Do you know what “buzzword” makes me think of? Big bugs with wings that beat so fast the individual sounds blur together. In a resume, buzzwords are words used so often the reader stops seeing you as an individual. It can be tricky, though, because you have to figure out what’s been overused to that point of overkill (i.e. “detail-oriented, or “responsible for” … just DON’T DO IT).
Buzzwords vs Keywords
Keywords are essential in your resume because they are the phrases or individual words the screening system is looking for. There is a lot of quality information on keywords and how to use them on this blog and on other career blogs. Basically, a keyword is the information the searcher is hoping to find. If an employer wants to hire someone who knows Microsoft Office and can come in to start work without training, they are looking for “Microsoft Office” on your resume. If you have the skill they are looking for, say so. Tell them how well you know it, too. “Uses Microsoft Office daily” implies competency.
Most of the time, a job interview will consist of you answering questions. But most interviewers will also ask if you have any questions, and it’s a good idea to be prepared to ask the right kind. You don’t have to use my phrasing, but think through why these questions are good to ask and how you can ask something similar:
“The job description cites these responsibilities. How are those responsibilities filled in a typical workday?” This gives you an idea about the work load and expectations involved.
“What do you hope to see this position accomplish for your company?” A question like this gives you an opportunity to hear what their goals are for this particular job and get an idea of the long term plans you will be a part of.
Some will tell you that nobody reads cover letters any more, so there’s no good reason to write them. But there actually are very good reasons to write a professional, researched, compelling cover letter, and here’s the top reason why:
It is your opening argument that the attached resume is worth taking the time to read.
There are many helpful hints on writing your cover letter and it is a good idea to read up on this skill before you start drafting yours. Then start by taking the specific job description you are applying for and matching your qualifications to that description. Find the company’s goals and mission statement. Can you see how they mesh with the job and how you could be the best candidate for that opening?
If possible, discover who will be reading the resumes and use their name in the opening. Present your case for their consideration by a well-written and concise explanation of how your qualifications fit their needs and their goals. Reference any personal recommendations you have within the organization. Think of who will read your letter, what their goals are, and how to show them you can be the one to meet those goals.
Recruiters and employers sift through stacks of resumes very quickly, so your resume needs to grab attention fast. What makes a resume stand out and get you the interview?
First, your resume must be easy to read (bullet points, not paragraphs) and error-free. Mistakes will get your resume dumped fast. Beyond these basics, here are 3 simple ways to rev up your resume:
1 - Quantify Your Accomplishments
Sales resumes should absolutely, without question, show your performance numbers--sales numbers, rankings, etc. But even if you aren't remotely connected to sales, quantifying your accomplishments (using numbers, dollars, and percentages to describe what you've done) will grab attention and show that you'll be a great asset. (See How to Write a Resume That POPS)
Some of us liked math class, and some of us did not (I am in the latter group). But like it or not, numbers are essential in your career, from resume to retirement and everywhere in between. Job performance numbers are particularly useful for at least three reasons:
they look good on your resume
they help with salary negotiations
and they give you confidence
Performance Numbers Validate Your Resume
When you can state that your work for a past employer resulted in a 15% increase in sales, that is an authoritative statement. It had better be a true statement that you can back up with more information, too! The fact is. illustrating your success with hard numbers always gets a good ROI on your resume because it is specific proof of your worth. Employers looking for a good return on their investment in hiring you will be impressed.
One of the red flags an interviewer looks for is inconsistency in your information. If you have updated your professional resume, take the time to look at your cover letter and online information carefully to make sure they all match. I’m not saying to keep a falsehood consistent because lying is never a good idea, but I am saying that if you are not updating everything when you refresh one thing it eventually will look like you lied because the records are inconsistent.
This is an easy trap to fall into because there are so many places your professional information can be found. If you have recently taken a seminar on a specialty in your field, you may remember to put it on your resume but forget about your LinkedIn profile. Do that three times and your online brand is lacking three important pieces of information about you. Do that ten times, and an interviewer will wonder what’s going on.
If your resume is not getting the results you’d expect based on your skills and experience, maybe it needs to be evaluated. All the information could be perfect; perfectly bland. Here’s a fast way to evaluate your resume, and it’s based on the way it will be evaluated when it reaches that VIP looking for someone to fill a position:
Pick up your resume and scan it for 30 seconds, then cover it and write down what you remember.
Actually, thirty seconds might be longer than most HR people look at it, but they have developed serious speed reading skills. What do you remember about your resume? What stands out?
Now consider that your resume is something you are familiar with — and it was probably hard to remember what you said about yourself. Imagine what it’s like to read through hundreds of resumes in an attempt to find the best candidates to call in for interviews! These people don’t know you, and they do know what they need in the position.
I get calls and notes from job seekers asking me about all kinds of crazy plans to get certifications, take classes, pay job placement agencies, or otherwise spend a lot of money trying to get a job. What do I say? One, never pay anyone who says they can place you in a job; and two, before you invest a huge amount of time and money into something you may not need, look at the simple fixes first--like your resume.
