Four ways to write a successful resume

Let’s assume that you haven’t yet started on that New Year’s resolution of rewriting your resume (You did make a resolution to do this, didn’t you?). Having a current and well-written resume is the single best thing you can do for yourself if you’re thinking about transitioning to another job or career, or if you’re trying to get back into the workforce after a too-long layoff. So why haven’t you updated yours?

As is the case with many such tasks that can be easily dropped from one’s priority list, the hardest part is simply getting started. What actually needs to be done to make your resume a winning one? Is it just updating the contact information and work history, or is there more to it than that?

To help make your resume rewrite a little easier, I’m going to focus on what needs to be done to make it very readable to hiring managers and recruiters. They don’t have the time or interest to read your autobiography, nor will they be attracted to a boring chronology of your past jobs with nothing substantial to set you apart from the vast crowd. You’ve got about 15 seconds to make a good first impression.

Power points

Consider the following questions when rewriting your resume:
• What is your functional and industry expertise? Don’t make the reader have to infer your skills by looking at work history. Have a lead section or summary that quickly informs and emphasizes what value and talent you would bring to the employer. Categorizing core competencies and special technical skills prior to any list of previous jobs will allow you to be in or out of the hiring ballpark in a hurry.• Where are you on the work-level hierarchy? It should be established very quickly if you are a laborer, assistant, manager, executive or contracting consultant. This can be highlighted in the lead summary and by bolding or capitalizing current and previous job titles. You need to make it easy for the reader to position you where you want to be positioned.• What have you been up to for the past 10 years or so? A clearly written chronology of your most recent and relevant past employment should be displayed. In most cases, what you did before, say 1998, isn’t going to be that important to someone hiring in 2011.And yes, gaps in your work history are a problem. It’s not what laid-off workers want to hear, I know.

So what can be done about employment gaps? Hopefully, you will be able to show that you tried to remain current and viable with your profession while you were out of work or caring for an ill or elderly family member.
Perhaps you received further education and training, or volunteered, perhaps interned, in order to continue maintaining and developing expertise.• What have been your significant accomplishments? In this chronicle of your employment, there should stand out what you’ve done that has made a real contribution. Refer to tangible measures like revenue and profit increases, lead generations and conversions, savings in costs or resources, or anything else that shows you have improved processes.Think of it as compiling your greatest hits.

You may not be successful with all your New Year’s resolutions, but if you can get this one right, it just may be enough to make 2011 the year of positive change you hoped it would be.

Bill Ryan, founder of Ryan Career Services LLC, Concord, also is a regular blogger on NHBR Network. He can be reached at 603-724-2289