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Writing a Persuasive Résumé

Rarely does a piece of paper (or an electronic document) have such power in your life. A résumé is your introduction, your first impression with a potential employer. Considering that the average hiring manager spends about 10 seconds looking at a résumé, yours had better be compelling.

A résumé is supposed to land you an interview—and ultimately a job offer. But it can’t do either of those things if it simply lists your past positions like ingredients on the back of a cereal box.
More than anything, an effective résumé is persuasive—a smart balance of thought-provoking content, work history, experience, education and skills put together in a way that piques the reader’s curiosity and conveys all the reasons you are the best-fit candidate for the job.

So how do you accomplish all of that? Here are some tips for writing a persuasive résumé.

  • Use a simple layout. Unless you have more than 10 years of experience or have held more than two jobs, your résumé shouldn’t be longer than one page.
  • Customize your resume. Recruiters and hiring managers are only interested in candidates who meet all of the criteria listed in their job posting. If you want to be one of the chosen few, you need to present that picture right away—in 10 seconds or less, to be exact. A generic one-size-fits-all résumé simply can’t do that. You must tailor your résumé to the particular position you are applying for by highlighting your most relevant experience.
  • Know what you want. Compose a clear objective that goes beyond simply stating goals. Include an attention-grabbing or thought-provoking sentence that will make your résumé memorable. Make sure it conveys your energy, enthusiasm and career aspirations.
  • Stand out from the crowd. Instead of simply listing your job skills, describe the benefits and results of your performance. For each job or temporary assignment, develop a list of major accomplishments and place emphasis on your recent achievements. What problems or challenges have you faced? What actions did you take to overcome obstacles? How did your actions benefit the company? Quantify them. Most companies value workers who help enhance productivity, save time and money or boost revenue.
  • Sell yourself. You only have one chance to make a great impression. Showcase your strengths, outstanding skills and abilities. List your education, relevant awards and honors, along with any special training that may set you apart.
  • Never list the reasons for termination or leaving a job. . Don’t give recruiters or hiring managers the opportunity to focus on a perceived negative. You’re better off explaining employment lapses face-to-face.
  • Proofread your résumé. Make sure it is completely free of errors. After you proof your résumé, have a friend or family member proof it, as well. Avoid jargon and acronyms. Use plain English to ensure clarity and maximum readability.
  • Words matter. Always include keywords in your résumé. Recruiters use keywords to narrow the field of applicants. Choose words and phrases that are important in your field and incorporate them throughout your résumé.

Follow these steps to distinguish yourself from the crowded field of candidates and improve your chances of landing the great job you really want.