a generic job description resume.

If what is written on your resume can be written by the person who did the job, before, with, or after you, then you haven't done yourself justice. Resumes need to be infused with numbers, data, records, and accomplishments. These quantifiable and measurable details will dramatically improve your resume. When listing your accomplishments, think about the following:

  • How was the organization/department better as a result of YOUR involvement?
  • What did YOU specifically accomplish?
  • How did YOU do it differently than the person before, after, or next to you?
  • Were YOU ever singled out for superior work?
  • Use facts and figures whenever possible.

When you're putting together your resume, think about the projects and ventures that you undertook that you are particularly proud of. These are the components and the essence of a great resume.

Accomplishments can be emphasized on your resume through two categories: scope and results. Scope covers the size of what you've done. Hiring managers can be a skeptical lot. The reader can't appreciate the breadth of your experience if you utilize vague and indefinable language. Unfortunately, if a recruiting director doesn't see a number, the natural inclination is to assume it was a small or meaningless accomplishment.

After emphasizing the scope of your experiences, you need to quantify your results. It's one thing to do a job, and it's quite another to do a job well. Obviously, a company wants to hire a superior achiever - someone with a track record of success. Your resume needs to indicate your successes. Think about the direct results of your actions, and consider both personal and team achievements.

Ultimately, a resume that focuses on accomplishments by including both scope and results is incredibly powerful. The example resume from above is rewritten below. This is the same exact candidate, doing the same exact job, yet it reads quite differently.

Account Executive, DDB Worldwide, October 2004 - Present
  • Launched 1.5MM person direct mail piece exceeding response rate by more than 20%.
  • Helped reposition Big Mac sandwich, convincing client to change target.
  • Created new internal budgeting process, helping keep more than $700,000 worth of production under budget.
  • Produced more than 15 separate direct mail pieces and in excess of 65 POP items.

It's apparent that this resume is dramatically better than the previous version. It's specific, it's tangible, and it paints a clear picture of an accomplished job candidate. Organizations are looking for the "easy" hire. They want to bring someone onboard who can make a difference and contribute from day one. Your resume is your initial sales tool, and you want to make sure that first impression is appealing.

Very simply, organizations and companies want to make sure you can do the job and you can do it well. By writing an "accomplishment" resume and by focusing on your target audience, you show the organization that you are the ideal candidate for the job.

Brad Karsh is President of JobBound, a company dedicated to helping job seekers with resume writing, interviewing, and landing that dream job. Author of Confessions of a Recruiting Director: The Insider's Guide to Landing Your Fist Job (Prentice Hall Press), Brad is considered the nation's leading expert on the job search. He's been featured on CNN's Paula Zahn Now, CNN Headline News, and CNBC and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Fortune, and many others.

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