Make your resume reach out and grab someone: Can you bring ROI? Your resume should show how

In this touch economy, you need to do all you can to ensure your resume even gets read. Follow these tips to see how you can increase your chances.

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You're a regular visitor to all the online job sites. At least once a quarter, you unleash a resume tsunami on the CIOs, IT managers and personnel directors at the biggest companies. At professional mixers, you push your one-page professional life story into every open hand.

So why, after how many months of job searching, has no employer snapped you up, or even called to offer an interview? It may well be that your resume doesn't market you in a results-oriented way, or that you're using the same bait to hook all the fish out there. Those mistakes may be causing prospective employers to bypass you in favor of other candidates, according to recruitment experts and professional resume writers.

"Some people are sending out hundreds, if not thousands of resumes" at a time, said Ryan Gilmore, a branch manager for Robert Half Technology, a technology recruitment firm based in Pleasanton, Calif. "A Fortune 500 manager is going to disregard a resume that's aimed at a startup company, for example. Job seekers really should take the time to target resumes to a specific opening or to a specific company."

Resume quantity is not the problem in this market, but quality is, said Dan Swanson, director of business development for Vienna, Va.-based Mindbank Consulting Group, another professional recruitment firm. "People all across the country are having a tough time finding new positions [in IT]," he said. "But we're seeing lots of resumes that we don't even want to bother talking to the person who wrote it." Why? They're too long, too general and overly personal. Some resumes contain gross misspellings and even out-of-date contact information.

So forget the bold type and carefully chosen paper stock. If you want your resume to get noticed, customize it for the sector of the industry you're targeting, or better yet, for the employer or individual job opening. Then have someone proofread it and get suggestions about where to cut.

While today's economy is relatively stable, competition is as fierce as ever for experienced Windows professionals who want to change jobs or who are underemployed (or unemployed) and trying to change that.

In order to stand out, you have to treat your resume as a marketing document -- not some plodding recitation of where you've been, what you did and how long you did it. What Swanson and Gilmore both emphasize is a formula that essentially consists of "You + Action(s) = Great Result(s)." We're talking dollars generated, time saved and percentages gained. Don't just say what you did; describe the outcome in the most glowing -- and accurate -- terms possible. As Gilmore pointed out, everything you say had better be independently verifiable.

"You can say 'Increased revenues by 20%' or 'Reduced costs by 15%', as opposed to vague, ambiguous data. We refer to this as an individual's ROI," Gilmore said. "Resume builders should keep that ... at the top of their priority list as to what they should express in their credentials."

And whether it's in your resume or during the job interview, what you're doing is "creating a star," Swanson said. "Define well what separates you from other people. Describe the situation or task and what your accomplishments and results were," he added. "That's very important, and it's what will separate you from all the other chaff."

Other sorts of questions to ask and answer at the top of your resume: What recognition or promotions have I received? What achievements, recognition or bonuses made me proud? Have I come in under budget, beaten a deadline, developed an innovative idea, or solved a problem my company was facing?

"Hiring managers also are looking for growth and responsibility in your resume -- how you've progressed from early in a career to present day and how you contribute in different areas," Gilmore said. "People don't always convey those things."

And sometimes they convey the wrong things. Misspelled words are like gravy on your lapel. Keep sentences short and crisp. Use simple English, and avoid technical jargon and the acronym hell of IT. Mention certifications if they're current -- meaning you've received them within the last two to three years. Personal interests are rarely appropriate.

In addition, keep it to two pages, unless you're a Nobel Prize winner, in which case a resume is probably superfluous. "People take 30 to 45 seconds to scan a resume," Gilmore said. So an overly long resume may not go over well.

The competitive nature of IT hiring right now is particularly tough on Windows professionals, since there are so many of them. But with endurance and fine-tuning, landing a new job is very doable, the recruiters said. If nothing else, think about how good it's going to feel deleting Jobs.com from your browser bookmarks.


This was first published in October 2003

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