If you are conducting a job search, ask yourself the following questions: Is your resume providing you with the results you want? Is it a compelling document that highlights your skill sets and accomplishments to your best advantage? Are you distinguishing yourself from the competition by prominently displaying your added value?
Many times, your resume will serve as your all-important first impression. It will form the primary and initial indication of your viability as a candidate. Yet, as any savvy job-seeker knows, the ideal is to be introduced to a potential employer through a networking contact. Then your resume will act chiefly as a substantiating document, showcasing your skills, experience and fit for the position. In either case, however, you need to choose your words carefully. This critical document has to be succinct, compelling and powerful.
Technology has altered the hiring process significantly, especially when it comes to resumes. Due to the overwhelming volume of responses to posted positions, most mid- to large-sized companies are now using applicant-tracking systems to perform a first-level screening of incoming resumes.
Although the software has been around for a while, many job-seekers are unaware of how it works. This mistake can be costly because applicant-tracking systems process today's massive numbers of resumes, whittle them down to a manageable size and select only those that are suitable to pass along to reviewers and recruiters. You should, therefore presume that the resume you submit to an online posting will be screened in or out by this software.
Words to Use:
Keywords currently in demand
Study the job postings for your line of work and identify the skills that are currently in the greatest demand. If you have these skills, be certain to cite them liberally throughout your resume. Make sure to also incorporate these keywords in basically the same sequence you find them in the ads. Employers generally list job requirements in order of importance. Therefore, you will want to note your skills accordingly. By doing this, you will be showing employers that you are both highly qualified and possess expertise that is cutting-edge and in demand.
Specifics each employer wants
When submitting your resume in response to a particular position, you will need to further match your skill sets as closely as possible to the posted requirements. Whatever you put on your resume has to be 100 percent truthful; however, it is your decision as to which skills you choose to emphasize. So ignore your creative urges and mimic the words you find in the posting. Remember, your document will likely go through an initial screening by an applicant-tracking system. Software cannot make assumptions -- your resume needs to duplicate the advertised skills as closely as possible.
Words that highlight your accomplishments
Every employer is looking for the same thing: a problem-solver who will meet and resolve challenges as they arise. Past performance is considered to be the key indicator of future performance. So emphasize your past accomplishments with words that highlight the positive results you have achieved and remember to quantify your results whenever possible.
Begin your resume statements with words such as: Exceeded, Expanded, Effected, Increased, Decreased, Maximized, Minimized, Doubled, Tripled, Reduced and Saved. Then follow these accomplishment words with percentages or other numerical markers of your success.
Words that show initiative
You also want to underscore how you have used initiative to come up with innovative solutions to problems, handle unforeseen issues that arise and/or motivate difficult team members. Words that describe initiative include: Developed, Drove, Effected, Eliminated, Implemented, Launched, Turned Around, Managed, Produced and Spearheaded.
Words that display your added value
Whenever possible, be sure to demonstrate how your experience and skills give you the edge over the competition. By starting a couple of resume examples with words such as, "unique combination of X and Y" or "winning combination of..." you will make the point that you bring abilities that others do not.
Words to lose:
Vague claims about your strengths
Although personal strengths such as attitude, work ethic and personality will help you land the job in an interview, you do not want to load your resume up with vague terms. Words such as: "contributing team player," "reliable and responsible" or "motivated self-starter" are, in actuality, claims you are making about yourself. It is far better to show hard skills (the ones that are specific to your line of work), your actions and the results you have achieved. You want your resume to document your demonstrated skills and the valuable accomplishments you have produced.
Greatly reduce or eliminate terms such as: Self-motivated, Responsible, Hard Worker, Team Player, Go-to Person, etc.
Words that represent a job description
Remember that the main goal of your resume is to highlight your achievements so that potential employers are made aware of what you are capable of producing. Although responsibilities are important, do not rely heavily on the previously popular resume terms such as, "responsible for" and "duties included." These terms represent position descriptions -- they do not describe what you actually accomplished.
References available upon request
This phrase is passé, totally unnecessary and a waste of valuable space. Employers assume that you will provide references if requested.
Given your resume's effect on your chances for success, therefore, review it carefully to ensure that it is a powerful representation of your talents, skills and what you are capable of achieving. Do not forget that this all-important document will often be the first impression a recruiter or hiring manager will have of you. Think of your resume as your sales brochure and turn it into a marketing powerhouse. Load it up with words that describe your strengths and eliminate the ones that serve to diminish your impact. Above all, be very sure that you are presenting yourself as the valuable and accomplished candidate you are. That should make any resume reviewer sit up and take notice!
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty plus years of experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2014, it's packed with critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!