By Allison Torres Burtka
To a potential employer, your resume is the first impression you make. What does your resume convey about you—both at first glance and after a read through it?
Objectives, often at the top of the resume, aren’t necessary unless you are a recent graduate with little to no work experience or you are changing careers, says Cheryl Palmer, career coach at Call to Career. Otherwise, you should have a professional summary at the top, below your name and contact information.
“What’s at the top of the page needs to be eye-catching,” Palmer says. “You have to give people a reason to read further.” The professional summary is a teaser—about four to six lines long—that gives an overview of you as a candidate. It should focus on what you can do for a potential employer. For instance, you can talk about how much money you saved or revenue you generated for your organization, or how you improved a process, she says.
Your resume should contain keywords from the vacancy announcement. This is important because resumes often are scanned into a database before a recruiter looks at them. If these words don’t appear, “your resume doesn’t float to the top,” Palmer says.
What’s at the top of the page needs to be eye-catching. You have to give people a reason to read further.
Palmer recommends including a few keywords—or core competencies—in a short bulleted list below the professional summary. Then, “sprinkle these keywords throughout your professional experience section, so people can actually see where you got those skills and where you used them.”
Your resume should showcase any significant contributions you’ve made to your field. If you’ve been published, presented at professional association meetings, or been quoted in a major publication, say so.
“Clearly, that’s going to set you apart from most of your competition,” Palmer says. “It shows that you’re worth more, because you’ve put more into your career than the average person.” And that can help when it’s time to negotiate salary.
Although your resume should spell out what you can offer, it shouldn’t go on and on. “Two pages is pretty standard for most resumes,” she says. Some say an executive resume can go as long as three pages, but people probably are not going to read anything longer than that.
Also, “if you have a dynamic LinkedIn profile, then you should definitely include the URL for it on your resume,” Palmer says. “It shows that you are social-media savvy, and it can provide more information to an employer than a standard two-page resume.”
She recommends omitting references—because people assume you will provide them later when needed—as well as your GPA in most cases. “You only need to include your GPA from your undergraduate and graduate education if you have a recent degree and only if it is impressive,” she says.
Allison Torres Burtka is a longtime association journalist and freelance writer in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Email: [email protected]