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Deborah Walker

Ensure Recruiters Take Heed of Your Résumé

Here’s how.

November 5, 2009
by Deborah Walker, CCMC

As a career coach there are résumé questions that I'm asked by nearly every accounting and financial professional. If you are a job seeker you've probably struggled with these same issues. Here are answers to the most frequently asked résumé questions:

Q: How many pages should my résumé be?
A: It depends on your level of experience and how complex the position for which you are applying. While a one-page résumé is appropriate for recent college graduates, two or three pages are better for persons with several years of professional experience. Readability is a very important factor. Never try to squeeze text into a page to make it fit. Résumé screeners seldom read tightly packed text.

Q: How many years should my résumé cover?
A: The key is relevance. You do not need to include every job you've held since high school. Go back as far as is relevant and only list experiences that support your current career objective.

Q: Why are key words important?
A: Key words are essential in today’s age of electronic résumé tracking. Most often résumés are stored in a database. Recruiters use key words to retrieve résumés of qualified candidates. If your résumé is missing the appropriate key words it will be ignored no matter how qualified you are. Job postings are a great source for identifying relevant key words.

Q: How do I sell my skills in my résumé?
A: With today's level of competition, this is the most important résumé issue. Your résumé must SELL you as the top candidate. If your résumé focuses only on your qualifications, what makes you stand out over several hundred applicants with identical qualifications? The solution is accomplishments. Pepper your résumé with accomplishments to illustrate your skills. Your accomplishments should demonstrate how you have saved time, increased efficiency, cut costs, improved performance etc. Every employer is looking for individuals who can help achieve bottom-line initiatives. First make sure you know what skills employers are looking for.

Q: What do I do about blanks in my work history?
A: People take time off from work for various reasons: caring for elderly parents, health problems, raising children, going back to school or job loss. Every year should be accounted for in your résumé to avoid suspicion by résumé screeners, because they will always assume the worse. As you begin to fill gaps in your work history, remember to include all your volunteer positions. All relevant experiences count. If you have a gap in your resume because you went back to school, a simple one- or two-line entry should suffice, such as:

Student, Washington State University, 2003-2005
Pursued MBA. Focused on Finance and Accounting. Obtained honors for graduating in top two percent of class.

Don't forget to include volunteer positions as a way of maintaining professional skills. All relevant experience counts on your résumé.

Q: Do I always need dates?
A: Yes. Always. With one exception, it is sometimes appropriate to leave dates off education to avoid dating yourself. Opinion is divided on this however, so it is best to include educational dates unless you feel strongly that you'll be discriminated against.

Q: How do I compensate for little experience?
A: Use accomplishments that show how you:

  • learned a new skill,
  • went beyond the call of duty,
  • improved a procedure or process.

Every employer is looking for candidates who show initiative. Remember, a little personal drive goes a long way toward convincing an employer that you are the best candidate for the job.

Q: How do I avoid seeming over qualified?
A: First, include only the education level stated as required in the job posting. Do not include a doctorate degree if the position requires a BA. Second, if the position doesn't include management responsibilities focus your résumé on your individual contributions and leave out team leadership information. Without the right résumé, it is harder to climb down the corporate ladder than up.

Conclusion

Hopefully these answers provide insight to your own résumé dilemma. In today's tough job market an effective résumé is the number on tool for gaining interviews and getting hired. Good luck!

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Deborah Walker CCMC, is a Certified Career Management Coach helping job seekers get re-employed in today's tough economy. Her clients gain top performing skills in resume writing, interview preparation and salary negotiation. Learn more about Deborah Walker can help YOU at: http://www.AlphaAdvantage.com.