How to Write a Resume That Gets Read

resume cartoon

resume cartoonSeveral months ago, my wife was looking for a new job in her field of social work. I was amazed to see how easily she was able to land interviews and get job offers. I was equally impressed to find that she attributed much of her success to effectively writing a cover letter and resume (and the Good Lord, of course).

I would be remiss to add my wife is very smart and talented at what she does. Plus, she also has good experience in her profession. And no, I'm not biased. :)

So, how do you make sure your resume is read among the hundreds or thousands of resumes a hiring manager is reviewing every day?

I asked my wife – and here are some of her tried and true tips to gets yours read and – hopefully – your foot in the door.

Use action words and measurable results

One thing my wife always is sure to include in her experience section are action words (like “Achieved”, “Created”, etc) and personal achievements. Did you develop a program at your current job? Did you save the company lots of money through a project? These are some of the most important elements of a successful resume – demonstrating that you've brought success to prior employers.

Use industry buzz words

Are there certain words that are only particular to your career or job? Be sure to include some of these in your resume.

Utilize job description key words

Today, a lot of hiring managers use software tools  to weed out resumes that don't fit a particular job vacancy. You want to make sure some of these items they are listing gets addressed in your resume. For example: Job Description: “Excellent communication and customer service skills, both written and verbal.” Your resume: “Recognized for superb communication and customer service  skills”.

Be sure your resume accompanies a cover letter

A cover letter is a crucial step in getting your resume read. Just like the resume – it also needs to address the job description's “wants”. Target important things the hiring manager is looking for in your first paragraph and how you will meet them. Show excitement and a willing spirit. “I am eager to meet with you to discuss how my professional background and skills can add value to your team.” You can also address items that you'd like to draw attention to in this letter. Perhaps it is a specific achievement at your previous employer that would be appropriate for this position? 

Make sure your resume is unique to the job you are applying for

I was surprised to learn that my wife never sends the same resume out to potential employers. Every one is unique. She tailors each to fit with what the job description is and what the employer is looking for. I for one have taken the lazy route with this one and typically send the same one over – and over. You'll definitely stand out if yours directly meets their needs and fits what they're searching for.

Do your due diligence

You'll also separate yourself from the pack if you make sure your resume is error-free (spelling and grammar), includes licenses or association affiliations you've been a part of, AND by addressing your cover letter and/or resume to a specific person. If you need help finding that person – check out the company's career or employment page. Often they will include the name of the human resources manager as well as an email address. If you can't find it there – I also suggest calling the company – telling them you are applying for a position and who could you best address your application to. I've also had some success with LinkedIn. Search for the company you are applying to and you'll get a list of employers who work there. You'll want to address the hiring manager or the head of the department you are applying to.

I think the most important thing you can do to increase your chances of getting your resume read is that it is tailored to job you are applying for and demonstrate how you will meet their need.

Have you got any other tips that help ensure your resume stands out?

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  1. Aaron: Excellent timing, as I’m sure you are aware of all the job hunters. I am board chair to hire an executive director for a non-profit, and your points would help many who sent me resumes. I wish I could send each rejected one a quick email with some pointers. I just passed this along to a friend changing career paths, and will also use with my son who is looking for his first job.

    • @Susan – I wish someone would have sent me pointers after each of my rejections! ;) How helpful that might have been..

  2. Great tips. I was job hunting for several months before I landed my current job in HR and Marketing. During that time, I must have sent out 20-25 different resumes. Even when I was applying for similar jobs, I changed my resume to reflect the priorities and goals of the company I was applying to.

    Due diligence is an important one, too. My contact for a job opening was Leslie something or other, and I addressed my cover letter to her. Her assistant reached out to me via email, and we worked out an interview time. When I got to the interview, I discovered that Leslie was a man. By that point, he and his assistant had two or three emails from me in which I constantly referred to him as a woman. (I didn’t get the job).

    Due diligence on the entire company can be helpful as well. If you have a good understanding of the company and what they do, and you are able to express how your skills and experiences fit the priorities and goals of the entire company, as well as the position you’re applying for, you’ll be a really strong candidate. Additionally, you’ll be better prepared to talk about the company in an interview, too.

    • @Anne – Thanks. Good point about buzzwords – easy to start sounding “fake” with too many.
      @Ruser – Great insights – thanks for the input!

  3. Great tips, especially the part about tailoring the resume for each job. Having read hundreds of resumes, I’d caution against overusing buzzwords though. You want to make clear that you understand the industry lingo, but too many buzzwords can make you sound insincere.

    I’d also add: use bullet points, and keep it to one page.

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