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10 Easy Fixes to Improve Your Resume

Every resume expert has their pet peeves and advice on what constitutes the best resume design (form and content). So, what I have done here is compile and streamline all that advice and add it to my 20+ years as a career expert to provide you with a concise list of how to easily fix and enhance your resume -- to make it more employer-friendly, which in turn will make you more successful in your next job-search.

Ready to begin? Here are my 10 easy fixes for improving your resume.

1. Add Focus/Clarity

You need to showcase your expertise -- your unique selling proposition -- in all aspects of your resume, but especially in your profile/qualifications summary section. If you do not have a qualifications summary on your resume, add one now. Think of this section as the executive summary of your resume. List your 2-4 most salient selling points (which should be edited/modified for each job you seek). You can also use a headline to add even more focus to your resume. (Check out this artcile on resume headlines and profile sections.)

2. Showcase Accomplishments

Do not list job duties, but instead highlight -- and quantify -- key aspects of how you succeeded on the jobs you have worked. You need to show relevant experiences that clearly describe how well you performed in your past jobs. Accomplishments can range from closing big sales contracts, to providing excellent leadership, to having zero incidents on the job, to reducing absenteeism. In other words, what are the ways you have excelled in past jobs? Think profitability, efficiency, productivity as key drivers of accomplishments. (Learn more about accomplishments here.)

3. Maximize Information on First Page

All your key selling points MUST be in the first half of the first page of your resume -- accomplishments, skills, education -- your unique mix. Do not bury important information at the bottom of your resume (or worse, on the second page). Use the headline, qualifications summary, key skills, and experience sections to communicate your ideal fit for the job you are seeking.

4. Use Keywords

Employers create job descriptions that highlights the abilities, skills, and competencies they seek from applicants -- and these keywords become essentials to both hiring managers and the filtering software they use to screen applicants. Your resume MUST have all of the keywords that an employer is seeking or you risk your resume being discarded without any kind of review. (Learn more about resume keywords here.)

5. Present Experience in Proper Order

As hiring managers scan a resume, they are looking for key bits of information that will decide whether your resume gets a complete review -- and one of those key elements is your past job titles and where you worked, so make sure you always list your experiences in this order: title/position, name of employer, city/state of employer, dates of employment. Also, always remember to format your experiences in reverse chronological order, with your current (or most recent) work experience first. (Learn more and find some sample resumes here.)

6. Streamline Resume

No need to include 20 or more years of experience. Resumes are not meant to be a complete job history dating back to your first job. Your goal is to curate your past experiences and include only the most relevant and most recent (up to about 15 years) on your resume. In terms of education, keep all relevant degrees, training, and certifications, but remove the dates of attendance/completion. Age discrimination is real -- and can be somewhat avoided. (Read these do's and don'ts for avoiding age bias on your resume.

7. Use Bullets

Do not include any long text blocks that are hard to read -- and will NOT be read. Instead, use shorter, keyword-rich phrases starting with action verbs to describe your key accomplishments. Action verbs describe what you did -- arranged, clarified, produced, revitalized, etc. (See my list of action verbs here.) The key to bullet points is to not go overboard; you only want 3-4 powerful bulleted accomplishments per job/experience. By the way, you can also use bullets for all other sections of your resume. (See a good article on using bullet points here.)

8. Create Your Resume

Word and other document programs have resume templates -- and while there is nothing wrong with using a template, it does show a lack of creativity on your part. Worse, if you use a popular template, then your resume will look like a hundred others the hiring manager has already seen. Using basic resume guidelines, start from scratch and create your own, unique design. The whole point of a resume is for you to stand out from all the other applicants -- and using a template goes against that strategy.

9. Move Unnecessary Details to Appendices

Employers often want to see additional details related to your job application, such as documentation of your work, school and university transcripts, writing samples, and references, but do NOT include any of this information on your resume and do NOT send it with your resume unless requested. Also, in your experience section, do NOT include your supervisor's name. The focus of the resume is on you and what you offer the employer.

10. Create Multiple Versions

Once you have written or edited the perfect resume, remember that you are far from done. First, every resume you submit for a job should be a tailored version of your main resume -- specifically addressing the needs for the job you are seeking and using keywords that the employer uses to describe the ideal candidate. Second, you will want resumes in different formats, starting with saving and sending only PDF versions to keep your formatting intact. The most important version? The one the job posting asks you to submit for their applicant tracking system. (Learn more here on creating an ATS-friendly resume.)

Final Thoughts on Strong Resumes

Following the advice in this article should help you develop (or edit and enhance) a strong resume that will lead to more success in your future job-search efforts.

One final piece of advice... Make sure you include critical contact information at the top of your resume. No need to include your address or even city or state, but do include a cell phone number and email address. With your cell phone, review your voicemail greeting before job-hunting to make sure you sound professional. With your email, use a Gmail or other mainstream account (not Yahoo, Hotmail, or AOL), and ideally use your name or a nickname -- such as JanePJobseeker@gmail.com -- but certainly not something offensive, immature, or weird, such as dirtydancer.

See more of our Happy Career and Worklife Articles.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.


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