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Writing a Résumé That Gets Results
A résumé is often the first point of contact with an employer. Is your résumé making the right impression?

September 22, 2011
Sponsored by Robert Half Finance & Accounting

Times change, but your résumé is still most likely to be your first point of contact with a hiring manager. A carefully crafted résumé can make a lasting impression and open doors to new career opportunities. Poorly written and disorganized résumés, however, are often remembered by hiring managers for all the wrong reasons.

Here are some tips on creating a compelling document that helps you land interviews, along with some amusing real-life résumé mistakes — dubbed “Résumania” by Robert Half International’s founder, Robert Half — collected by our company:

Target Your Pitch

Looking for a leg up on the competition? Customize your résumé for each and every employer you contact. Research the firm and use the job advertisement as your guide, emphasizing your skills, qualifications and professional accomplishments most relevant to that specific role and organization. You don’t need to start from scratch every time a new job posting piques your interest, but taking a little extra time to target your document as a worthwhile investment. Clearly, this person didn’t see the value of customization:

“Objective: Any non-lame job.”

Mind the Details

Companies seek accounting and finance professionals with strong communication skills and attention to detail. So, don’t underestimate the importance of editing. Surveys of employers by our firm consistently show that a single typo on a résumé is all it can take to ruin an applicant’s chances of securing an interview. Use spell-check as a starting point, but keep in mind the program won’t necessarily catch words that are misused or misplaced. Read your résumé aloud several times on screen and on paper. As an additional safeguard, ask a friend or mentor for proofreading assistance. Here’s an error worth crying about:

“Experience: Twenty-five tears in the accounts payable department.”

Stay on Track

To attract and keep a hiring manager’s attention, every word on your résumé needs to pack a punch. Don’t waste valuable space spotlighting hobbies, personal interests and other biographical tidbits that have little or no relevance to your career. Employers are interested in learning about the skills you’ll bring to the job that will help boost productivity and the bottom line. Superfluous statements about favorite pastimes or irrelevant abilities will likely do more harm than good. Consider this head-scratching declaration:

“Skills summary: Extensive background in public accounting. I can also stand on my head!”

Keep It Simple

Time-strapped hiring managers value well-organized résumés that are clear, concise and written in plain English. Yet many job hunters seem to believe it’s beneficial to fill their application materials with flowery language, trendy business buzzwords and awkward résumé-speak. The problem is that wordiness and excessive formality typically comes across as pretentious and forced. Cut to the chase by steering clear of fancy five-dollar words and eliminating extraneous phrases. In his efforts to impress, this verbose wordsmith muddled his message:

“Qualifications: I am not pedantic, but embrace any occasion to nurture my edification and I champion the prodigious accolades of verisimilitude expertise your client desires.”

Don’t Go Negative

Bad bosses aren’t uncommon. In fact, 46 percent of employees said they’ve worked for an unreasonable supervisor, according to a recent poll by our company. But regardless of how difficult a current or previous manager is or was, never badmouth him or her in your résumé or cover letter. Even if the criticism is justified, your negative comments will reflect poorly on only one person: you. Coming across as a potential problem employee who has trouble with authority won’t get you anywhere. To wit:

“Reason for leaving: The horrible new incoming manager took an instant dislike to the fact that I knew how to handle things better.”

Stick to the Facts

The practice of “résumé padding” is nothing new, but today’s competitive job market is tempting some otherwise honest people to embellish their qualifications. Falsely professing to possess a particular certification, slightly stretching dates of employment or inflating your job title isn’t worth the risk. Most companies conduct reference or background checks, and just one “little white lie” can cause employers to question your ethics and eliminate you from consideration. It took only a few clicks of the mouse to verify suspicions that this poor speller’s claim was a work of fiction:

“Honors: Finalist for the most recent Pulitzer Prize.”

A final note of caution: Focus on the prospective employer’s needs. There’s no better way to make a bad first impression than using your résumé to issue demands about the pay and perks you require. Unless a company specifically asks for salary information in the job ad, don’t volunteer this information. The time to discuss compensation is after a firm has interviewed you and expressed interest in bringing you aboard. This last job seeker (a recent college graduate) must have missed the memo:

“Employment requirements: $100,000 a year, medical, dental and vision coverage, pension,
401(k) plan and my own office. All non-negotiable.

Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half International, is one of the world’s first and largest specialized financial recruitment service. The company has more than 360 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.roberthalf.com.