Enhancing a Resume: Advanced Tips

You’ve created a resume before, and even landed a job with it, but perhaps it’s time to revitalize the old resume as you look to move up in the professional world.  Even if you are applying for a promotion or advanced position within the company where you already work, you should plan to submit an updated and enhanced resume that reflects your professional growth since your initial interview.

Formatting

Take a look at your existing resume and contemplate whether it might be given a fresher look.

  • Experimenting with some different fonts might freshen up the look of your resume.  Don’t get too wild with font, as this is first and foremost a professional document and should be easy to ready above all–but perhaps a newer font would give your resume a slightly more eye-catching look.  “Professional” needn’t necessarily mean “without personality”–although finding the appropriate balance between those two elements is a critical component of presenting yourself professionally.
  • Looking over sample resumes or templates online, do you see a format that presents information more clearly, or appears more visually interesting than your old resume?

Keywords and Phrasing

Phrasing can make all the difference in how you present yourself within your resume.  The resume itself is in some ways an odd cross between a list and a written paper, in which you probably don’t include many full sentences, but in which the phrasing of your listed items can affect how the resume (and therefore you) will be perceived.

  • Be as specific as possible in describing skills and experience; precise descriptions of skills and accomplishments both communicate more about you and set you apart from other candidates who have written in more general terms about themselves.  For example, a notation that you “purchase equipment and supplies according to requisitions by thirty staff members” says a great deal more than saying that you “order supplies.” An even better description might read along the lines of the following: “Evaluates and negotiates with multiple office supply vendors; oversees the purchasing of departmental supplies; trains staff members in online purchasing techniques.”  Taking care to craft each description to emphasize your responsibilities and skills will make you stand out against the competition.
  • Use “action words” to describe your skills and experience.  A flat description such as “Knows Microsoft Excel” will not carry as much weight or emphasis as a verb-based description of what you can DO with Excel.
  • Every industry has its catch-phrases and keywords which catch an employer’s attention and indicate that you know the industry well enough to use them.  In settling on likely “keywords” to use in your resume, utilize your own inside knowledge of your field, and look for clues from the prospective employer.  Phrases used in the job posting and job position, if echoed in your own resume, will position you right off the bat as a likely match.    You can also scan for likely keywords within the company’s website and other publications, as well as websites or publications by professional organizations in your field.
  • If you are submitting a resume online–or posting it on a job-search website–keyword usage will also help push your resume to the top when a prospective employer uses a search engine to scan for likely candidates.  Don’t just load the resume with stand-alone keywords, however; use those phrases in the context of your own skills and experience to showcase your suitability for the position.

Experience

It’s very likely that you have added new experience, skills, and training since you wrote your original resume, so you will want to add those items as part of your update.  You may also consider pre-existing items which you didn’t include originally but which you realize (now that you’re more familiar with the field) would be relevant and useful information to share.

  • Begin with the item that is probably the most obvious since your last interviews: the title and experience of your current job.
  • What professional trainings have you received as part of your current job?  Consider listing in-house trainings, professional development credits, certifications or licenses, college coursework, professional conferences, and any other forms of training applicable to your industry.
  • Consider adding presentations or trainings you have given during the course of your professional career.  These may range from training of new staff within the company, presentations at professional conferences, informational updates provided in public situations or to private groups, marketing pitches, or instances of teaching in various venues.  The ability to speak publicly on behalf of your company and your work is a valued asset in an employee, so highlight your abilities in this area.
  • If you have written or published any works during your tenure, consider adding a “Publications” heading. Items under this heading might include white papers or research pieces, articles in periodicals, in-house publications such as company policy manuals, or even perhaps a book chapter or other established publication.
  • Have you created any professional products in the course of your work? These might range from designing software to creating curriculum to forming work-flow procedures, or any number of other items related to your field.
  • Consider adding an assessment of your “soft skills”–those skills which may not be measurable as specific accomplishments, but which are valued in the workplace.  Interpersonal skills, communication skills, leadership skills, and the like will be as important to a prospective employer as your software design skills or words–per-minute rate of typing.  Wherever possible, use specific examples to demonstrate your use of those skills in the workplace to ensure that your “soft skills” don’t ring hollow as an empty claim.
  • Have you added supervisory experience since you last updated your resume?  The ability to manage employees and facilitate the functioning of a professional team is a highly prized skill in the professional workplace.

If you’re planning ahead and expecting to apply for a promotion or advanced job, within your company or elsewhere, consider what experiences, trainings, or publications you might accomplish, with an eye to enhancing your resume based on experience.

Targeting an Audience

A skilled job-seeker will tailor each resume for the company to which it is being submitted, rather than blanketing the industry with “generic” versions of your own resume.  Maintain an updated version of your resume, which can be customized for each individual job application:

  • Closely read the job posting and job description for which you intend to submit an application.  For each item on the job description, make sure that your resume specifically answers that requirement with a description of your own suitability.  Echoing the specific phrasing used by the employer will highlight the matches, and it will be clear that you have paid specific attention to the job description itself.
  • If your cover letter specifically highlights a skill, experience or trait you possess, make sure that the same item is also covered in your resume, but it will not necessarily accompany your resume into your interview file.  Hopefully the cover letter will serve to interest the employer, but your resume should be self-sufficient as a stand-alone item.
  • Save all your resume variations.  Although you are working to ensure that your resume always answers specifically to an individual job posting, it’s likely that some tailored elements may be applicable, with some tweaking, to another job as well.  Saving your variations (as well as the “base” document from which you start each time) will save you from having to start from scratch on every single item.

Cover Letter

Your cover letter is in many ways as important as the resume itself, because this piece of writing introduces you and your interest in a specific job, as well as introducing your writing-style and communication skills to the reader.  The cover letter serves several purposes, and therefore should be approached with care and thought.

Use a business letter format with appropriate contact information and a specific greeting.  Whenever possible, use the specific name of the manager or  supervisor who will be conducting the hiring process, rather than a generic opening such as “To Whom it May Concern.”  Specific contact information shows that you have done your research, and reads more appealingly to the recipient.  Do your best to write a letter that grabs the reader’s attention and sets you apart from other applicants, and make sure there are absolutely no errors of spelling, grammar, punctuation, or usage within the letter itself.

Keep in mind as you craft the content of the letter that the prospective employer is seeking employees with the company’s success in mind, so your letter should emphasize why the company would benefit from hiring you, more than why you want or need the job.  Express your interest without framing yourself as desperate or needy.  You can incorporate some of the highlights of your work experience, but avoid simply rephrasing the resume.  Consider your cover letter a sales pitch, in which you are the asset being promoted.

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