Revamp Your Résumé

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You never get a second chance at a first impression.

You’ve spent 10, 20 years in your current position and want a change. While networking and searching for a new job, you realize you haven’t touched your résumé in a long time. What to do?

According to the Illinois Department of Employment security, an estimated 1,132,670 people in Chicago were unemployed three months ago – a 1.3 percent increase from February 2012. Between fresh-out-of-school advanced education grads, the many professionals looking for a change, like you, and the thousands of unemployed executives seeking a job, there’s a lot of competition. Here’s how to make your résumé stand out…

Get rid of boring buzzwords. In December 2012, LinkedIn analyzed more than 187 million user profiles and listed the top 10 buzzwords/phrases to avoid: analytical, creative, effective, extensive experience, innovative, motivated, organizational, problem solving, responsible and track record. These words are vague, overused and don’t say anything about you that gives a clear idea of what you’ve accomplished. Nor will they make you stand out from other candidates. “Instead of ‘analytical thinker’ try, ‘able to determine needs in implement solutions,’ shares Graham Nelson, senior writer, A Better Resume Service, Inc. (134 North LaSalle Street). “Also, avoid ‘skilled communicator.’ Employers assume you’re able to communicate well when they see a well-written résumé. It’s about word choice and originality without being too esoteric.”

Cut the fluff. Employers don’t care about your objective; they care about their own. Forget about the typical summary/objective that appears the top of the page on most résumé templates. “Objectives were used in templates around 1995, when desktop computers first came out, as a way to supersede a cover letter,” explains Mr. Nelson. “Rather than a lengthy objective, try writing an opening statement that helps present your cross-functional skill sets; avoid stating the reasons you want the job.”

Focus on accomplishments over tasks. Anyone can make a laundry list of things they’ve done for the past 10, 20 years. Instead, your résumé should be a marketing tool that shows the value you brought to your previous jobs. “If you’ve been in your industry for quite some time, employers at other companies expect you to know the basics of your profession,” notes Nelson. Instead, discuss initiatives you created that led to the company to work more efficiently, changed a policy or created a new procedure. Your résumé shouldn’t list what you do, but the reasons why you’re good at what you do.

Spell-check yourself. Use your computer’s spell-check to start, but don’t rely on it. An automatic spell-check won’t catch the fact that you meant ‘to’ when you typed ‘too’ and vice versa. After re-reading your résumé over and over, you may even gloss over a mistake because your mind is reading what you think is on the page. So get another set of eyes on it.

Share your résumé with someone you trust. Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of friends in high places, especially those in the position to hire new employees. They can give you honest feedback – tell you what works and what doesn’t.

Carrie_Williams

About Carrie Williams

Carrie Williams is TCW's managing/digital editor. She manages day-to-day editorial operations of the monthly print publication, website and social media outlets, contributes to a variety of feature articles and directs a team of interns, freelance writers and bloggers. In early 2013, she led the redesign of TCWmag.com/restructure of TCW's brand strategy. Her blog, "Carrie On," is a blog of reflection and discovery, discussing how to push through life when you’re handed one too many curveballs. And finally, Ms. Williams is also executive director of the TCW Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit supporting underfunded women's and children's organizations.