How to Get Employers To Read Your Resume
"I don't understand it. I must have responded to over 50 Internet postings in
the last month, and I haven't gotten a single interview."
"I've answered over a dozen ads in major newspapers, and I haven't heard from
I often hear these complaints from job hunters who sometimes become so
frustrated by a lack of responses that they give up. Adding to their difficulty
is the fact that the job market is tougher than it's been in recent years,
making interviews harder to come by.
It likely comes as no surprise to anyone laid off in the past year that the
U.S. economy has been in a recession since March 2001, according to the National
Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass. The tight market puts employers
and recruiters in the driver's seat once again. Fewer jobs are available, and
there's a larger talent pool to choose from.
Companies that just two years ago had to make offers on the spot to snare
candidates now have the luxury of time. They can postpone making hiring
decisions until they find someone who meets all their criteria. Except in the
case of very high-profile executives, employers won't have to lure candidates
with hefty sign-on bonuses and stock options, either.
Lengthen the First Look
How can you compete in this type of market? Your first objective is to make
sure your resume gets read. One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is
assuming that just because they send a resume to a prospective employer or
recruiter, it will be read.
No one will lean back in a swivel chair, cross their legs and then slowly
give your resume undivided attention. Instead, reviewers will pore through
dozens -- possibly hundreds -- of resumes piled in front of them, yours
included. Each resume will be scanned quickly as the reader searches for reasons
to reject its owner or to schedule an interview -- usually the former.
When your resume moves to the top, the scanner will give it a brief look --
perhaps for 10 to 15 seconds -- for anything that piques his or her interest.
This is your one chance to make an impression. Does your resume include a
statement about your background that's so powerful that it transforms your
initial scan into a lengthy look?
A Resume Makeover
When Walt Disney Imagineering, an entertainment-construction company in
Glendale, Calif., completed building two new theme parks last year, it announced
that all future construction projects would be outsourced. That left David Bill,
a 45-year-old manufacturing manager from Oak Park, Calif., without a job.
Mr. Bill began his job search right away. For the next six months, he
networked, answered Internet and newspaper ads and contacted recruiters and
prospective employers. He mailed more than 350 resumes and had 10 interviews.
None led to a job offer.
Clearly, something was wrong. Mr. Bill thought it might be his resume,
specifically the introductory section. Here's what he initially included in this
quality and supply manager with over 15 years of diversified experience in
aerospace, entertainment and mining-equipment manufacturing supported by a
Scottish engineering apprenticeship, a B.S. in industrial technology and
an M.B.A. in management and organizational behavior. Excellent
communication and analytical skills and the ability to influence
cross-functional teams through coaching and mentoring. Internal and
external leadership in formulating manufacturing and quality strategy,
policy and procedures. Experience in developing world-class supplier
relationships to achieve budget and schedule goals. Demonstrated
leadership in implementing strategic and tactical process improvement
initiatives that increased shareholder value. Key strengths include:
Estimating and budget development
International business development
Mr. Bill was correct. After reading this introduction, few employers would
likely want to meet with him. Like most resumes, this gives readers a good idea
of Mr. Bill's past duties. However, it doesn't relate his successes to his work
or establish his value.
It doesn't say how he increased past employers' output, decreased production
costs or improved product quality. These all are key responsibilities of a
Second, like most resumes, the introduction contains many buzz words and
phrases, such as "diversified experience," "excellent communication and
analytical skills," "coaching," "mentoring," "leadership" and "strategic and
tactical process improvement initiatives." Still, readers don't know what
contributions Mr. Bill made and how he improved any company's manufacturing
performance. They have no reason to keep reading his resume.
"Nothing turns off executive recruiters more than an introductory section
that has no substance," says Dave Opton, chief executive officer of ExecuNet
Inc., an Internet-based center for career management (ExecuNet is an alliance
partner of CareerJournal.com).
Judy Rosemarin, president of Sense-Able Strategies Inc., a New York career
management firm, agrees: "Never begin a resume with statements like, 'A dynamic,
results-oriented executive with a record of achievement at driving companies to
the next level of success; also a creative problem solver and team player who
thrives on challenge, excels under pressure, and continually exceeds corporate
goals.' This is fluff, and readers know it."
Mr. Opton speaks frequently with executive recruiters about job openings.
"They tell me that introductory sections consisting of generalized statements
about responsibilities, accompanied by verbose descriptors regarding a job
hunter's capability, do nothing to interest them in reading a resume," he says.
"What they want to see are factual statements about successes, not fluff."
To make his introduction more powerful, Mr. Bill organized it around his
accomplishments, as follows:
Manufacturing / Quality /
Lean Manufacturing Ã?Â· JIT Ã?Â· TQM Ã?Â· Aerospace Ã?Â· Entertainment Ã?Â· Mining
Directed $60 million Walt Disney manufacturing operation, reducing
production costs 20% to 40%, inventory costs 15% and vendor costs 50%,
while improving quality 63% and on-time delivery 54%. Introduced JIT and
lean processes into operation.
Managed tooling design and production for $50 million manufacturer
of control systems -- implemented TQM and improved quality and delivery
23%. Established engineering and manufacturing-engineering departments
for start-up business that grew to $12 million in sales within two
An innovative and energetic leader, skilled communicator/team
builder and adept negotiator. Proven ability to analyze production
operations and growth opportunities, then introduce strategic and
tactical solutions that improve competitive performance and efficiencies
while reducing costs. M.B.A.; B.S., Industrial Technology.
This introductory section clearly showcases Mr. Bill's successes. He used a
banner headline to convey his strengths, and he presents his most important
achievements. He concludes the section with additional information rounding out
The change produced immediate results. After re-entering the job market in
August, Mr. Bill sent 50 resumes. Within 15 days, he had eight interviews, which
led to two firm and two pending offers. He started work Sept. 1 as director of
supply chain and logistics for a Santa Ana, Calif.-based producer of capital
equipment for computer-component manufacturing.
"Don't tell readers how good you are, show them," says Ms. Rosemarin. "Give
them facts and figures -- results. The results you show will excite the reader.
Then they'll read on."
If your resume starts with a convincing statement about your capability and
successes, then in the brief moment your resume is scanned, employers will be
more likely to pause and call you for an interview.
Beyond the Initial Scan
Interviewers who are impressed with your introduction will read your entire
resume. For the strongest possible presentation, follow these guidelines.
Limit your resume to two pages in length, and never use more than three
pages. Summarize your early employment experiences to reduce length if
Prepare your resume in 10-point or 11-point Arial or Times Roman typeface.
Avoid fancy fonts.
For each employment experience, briefly state your responsibilities,
followed by a description of your accomplishments. Precede each with a bullet.
Focus your accomplishments on important contributions for past employers.
Nothing is more impressive than explaining how you increased revenues and
profits, improved product or service quality, increased operating efficiencies
or reduced costs.
When discussing achievements, use numbers to show their extent. Also use
the jargon of your field. For example, marketers should talk about brand
management, market segmentation and competitive intelligence. If you're in
sales, discuss your strengths in consultative sales, solution sales, CRM,
relationship building and management and closing. Manufacturing pros should
relate their knowledge of process improvement, efficiency enhancement and cost
reduction, including the technologies they implemented, such as lean
manufacturing, Kaizen, Kanban, JIT, TQM and cellular manufacturing.
Use a strong action verb, such as planned, led, initiated, grew, drove,
increased, improved or reduced, to begin each accomplishment statement.
Taking these steps can help you to write a powerful resume and improve your
chances of landing interviews and the job you want