5 Steps to a Stronger Resume

Today’s resumes are much more than a description of what you do now and what you have done in the past. Instead, a custom resume is a strategic marketing document written to focus on the unique value you provide employers and to showcase your qualifications. Below are five steps you can take to create a strategic resume that lands you interviews for best-fit employers and opportunities.

Have a clear job target. By far, this is one of the most important ingredients for an interview-generating resume as it determines what to include and spotlight in the resume. Employers don’t have time or want to figure out where to place you. They’re looking for people qualified to fill a specific position.

To clarify your objectives, it’s helpful to reflect on what you really want next. Ask yourself such questions as what did I/do I like most about my current position? What do I like the least? What type of company do I want to work for? Take this opportunity to define your ideal next position and then develop your resume to support it.

Start with a strong summary. A strong summary is the first thing employers see and if done well, immediately shows them how you are a great fit for the position. This section also can position you for a new career, a promotion, or higher-level position. Here’s an excerpt from a summary of a marketing professional who was interested doing more writing in her next position:

Award-winning marketing/communications manager with effective combination of promotional writing, relationship-building, strategic marketing, and web content /usability skills. More than 15 years’ experience creating and implementing marketing plans that meet revenue goals…. Versatile writer with ability to create effective copy for different audiences …Received honors for outstanding print brochure….Extensive pro bono writing, web strategy, and marketing consulting for local community and civic organizations.

The resume with this summary helped the client secure an interview for a VP of Marketing Communications position, which called on both her writing and strategic marketing skills.

Focus on accomplishments. Let’s face it all sales professionals, managers, and editors (any profession here) basically have the same duties. What will make you stand out among your fellow professionals are the unique contributions that you’ve made in your job. Highlight ways you’ve helped employer save money, better customer service, improve a process or introduce a new product. And if you can, use quantifiable numbers and percentages to add to credibility. Here is an example from an IT project manager client:

Contributed to creation of new $700M revenue stream by collecting, analyzing, and sharing data with senior management on multicultural buyers, which led to expansion into previously untapped market.

Also remember to include impressive awards, specific training or certifications that prove you have expert knowledge on your resume.

Incorporate keywords. It’s important to include industry buzz or “keywords” for the position you are targeting so that your resume passes computer screening or “applicant tracking systems” (ATS). These keywords can be naturally incorporated into the resume in the experience section as well as the summary and can be found by analyzing relevant job postings.

For instance in the case above, the marketing communications professional– the summary included the following keywords (which are usually nouns) in the “area of expertise” section: Print & Digital Content ; E-Newsletters/Articles/Blogs; Brochure/Ad Copy ; and Web Content Strategy.

Make it easy to read. There is no one way to format a resume. The most important thing is to keep it professional, scannable, and skimmable by using ample white space, appropriate headings, and bullets to help achievements stand out.

Employers often use the resume to set the agenda for the interview; they also pass it around the organization to get others’ opinions on your qualifications. Taking these five steps will help to ensure your resume is impressive, gets you interviews, and represents you at your best.