Testing Your Resume
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 Is your resume style outdated?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
Answering the following questions to find out the
effectiveness of your resume.
1. Did you write with your reader in mind?
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
2. Does your resume start with an objective statement?
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?
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
4. Is your resume too vague?
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
5. Is your resume too short?
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?
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?
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
8. Did you mention bonuses and awards?
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?
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
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
11. Did you thoroughly edit and proof your resume?
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
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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