Write an Awesome Resume: An Executive Recruiter Gives Insider Tips

May 11, 2015 - Joe Matar
Ah, the resume… yawn. Does that old one-pager seem as outdated as newspaper help wanted ads? Let’s face it, searching for jobs in the digital age is very different than it used to be — faster, more automated, and almost completely online. Yet even with this move to digital tools, employers still request to see your resume first. Why? Because nothing else can provide such a concise overview of a candidate’s experience and potential. As an executive recruiter, I can promise you: the resume still matters. So let’s not dismiss it as a thing of the past. Let’s embrace it and look for ways to tailor your resume for today to make sure it’s the key to your future. Here’s how to write an awesome resume right now: (Click here to tweet this resume advice.)

1. Beef up those bullet points

Just about every resume I read uses bullet points, and that’s because they indicate the most essential information to employers. Companies care far less about vague summary paragraphs and far more about the nitty-gritty details of your work history. But that doesn’t mean you should create a laundry list of job duties under each position you’ve held. Employers want concrete examples of your past success so they can gauge whether you’ll be valuable to their company. Include specific examples of how you’ve made a difference in previous jobs. But remember, the digital age has made our attention spans much shorter, so be concise. Use key words that were mentioned in the job posting — as long as they truly apply to your previous achievements. The good news about sending your resume digitally is that employers no longer expect an entire work history squeezed into one page. Three, four, or even five-page resumes are typical for executives who’ve been at it more than 10 years. Don’t worry if you’ve had a period of unemployment, and don’t try to gloss it over in your resume. These days, unemployment is typically viewed as the result of our unstable economy rather than an indication of personal failure.

2. Scrap the cover letter, but sharpen your focus

It is easier now more than ever before to find, and contact, potential employers. But resist the temptation to email your resume out to every HR director this side of Jupiter. In fact, the digital age has provided job seekers with a real gift: the ability to pinpoint your search. Research a range of companies, then focus on those that match your vision of the place you’d love to spend many (maybe way too many) of your waking hours. What’s your dream job? Use the web to target companies who can make it a reality. Focusing your job search on fewer than a dozen companies is the most effective way to find employment. Your knowledge of the company and genuine interest in the job will make you a more appealing candidate to employers. All that research will also make it easier when it comes time to send your resume. First, tweak your resume according to the employer and open position. Then, craft an email that aligns with it. Separate cover letters are indeed a thing of the past, but your email, while shorter, must be just as professional, engaging, and targeted as cover letters of old. Include details of why you are perfect for this particular job opening. Don’t forget to verify the person responsible for hiring that position before hitting the send button.

3. LinkedIn? Link your resume, too

Occasionally (#onceinabluemoon), someone might land a job thanks to her clever Twitter feed. But the best way to network still involves eye-contact and an old-fashioned handshake. Continue going to professional events, schedule lunches with friends-of-friends, and try to land a 20-minute chat with a leader in your field. Always follow up with everyone, and consider mailing — gasp! — a handwritten thank-you note. Social media is also essential to maintaining and building connections. And, it’s a great way to ensure your resume is viewed. No matter how much information you’ve added to the sections in your LinkedIn page, be sure to include a link to your actual resume. If you have a professionally-focused website, why not add your resume there as well? Of course, companies are using more than your resume to learn about you. Show what an expert you are by posting industry trends and stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms. The flip side is true as well: remove anything from social media that casts you in a negative light. Resumes may be old school, but if you keep yours fresh, it can still be the best way for an employer to meet you: the best person for the job. What improvements have you recently made to your resume? April Allen is an associate with WK Advisors, a division of the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer. WK Advisors conducts mid-level executive searches in the healthcare, education, and not-for-profit sector.