How to Write a Resume That Captures Attention
In a competitive employment market, standing out from the crowd is
challenging -- especially for executives seeking new positions. But if you're an
experienced manager, you have an advantage over candidates with shorter work
histories: the practice and wisdom gained from recruiting and hiring your own
staff throughout your career. From that, you've probably gleaned the insight to
develop a resume and cover letter that will attract the attention of other
Some executives assume that their track records should be enough to prove
their qualifications. But put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager: If
you were he or she, wouldn't you want to know how closely an applicant's
experience and knowledge matched the specific requirements of your opening? To
increase your chances of hearing from a potential employer, take time to create
a targeted resume that speaks to each opportunity.
Before applying for a position as a top local-area-network (LAN)
administrator at BankOne in Dayton, Ohio, Jack D'Agostino conducted research on
the organization and learned that it relied on Novell systems and technology.
Armed with this information, the 52-year-old made sure to highlight at the top
of his resume his experience and accomplishments from working with similar
systems and projects. "You can't just have a plain, flat resume -- not in
today's job market. You need to find out what a company wants," says Mr.
D'Agostino, who landed the job.
Learn About Specific Needs
Talking with professional contacts, visiting company Web sites, researching
industry sites such as Hoovers.com, and reading trade publications can help
executive job seekers find information they need to tailor their materials to
meet the specific requirements of each employer.
Using language from the job description in your resume is another way to
increase its impact. In fact, some companies try to match specific terms from
the description to words on the resume when searching electronic databases for
applicants, so inserting these words may help your resume be extracted.
One caveat: Avoid using excessive industry jargon. While you may want a
hiring manager to know that you speak the "language" of the business, you can
never be certain who will be doing initial resume screenings and whether they
will correctly decipher your terminology. Even executive resumes can be routed
through human-resources departments. Your information should be crafted in such
a way that anyone -- inside or outside your field of expertise -- can understand
and appreciate your achievements.
It's Only a Glimpse
For most candidates, resumes shouldn't exceed one or two pages in length.
However, some executives argue that they can't adequately impart the depth of
their experience in so few pages. If you feel this way, remember that hiring
managers review resumes quickly. Your goal is to give them a snapshot of your
qualifications. You can provide more detail to round out this information once
you're called for an interview.
As for the format of your resume, most employers prefer experience to be
listed in reverse chronological order. Starting with your most recent job first,
provide a well-organized account of your career history, showing a clear
progression of advancement whenever possible.
Often there's no need to list the first few jobs you held after college. The
exception is when positions you held much earlier in your career include
accomplishments that directly relate to a particular job opening. When Victor
Grabicki wanted to make a transition from corporate to public accounting, he
used this approach when writing his resume. He demonstrated that he had worked
successfully in public accounting by mentioning his achievements at a small
public-accounting firm early in his career. The strategy contributed to his
landing a position with Saas Mezzanotte & Associates, a certified
public-accounting firm in Wallingford, Conn.
Keep Everything Short
Listing only your most relevant and essential jobs will help shorten your
resume. Your achievements for each employer also should be concise. Dense
paragraphs of information are not as reader-friendly as brief examples. Dan
Roseliep, a former chief executive officer and now entrepreneur, uses brevity to
his advantage when presenting his credentials to potential investors and
He includes his resume as part of his business plans, but despite his 23
years of experience with one firm, the document is only two pages long. Mr.
Roseliep has kept it short by organizing his achievements under headings, such
as "strategy," "team leadership," "operations," "business relations" and "key
result." Under each heading, he provides bulleted, results-oriented descriptions
that usually take up only a single line. The results are quantified wherever
possible, he says. "It shows investors, lenders and government officials what
I've done and what I've done well," he says.
The litmus test for length is to reflect once again on when you were
reviewing others' resumes as a hiring manager. If your own document came across
your desk, would you read it immediately or put it aside to review when you had
A cover letter is an opportunity to pique a hiring manager's interest and
provide him or her with a sense of your overall suitability and personality.
Ensure the primary decision-maker receives your documents by addressing them
directly to him or her.
In the first sentence, explain how you learned of the position -- whether it
was through a mutual acquaintance, an industry publication or at a local
business mixer. This information tells the hiring manager how well you know the
firm and position. This alone can prompt the recipient to keep reading.
Next, draw the hiring manager's attention to your resume by mentioning two or
three qualities that distinguish you from other candidates. Don't rehash your
resume; instead, summarize the qualifications and expertise that are likely to
most interest the employer. Paint a picture of how hiring you will help the
The cover letter also is a good place to explain any recent gaps in your
employment. Offer examples of any professional development or unpaid work you
did during your period of unemployment. Mention, for example, if you chaired an
event for a local nonprofit or pursued a certification.
In closing the document, ask for the opportunity to discuss the available
opening and indicate when you'll follow up.
If you are sending your resume by e-mail, try to find out if the company
wants to receive it as an attachment, a text-only version or both. Many firms
request a text-only version pasted into the body of an e-mail message.
To ensure the readability of an electronically transmitted resume, align all
text with the left margin and eliminate indentations and other formatting, such
as boldface, italic or underlined type. Replace bullets with asterisks or simple
dashes. Before submitting your documents to a prospective employer, e-mail it to
yourself or a friend to see how well it transmits. You can then make adjustments
After you've finalized your cover letter, resume and e-mail message, check
and recheck them for errors in spelling or punctuation. A simple typo can
eliminate you from consideration. Regardless of your qualifications and
experience, if you make mistakes on your employment documents, hiring managers
might assume you'll be equally careless on the job. Enlist a spouse, friend or
colleague to review your materials for mistakes and to ensure you haven't left
out any critical information.
More CV Examples, Cover Letter Templates, Resumes And Interview Tips Articles At Following References: