Ten ways to get your resume on top of the stash, not in the trash!

A version of my article now appears on PR Daily!  Enjoy.  http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/13830.aspx

How can you increase the odds that your resume will actually be seen, considered and remembered amongst the hundreds of resumes sent to employers each week? How about sending it the old fashioned way: in the mail. Human resources professionals must sift through more than 200 emails every day. They rarely receive cover letters and hard copies of resumes in the mail. Do you have a top five list of companies where you REALLY want to work? Take the time to customize your cover letter and resume, hit print and send your materials in the mail. Just be sure you also fulfill any online application requirements. Before you take this step, follow these well-tested resume tips to ensure your credentials don’t land in the trash.

1. Everyone knows it and every career advisor says it, but resumes are still sent out riddled with typographical or grammatical errors! Proofread, edit for proper tense and check your formatting. Visit your campus career center or have a friend, professor or trusted associate give your resume a hard edit. A flawless, error-free resume is essential.

2. Use bulleted lists rather than narrative paragraph form. Employers have limited time. Your accomplishments need to stand out quickly. Be sure to include a skills section that showcases your research, media monitoring, editing and social media platform proficiencies.

3. Be prepared for resume scanners! Many companies scan resumes electronically for key words that match the position description. Take the time to customize your resume with words and experience required by the position. Research each company and use a customized version of the resume that highlights specific skills for each particular job.

4. Customize your objective for EACH job to which you apply. You should also revise your cover letter or email introduction based on each specific job/company. I’m always amazed by the number of students and professionals who use a standard template resume and letter for every job (and even accidentally include the wrong company name in their letter)…and wonder why they don’t get call backs.

5. Do you have a blog? Include the blog site link (and your Linked-in, Twitter handle, etc.) and an overview of your work. Include this in your “Relevant Experience” section. Just be sure the content is clean! Strategic writing and social media skills are essential in any industry. Even better, also include a link to your online portfolio of work.

6. Are you working full or part-time to help finance your college education? List this with your education information. This shows potential employers that you are a responsible and hard- working candidate.

7. Don’t list work unless it directly applies to the specific position. Are you a seasoned professional? A “Relevant Achievements” section should highlight the best of your work, especially if you secured meaningful results, helped meet business objectives or received honors or awards for your great work. If you have no previous internships or relevant career experience, include a “Relevant Coursework” section where you might highlight a project or two that illustrates skills or knowledge applicable to the job you are seeking.

8. Don’t include campus or community activities in list form with your academic information. Your leadership activities should stand out as relevant professional experience. Include specific tasks and accomplishments that illustrate your initiative. Employers overwhelmingly cite campus activities and internship experiences as key considerations for hiring…even more than grade point average.

9. Avoid throw away statements like “very organized and work well under pressure.” Illustrate successes with specific examples “secured media coverage in national magazine” or “successfully served dozens of patrons at once during busy evening dinner rush periods,” “raised more than $10,000 for a charity organization as fundraising chairperson.” Think tangible, measurable and substantial examples versus generic resume riddled copy. If you can cut and paste anyone else’s name into your resume, then you know it is not showcase what makes YOU so special as a candidate. Check out PR Daily’s recent article about the most overused words in resumes and AVOID them!

10. Don’t use online templates or generic Web resume sites. Most Web templates create formatting and email nightmares. Plus other students are also using these resources so your resume will look like all the others. Use a clean and plain word document with a clear simple font. The best formats include Education, Achievements, Relevant Coursework (remove if you have completed relevant internships or jobs) or Professional Achievements, Relevant Experience, Other Employment, Skills. Don’t include a space-wasting line “References available.” If they want a reference or writing samples, the employer will request them.

Are you a college student? Review my tips for conducting and effective internship or job search. Graduating soon or seeking a career change? See my networking article for more ideas regarding how to build a strong professional network and develop career leads. If your cover note and resume are compelling, you’ll likely get a foot in the door. Happy hunting!

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