The lackluster economy, rising unemployment numbers and dozens, if not hundreds of applicants vying for the same job. With all these obstacles in the way of job seekers, any constructive advice can give you an advantage. If your resume hasn't been updated in years, or you are using an outdated online template or the resume you are emailing to potential employers doesn't contain key words, you probably won't even get an interview, much less the job. (To help you score that dream job, check out Sell Your Skills, Not Your Degree.)
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The following tips and ideas may not get you the job, but they will help move you closer to the top of the pile and help you to better market your qualifications.
Nearly every Fortune 500 company and many smaller employers use software that scans keywords in resumes. With the economy, most employers have been so overwhelmed with resumes they have had to turn to scanning systems to quantify applicants.
They also use this same technology to view resumes posted on job boards such as Monster.com. According to the National Resume Writers' Association, 80% of employers now search resumes by using keywords.
Keywords are words geared specifically to both the job description listed by the employer and words that are specific to your profession. You must use both in your resume to pass through the initial scanning software and have your resume put into the hands of a real person.
If you don't include these all-important keywords, you probably won't even earn an interview. Using MS Word, you can easily increase the keyword searchability in your resume by using the "Properties" feature found under File in Word '03 and under the Word Button in Word '07 then go to Prepare, then Properties. You can also add a link here to any web resumes you have posted online.
Have you ever emailed your resume to yourself? You should. Cyber-glitches, email attachments, and different programs used to open those attachments can distort or destroy your perfect looking resume. Pages can break where they aren't supposed to, lines can be added between sentences, words cut off, and fonts that looked great on your computer can appear very different in an email. The best suggestion is to send your resume to yourself and several friends to ensure that it looks good on multiple computers. (For more ways to get your resume seen, see 5 Ways To Make Your Resume Stand Out.)
Words to Avoid
While keywords are vital in your resume, there are some words you should never include. Words that are overused, tired, make your resume appear dated or are just annoying like, "team player," "trustworthy," "problem solver."
Hiring managers, human resource consultants, and employment agencies suggest eliminating these words from your resume. In their place, you should show how you used these traits on the job. How did you solve problems? If you came up with a new way to cut costs, explain how. What makes you trustworthy? Were you trusted with multiple financial accounts? Finding new ways of explaining your talents using keywords instead of overused words will help get you that interview.
Spell check does not catch every error, nor will it fix bad grammar. The best option is to have someone else read and proof your resume. You've probably spent weeks writing, refining and tweaking your resume to create the best sales tool possible. After spending so many hours reading, editing, and rewriting it, odds are you won't see the mistakes that could be lurking there. Having someone else, or better yet, several others review your resume could save you from sending it out with mistakes and costing you a potential job.
Include a Cover Letter
Yes, it sounds "old school" particularly in today's fast-paced Internet world. While email speeds your resume to multiple potential employers, many still look for that personal cover letter. Tailoring your cover letter to individual employers increases your chances of have your resume reviewed and gaining an interview. The cover letter should be pasted into the body of the email, not sent as an attachment. Remember, this is still a business letter, follow the standard rules of business writing protocols.
The Bottom Line
There is no magic formula to having your resume reviewed by a potential employer. These tips can help give you an edge over the competition. Your own skills, experience, and determination will be the keys to open career doors for you. (For some tips on adding keywords to your resume, check out 4 Keyword Tips For A Winning Resume.)