I know it sounds harsh to say so many resumes look like crap, but after over 10+ years of weeding through them I often find myself wondering, “What is this person thinking?” and “Are they even trying to get this job???

There is no reason in this age of internet technology and resources to have a crappy resume. NO REASON. Recruiters know this, which means if your resume isn’t amazing, unless there are absolutely no other candidates, you are not getting your foot in the door to show how great you are in person.

The most frustrating part is that I think you can do a great job but you aren’t selling yourself in the resume or have a “one-size-fits-all” approach to your paper representation of you.

Maybe you are writing your resume how you think it should look rather than really thinking about Every. Single. Item. On. It.

And then wondering why no one is calling you or saying things like It’s so hard to get a job right now.” It may be hard to get a job, but if you are applying to open positions and you aren’t getting phone interviews, then you may want to do a complete overhaul of your resume and see if you can get better results.

Don’t think of your resume as a formality.

It should be the absolute best representation of you! It should be your sales pitch in a very small window of time to shine, on paper no less, which means it needs to your absolute best effort.

A great resume is what makes you stand out in a pile of applicants.

I can’t tell you the countless typos I’ve seen (I usually forgive 1 but 3 is really pushing it), and the rambling resumes or list of skills that don’t even seem remotely connected to the job I’ve advertised for. I’ve often found myself wondering “Why in the world did this person even apply with such a different skill set?

I see objectives like “to be a detail-oriented accountant for your firm” and then they apply to a human resources position. I see all different types of job experience listed and no explanation as to what the person is wanting to do for a living. Many people still submit resumes without a cover letter, or they put the wrong company name in the “Dear ________” of the cover letter. Overall, there is such a lack of explanation for what that person has even done in their work life listed.

Stop throwing away your opportunity with a mediocre resume!

It’s hard enough to get noticed and get your foot in the door with a great resume so your resume better also be nothing shy of great.

Every company you apply to, you should spend the time to make sure your resume and cover letter shows why you are a fit for their position. Gone are the days where you just blindly apply with a one-size-fits all cover letter and resume. DON’T DO IT!

Here are some tips to help you get your resume to the top of the “phone interview” pile where it belongs:

DO – Explain anything that doesn’t make sense in the cover letter.

If you are changing careers explain why you have 15 years as a lawyer and are now applying to be an administrative assistant. Maybe you had kids and you want less hours? Maybe you don’t want the stress of being a lawyer? But if you blindly apply the recruiter has absolutely no idea why a lawyer wants to be an admin (I’ve seen this a lot!) and probably assumes you just applied everywhere and didn’t even mean to apply to this job.

Do- Think about your audience. 

Think about who is seeing your resume. Often times it’s an in-house staff member who is not an expert in every position, but who is an expert in finding qualified candidates. He/she is the gatekeeper you need to impress. He/she is your key to getting to the next level -interviewing with the manager. Your resume needs to impress the person weeding through the resumes! Don’t just throw in a list of technical terms and think it’s enough.

Do – Use action words for each bullet if possible.

Google “action words for resumes” and you’ll have pages to choose from.

Do – Show progression.

No matter what your career is, you should be getting better at it and gaining more responsibility as you go. Make sure it reads like a career if you’ve had a few jobs. It doesn’t matter if you are an admin or a manager, you should be progressing and getting better at what you do. You probably are, but make sure it’s demonstrated on your resume.

Do – Keep ongoing track of your accomplishments while you are working at any job.

I always added something I was proud of to an ongoing copy of my resume so that if I ever switched jobs I could remember the highlights. Often times if we are at a company for many years it’s hard to remember the award we got, the system we implemented, or the turnover we reduced. Have it handy.

Do – Use metrics and demonstrated financial savings anywhere you can.

You didn’t “perform in-house recruiting,” you “Reduced expenses by $100,000 per year by bringing recruiting in-house” for example. Make sure you know how to calculate any metrics you include, like in the in-house recruiting example get prior costs and subtract your salary and time from the metric for the true savings.

Do – look at several job descriptions for the type of position you want and make sure your resume shows you have the experience for it.

Do – find someone with the job you are going for and ask to see their resume or look at their linked in profile to see how they did it. Don’t copy but get an idea how they summed up their experience in a succinct way.

Do – Use this checklist before you apply:

You may be willing to take any job, but the person doing the hiring wants someone who has the skills, will do a great job, and will stay for a few years so that they aren’t always training a newbie. Turnover is expensive and companies are sensitive to that.

Early in my career I used to sort into “call,” “maybe,” and “no” piles. My “maybe” pile had the few typos, didn’t quite make sense, and was iffy. I’ve found, through experience, that if the resume isn’t great, the phone interview wasn’t any better and here’s why:

The person who took the time to really put effort into EVERY SINGLE BULLET knows their resume really well and can take you through specific examples of what they did.

The wishy washy resume usually has a wishy washy phone interview full of “we hit our goals” instead of “I took the project and ran with it” (please stop saying “we” in your interview by the way, we want to know what you specifically did!). This is the person who usually asks you to remind them what company you work for and which position they applied to. You should never tell a company that you don’t know who they are if you applied!

Each bullet on your resume should explain something really amazing you did. Did you “process payroll?” Or did you “Ensure employees were paid accurately and on time,” for example.

You resume should look like you would expect someone’s web presence to look. When you are looking for a doctor, massage therapist, dentist, or a place to eat, anything – you expect to find it enticing and professional. If it isn’t, you probably don’t go to that place or person, right?

Make your resumes count. Spend a lot of time on them! Etsy has great resume formats for sale for less than $5 that look really sharp. There are free templates online as well.

Your resume is your place to exude confidence and really shine! What are you most proud of? What did you do that was really hard but you kicked butt at? You didn’t just “handle travel arrangements” you were an expert at multitasking and making things happen, right?

Don’t make your resume vague or boring! Keep it professional but stand out with your skills.

Recruiting is like dating. There are so many factors to getting the right fit. The best thing you can do is stand out with your resume. Have it be confident, but not arrogant. Visually appealing. Clean. Show progression. Have skills that match the position or do an amazing explanation of why they don’t in the cover letter.

Don’t be the bottom of the pile! I’ve never once made it to the bottom of the pile and have always had a hire more toward the top.

A great free resource is head hunters or staffing agencies. They will give you feedback as they want to place you in a position. They may find you a job in the meantime, which is an added bonus.

I know people don’t really mean to have bad resumes, I think it’s probably a case of “deer in the headlight syndrome” where there’s so much information and so much is riding on it that they are afraid to get it wrong. But your resume has to be meaningful. It has to be a great representation of you!

And “you” want to be confident, show you can get the job done, and stand out. Because if you don’t believe in you, why would someone else be expected to?

If you really struggle with confidence, get a coach! People earn a million more in their lifetime when they have the courage to negotiate salaries. Just. By. Asking. They aren’t better, they believe they should be paid more so they get paid more. They know their worth!

Same goes for your resume. If you aren’t impressed with your skills someone else won’t be either.

But I’m here to tell you there are things you excel at. There are things you do better than anyone. MAKE THAT CLEAR on your resume!

Believe me, when you look at resumes all day you can tell who spends time and who doesn’t. You want to call the one who goes the extra mile because who doesn’t want top talent?

If you still struggle, hire a resume writer. There are many good ones out there and the investment is worth it if it reduces the amount of time you’re unemployed or allows you a new position where you negotiate more pay.

Invest time in your resume because it’s the most important part of your job search. Even if you network they will eventually ask for your resume!

Make it amazing.

Light up your worklife!

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