Create a crystal clear resume

Serida Jackson, 20, of Valley Stream, submits her

Serida Jackson, 20, of Valley Stream, submits her resume to Fran Pittelli representing Jones Beach at a job fair in Hempstead Village. (April 16, 2009) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

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By now you've heard several times that the job market is competitive and it's more important than ever that you stand out to employers through your cover letter and résumé.

Well, you're about to hear it again.

"While it is always important to have a remarkable résumé, a bad economy makes it even more important," says Kathy Sweeney, a certified résumé writer for The Write Résumé. "With this situation in mind, it is more important than ever to communicate the value you bring to a potential employer."

Here are a few pearls of wisdom: Communicating your value to an employer is not done by crowding your résumé with words like 'results driven' or 'motivated.' It won't be done by listing what you think is an impressive list of job duties, and it sure as heck won't be done by sending out one standard to résumé for every application. No, in fact, none of these mistakes will help pave your way for an interview, but you can bet they will aid in digging your own career grave.

So what is the easiest way to grab an employer's attention? Simple: Spell things out for them.

"The primary function of a résumé is to get a candidate noticed in an effort to gain interviews," Sweeney says. "It is a marketing document, in which a candidate sells his or her value to the employer. If the meat of the résumé is simply job duties, it will not do the job."

If you need help creating your high-definition résumé, here are five common résumé errors you might be making, and how you can make things crystal clear for employers:

1. You aren't quantifying results
Applicants often don't know the difference between quantifying results and just stating a job responsibility. A job responsibility is something that you do on a daily basis and a quantified achievement is the result of that responsibility, Sweeney says.

"In this tight economy, employers want to know whether you can make or save them money," Sweeney says. "By quantifying results, you show the next employer the results you have been able to obtain, either in dollar figures or percentages."

Try taking anything you do in your position and attaching a number to it where possible. Say you developed a time-saving process or procedure, completed a project 10 days ahead of schedule or recommended a way to cut back costs, Sweeney says. All of these equal saved time and money for an employer.

2. You didn't include keywords
We hear a lot about using keywords in our résumés and letters, but many job seekers just don't get it. They don't know what they are, where to find them or how to include them on their application materials.

Keywords are usually found in the job description for an available position. Keywords are not 'team player' or 'good communication skills,' Sweeney says. Keywords are specific to the position. For an accountant, for example, keywords might include 'accounts payable,' 'accounts receivable' or 'month-end reporting.'

"The whole goal from an employer's perspective is to drill down to the least amount of candidates possible for interviewing purposes," Sweeney says. "Keywords are utilized to trim down applicants to the most qualified candidates."

3. You buried your achievements
Say you did list some accomplishments on your résumé, but they are mixed in there with your job duties. What good is that going to do you?

"If a candidate buries his achievement in a job description, nothing is going to stand out. A job seeker needs to outline what his duties are, as those are what most often match the job posting," Sweeney says. "On a job posting, you will see duties, for instance, 'Candidate will be charged with creating relationships with customers and selling XYZ product line.' Job postings will never say, 'Must produce at least $5 million per year in revenue.' It is implied that if you know how to develop relationships properly, the results will be creating sales revenue."

In order to make your achievements stand out, Sweeney suggests listing the job duties first and then the area for accomplishments as "key accomplishments."

4. You didn't include a summary
Including a summary on your résumé is one of those steps that many job seekers forget to take -- and if they do remember, they usually include the wrong information. Your career summary should portray your experience and emphasize how it will help the prospective employer, Sweeney says. It should be very specific and include explicit industry-related functions, quantifiable achievements or your areas of expertise.

"You will lose an employer's attention if this section is too broad," Sweeney says. "Know the type of position you are targeting and use the keywords that relate to it based upon your background."

5. Your résumé isn't targeted
What better way to make things clear for an employer than by targeting your résumé to its company and open positions? If your résumé is generic, it makes the employer have to guess at the type of position you want.

"Human resources do not have time to figure out what a candidate wants to be when he or she grows up," Sweeney says. "Let an employer know where you fit into their company."

You should target all areas of your résumé to match what the employer is asking for -- if nothing else, change the summary as it will be the first area read by hiring managers, Sweeney says. "Look at what is important in the position posting. Then, tweak your profile and perhaps some of your position descriptions to match how you qualify for the position," she adds.

Now what?
Now that you've got your HD résumé, you need to put it in front of the right pair of eyes. Don't just post it to a job board and wait for something to happen. Utilize your networks, post on social and professional networking sites and answer questions on industry forums or blogs in a well thought out manner, Sweeney suggests.

"You might have a great résumé, but if no one can find it, it defeats the purpose," Sweeney says.

Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CBwriterRZ.

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