Seven Keys to Successful Resumes

While there are many arguments in the human resources field about resumes, they remain today the most common denominator in the process of screening job applicants. The form resumes take may vary, from the traditional resume or curriculum vita, to the electronic resume used by online job services, to the multimedia website or compact disc, the significant elements of all are essentially the same. The keys discussed in this article apply equally well to all models.

The screener that will review your resume will be looking for some key points. If you are to successful in getting the interview for the position you want, you need to know what the screener will be looking for and respond to his or her needs.

Key 1: Use Action Terminology. An applicant's resume should be action oriented. Avoid terminology such as "I was assigned to..." or "My job responsibilities included..." Instead, use action verbs at the start of bullet points under each job or skill area. Consider ideas such as "Initiated a project which saved a client $200,000 annually" or "Streamlined a complex process for a client which resulted in saving six steps and in decreasing customer response time by 20%." Terms such as developed, managed, and implemented are good terms to use to help screeners understand your successful track record.

Key 2: Write Concisely. Avoid being too wordy in your resume. Use short sentences and bullet points. Long paragraphs of text may work well in writing for publication, but will cause a screener to get lost.

Key 3: Allow for White Space. Leave lots of white space in your resume. Screeners often make notations in the margins, and if you fill the paper edge to edge, these marginal notations will be awkward. Additionally, good use of white space can make a resume look balanced and professional. Even if your resume is on the Internet, create the webpage so that it allows white space when printed.

Key 4: Keep the Typefaces Simple. Using more than one or two typefaces may look interesting and unique, but they tend to distract from the content of the resume. You may want to use bold and italic types for emphasis, but avoid mixing too many at a time. Be very selective.

Key 5: Explain Time Gaps. Gaps between jobs are not as critical as they once were, given our rapidly changing economy. Resume reviewers even anticipate some gaps. But explain what you did during the gap. If you did some freelance work, highlight your accomplishments. If you are silent about the gap, the screener will often assume the worst, not the best. Frame the gap in the best way possible.

Key 6: Customize. With the wide availability of word processors and HTML programs, there is no reason not to customize a resume. Research what the potential employer wants and needs, and then target your resume to those needs. Use a carefully customized cover letter as well to make the application very relevant to the employer's needs and desires.

Key 7: Be Honest. In our high-tech world of business, it is becoming less expensive and easier to verify information on a resume. Never list a degree you didn't earn or embellish your accomplishments. Make certain that if an employer checks the facts on your resume, he will not find anything questionable. If a team accomplished a project, say that you were part of that team, not that you did it on your own. Nothing will sink an applicant faster than something untrue on a resume.

Following these seven keys to successful resumes, whether they are high-tech or decidedly low-tech, will open doors to opportunities to find that all-important job.