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Testing Your Resume Effectiveness

For years, we have given job seekers our opinion on everything from how to deal with office politics to the best way to negotiate a new job offer. This week we are turning the tables and giving you the opportunity to rate your own resume. What does your resume say about you? Is your resume style outdated? Does it “sell well” against the competition? Is the resume compelling, attractive, and easy to read?

Though I would not recommend it, you may find yourself in disagreement with the collective wisdom of our suggestions. Should that be the case, remember that the perfect resume does not exist. The goal is to create a document with as few mistakes as possible while conveying engaging content about a person’s career. The key word is “engaging.” The resume is not a novel so don’t demonstrate your writing skills unnecessarily. It is a concise and accurate statement of professional accomplishments. Test your resume effectiveness by taking the short quiz that follows. The quiz can’t predict your job search success, but it can give you an idea whether you’ll have a handicap to overcome or a head start. If after reading the accompanying answers you realize that your resume falls short in more than two areas, it’s time for a rewrite. As always, J.M. Wanes & Associates offers a free resume analysis to readers. To take advantage of this service, you may fax your resume to (813) 936-0201 or email jmwanes@jmwanes.com.

Answering the following questions to find out the effectiveness of your resume.

1. Did you write with your reader in mind?

______________
Yes
____________
No

The first rule of effective resume construction is to understand the audience that will receive the document and to write to that audience. Whether you are applying for a particular job as vice president of marketing in hi-tech or mailing your resume to recruiters who specialize in senior technology marketing positions, your resume must show that you have the exact skill-set required to be successful in that job, even if you are coming out of business development.

2. Does your resume start with an objective statement?

______________
Yes
____________
No

Most objective statements are the same as saying “I want.” Since employers are more interested in what you offer than what you want, describing the product “you” in terms of a profile or summary of qualifications is the way to go. If you use an objective statement at the top of your resume, it has the potential of being too broad, too narrow, or too self-serving. What you are specifically seeking can be customized and addressed ten times better in a cover letter than across the top of your resume.

3. Have you included a four-to-five sentence summary statement at the top of your resume?

______________
Yes
____________
No

A summary statement can act as a positioning statement. Strong positioning statements will set the tone for the rest of your resume. If the summary positions you incorrectly, your resume becomes a handicap instead of an effective marketing tool.

4. Is your resume too vague?

______________
Yes
____________
No

Far too many resumes fail by making claims that are vague to the point of banality. Examples include: “good interpersonal skills,” “fast learner,” and “conscientious.” If your resume reads like a politician’s stump speech, start over. The above examples are considered “invisible phrases” and should be avoided.

5. Is your resume too short?

______________
Yes
____________
No

Brevity may be the soul of wit, and you won’t win any prizes for droning on-and-on, but you are no longer required to cram your accomplishments onto a single sheet of paper. Excessive editing of a resume tends to cut into muscle; you are left with company names and job titles, but nothing about what you actually did.

6. Did you overstate your personal contributions?

______________
Yes
____________
No

Here are two statements that illustrate the point: “Personally developed a plant expansion plan that improved capacity by 40% within two months.” Few achievements occur without multiple contributors. It doesn’t diminish your role to acknowledge that being a team player is a salable characteristic. I recently read a statement made by a 26-year-old job candidate, which stated: “Spearheaded and oversaw strategic senior executive management team meetings for a $1.2 billion publicly traded company.” Whether true or not, how believable do you think this statement sounds to a resume reader, especially when made by someone who has been in the workforce for only seven years?

7. Does your resume reflect a lack of hard numbers?

______________
Yes
____________
No

Accomplishments need to be quantified whenever possible. Try dollars, ratios, and percentages, but whatever you do, use numbers. The fact is, as long as you are not giving away proprietary information, using hard figures is an excellent way to enhance the credibility of your resume. Hard figures are definitive, objective, and measurable. If your resume doesn’t have them, readers may infer that you didn’t accomplish anything. To enhance the readability of a resume, always use numerals when talking about money. One hundred fifty thousand dollars does not jump off the page like $150,000.

8. Did you mention bonuses and awards?

______________
Yes
____________
No

Creatively show that you have consistently received them, but never list dollar amounts on your resume. List company-wide productivity and quality awards, but not employee of the month awards. The latter is viewed suspiciously unless you have won several times. People like to hire candidates who can give them a significant return on investment and time. Awards and bonuses are third party endorsements that inform potential employers that you will be a good investment.

9. Is your resume results-oriented?

______________
Yes
____________
No

A resume must be results-oriented; it verifies (use numbers to validate whenever possible) the payoff to the organization. Always focus on the result or impact your actions engendered on the organization. Don’t be too general. If you increased productivity, how great was the increase? If you cut costs, tell by how much. A well-stated accomplishment will describe what you did and give a tangible measurement of its result to the company. Readers shouldn’t have to ask how many, how much, or how often.

10. Does your resume reflect a sense of progress and increasing responsibility?

______________
Yes
____________
No

It is a sign of steady growth and increasing ability if past employers have recognized your contributions and promoted you within the organization with some degree of frequency. How high up did you reach in each organization you worked for and how much responsibility did you enjoy before leaving?

11. Did you thoroughly edit and proof your resume?

______________
Yes
____________
No

Ask any novelist or screenwriter and they will say the same thing: a great piece of writing is 10% creation and 90% editing. Expect to rework your resume extensively. Think of it as a living document, continually being polished and “spun” for its next outing. Proof your work obsessively. Get someone else with fresh eyes to proof it too. Use your PC’s spell-checker, but don’t rely on it alone. Almost every resume that contains typos will end up in the trash can because these errors signal sloppiness.

Well, how did you do? If your resume fell short in only one or two areas, then congratulations, your resume is on the right track. You are not likely to be in a job search very long. For those of you that fell short in over two areas … back to the drawing board, as they say.

A few more formatting guidelines to remember: Use an 11-point font to ensure good readability; you don’t want the reader to need a magnifying glass to read your resume. Additionally, don’t expect readers to struggle with 10-15 line paragraphs; substitute two or three shorter paragraphs or use bullets to offset new sentences and sections. Spell out all abbreviations when they first appear. Finally, I repeat, proofread your resume at least three times.

Joe Hodowanes, Career Strategy Advisor
J.M. Wanes & Associates
www.jmwanes.com 

Joe Hodowanes, M.P.A., SPHR, is a nationally recognized career coach, syndicated columnist, and president of Tampa-based J.M. Wanes & Associates, www.jmwanes.com. J.M. Wanes & Associates is a career coaching, outplacement, and executive search firm specializing in executive-level opportunities.  

 

 

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