Raleigh resident Allison Kenny had more than six versions of her résumé when she took a résumé writing class at Wake Technical Community College.
Kenny, 40, was having a hard time showcasing her varied work experience, including television producer, documentarian, international public speaker and professional dancer, into a cohesive document.
The common mistake many people make is a one-size-fits-all résumé,” says Terri Craig, who teaches “Make Your Résumé Work for You” at Wake Tech and helped Kenny with her résumé.
“Allison was very frustrated that her résumés weren’t getting her any results,” Craig says. “… Once she focused specifically on program management positions and recrafted her résumé, she had immediate results.”
Kenny found a job one week after changing her résumé.
“Nothing really changed but the résumé – not the work experience, not me,” Kenny says. “I made it less intimidating to read. With my old résumé, the person was going to do a lot of work. It would take time to dig through my résumé. I changed it to simple sentences and kept each bullet item on the same line.”
But it took several rewrites to get there.
“I hadn’t written a résumé in eight years,” Kenny says.
Among the many challenges facing the unemployed in recent years have been the changes in job hunting since they last had to look for work. The recession hit experienced workers – many who had climbed up the professional ladder – hard. When they were laid off, they entered a world of online job hunts and Web-based job applications for the first time. Their idea of a proper résumé and what many companies wanted in a résumé were drastically different.
“Résumé writing trends have changed dramatically over the past 20 years,” says Lynn E. Kavcsak, director of human resources development at Wake Tech. In the past, a great deal of personal information was included in the résumé, including marital status, number of children, religious affiliation and leisurely pursuits, she says.
That’s not the case anymore.
“Résumés today focus on the qualifications necessary for the job,” Kavcsak says. “In addition, résumés are normally scanned by software that searches for key words before being read by a hiring manager. As such, it is essential that candidates include specific words and phrases that are relevant to the position for which they are applying.”
Craig says job seekers need to match what the employer is looking for by using the same phrasing as job postings. Employers only take 10 seconds to review the résumé, so you need to grab them with a qualification summary that targets who you are and how you fit into their companies, she says. Then you should support the opening statement with more specifics about your accomplishments in the body of the résumé: Did you bring cost savings to the company? Did you help them win awards? Did you solve problems?
Kenny said Craig taught her that “it’s not about you personally. You have to show them you are a match. It’s not about bragging about your work history, but making it about the employer and how you can improve productivity or make their company shine.”
She also condensed her résumé.
“It was too wordy, several pages,” Kenny said.
She removed some older positions, reduced her bullet points to three instead of eight to 10. She then focused her skills to reflect those most prominent in the job descriptions.
Tanja Bean, 45, who had been laid off from her position as a grant manager, also noticed a different response from employers after she revised her résumé during Craig’s class. Bean is still searching for a job, but now she’s getting more calls to come back for interviews. She credits that to describing her skills so they are a perfect match for the job posting.
She also added a quick snapshot of accomplishments ahead of a chronological listing of her previous positions.
“I don’t have a lot of time to grab someone’s attention,” she says.
Bean also streamlined her work experience and beefed up the verbiage on the most recent position. Her résumé is still two pages long, but it covers more ground, such as additional education, certifications, additional skills and related volunteer work.
Once you have your foundation résumé complete, you still may have to tweak it to create a tighter match for the position you’re applying for, Craig says. You aren’t done until you have a job. And until then, you are one in a stack of hundreds of résumés.
“Everyone looks the same on an 81/2-by-11-inch piece of paper,” she says. “You want to make your résumé stand out.”
Lacy can be reached at RIFworker@gmail.com, or follow on Twitter @RIFworker