Look at this note I got from Rebecca:
Just a note to say THANK YOU for your help. Since I sent my newly revised resume, my phone is ringing and I am also receiving offers from e-mails for jobs. You Are GREAT!
She revised her resume and her phone started ringing. Does your resume need a revision, too?
One of the things that a resume is used for is getting a quick idea of what all your assets are and what you can contribute to the position you are applying for. This is good; you want your resume to be an introduction that leads to a longer relationship. But resumes should not show your age, because it is far too easy to assume certain ages have certain characteristics. This is one reason that “age discrimination” is one of the unlawful practices in the job market.
Even though age discrimination is unlawful, it still happens. People naturally do make assumptions about others based on initial information. But the resume that is professional, appealing, and updated gets past attitudes and showcases what you can do. That’s a good argument for making sure your resume does not show your age.
You want your resume to stand out, right? But not when it stands out as a shining example of what not to do on a resume. While there are many ways to make mistakes on a resume, one of the most ubiquitous is the plethora of unnecessary verbiage that accompanies attempts to impress.
That was an example of “Resume Speak“, or in more words, the fine art of “utilizing synergies and leveraging paradigms” seen at a popular Tumblr site of the same name. This site is just a steady stream of things said simply then translated into the kind of business-speak that makes communication bog down. And it is funny. In fact, if you work in the writing field and have anything to do with resumes, it’s hilarious.
For example, instead of saying “Got out prison with parole three years early for good behavior”, the site suggests “Successfully interfaced with governmental disciplinary system by modeling socially sanctioned behavioral metrics, significantly reducing duration of recommended confinement period.” That’ll look good on a resume all right — not.
There are some areas of life where perfection is not what you want. Friendships don’t need perfection to be good, right? In fact, the people who pretend to be perfect rarely have a lot of friends because perfectionists keep others at arm’s length so the world doesn’t find out they aren’t perfect, after all.
Relationships are stable because we give each other room to fail and correct our mistakes. We don’t need to be perfect in order to be loved or liked. We do need to be able to admit when we are wrong and be willing to fix it.
Some Things Must Be Perfect
As endearing as a mistake can be in a friend, there are times you don’t get a do-over.
Resumes are a perfect example of this, because there isn’t a relationship established yet. Spelling errors aren’t going to get you much more than a ribbing from your grammar-Nazi friend, but that same error will get your resume cast aside by the HR person assigned to fill the position. The HR person is going on a quick first impression based on your resume, but your friend is looking at your mistakes in context of your friendship.
This is a great illustration of the power of a resume redo.
Tammy didn't change anything but her resume, and she got 4 interviews in a week--after looking for a job for over a year with no luck.
... I [had] been looking for a job for over a year. I completed your extreme resume makeover and within the first week was called to interview at a company for four different positions. My interviews are next week and I have completed my 30-60-90 day plan and will be watching your In Person Interview video before my interviews. Thank you for putting together such a valuable program...
One of the best ways to fix your resume is to look at it like the recruiter or HR person will be looking at it. Do you think they read every word of every one of the multitude of resumes that cross their desk? I doubt it.
Most of the time a resume submitted online will be filtered through an applicant tracking system (ATS) that will break down the formatting and assign relevancy to the content so it can be searched using keywords that match what they are looking for. Once the resumes are filtered for relevancy and they have the applicants who are most likely to fit their specifications, it’s the human’s turn.
Say you're a recruiter, and you've just received a resume that includes a paragraph like this:
In my spare time, I am physically active. I run, mountain bike, play tennis, and I teach yoga on weekends. Physical activity keeps my body and mind in shape, and promotes balance and clarity in my life. I belong to a community theater and am active in productions, and I play bass in a band. I am an avid reader. I am a mother of two and gave birth to my second daughter between degrees; taking only 3 months off and continuing to work while taking classes, which shows my drive and tenacity to succeed!
What would you do?
This applicant is trying really hard to impress, and does seem to have a pretty impressive energy level and variety of interests. In spite of that, she's not going to go on a recruiter's or hiring manager's short list. (Not to mention that description of hers makes me think: when are you going to have time to do your job?)
There are many mistakes people make when resume writing, and Too Much Information is a definite mistake. Personal information is usually unnecessary and can even raise discrimination issues.
What you do in your spare time is a lot less important than what you can do for the company. What are your skills? What are your work accomplishments? What have you done that will demonstrate you'll be a great hire?
Remember your resume's audience: Who's reading your resume? What will show them that you'll be an asset to the company? Don't annoy employers with irrelevant resume information they have to sift through to find what's important to them. Because chances are, they won't.
To get a recruiter's or a hiring manager's attention for a sales job, you need to pack your resume with keywords relevant to the sales arena you want. Recruiters, hiring managers, and Human Resource departments use computer searches and applicant tracking systems, searching with keywords to find resumes worth looking at further.
If you have experience, this should be relatively easy--but it would be a good idea to go ahead and check out job descriptions and listings to make sure you have the keywords they will use.
If you're new to the area and don't have much experience, you'll have to be a little more creative. (That does NOT mean you should lie on your resume. That's always a bad idea, and you're sure to be found out eventually.) You'll have to look outside of traditional job histories to get the keywords you need for a sales resume.