Summer is the perfect time to land that executive job you’ve been longing for. So many are under the mistaken impression that there are no job opportunities during this time, but the opposite is true. One of the main reasons is that are fewer applicants looking so the competition isn’t as robust. There aren’t many candidates vying for the same job. And since hiring managers really want to take time off during the summer, if there is a posted opening, that job is REALLY open. They need it filled fast. This is great news for your job search.
However, just as important in getting out there this summer is updating your executive resume to land those interviews. Whether you currently have a resume or are creating one from scratch, this 35-Point Assessment Checklist will help you get your resume in top-notch shape.
1. Choose a contemporary font like Calibri or Arial Narrow for creative professions and a traditional font like Cambria or Garamond for conservative positions. Do not use ornate or script fonts. Fonts that vary too much from the accepted norms can leave negative impressions and will not be properly read by resume databases.
2. Use a type size between 10 and 12 for resume text. For section headings, use up to 16-points. Use a 9- or 9.5-point type size for firm descriptions. Never use a type size smaller than 9 or larger than 16.
3. Utilize a layout and design that reflects the position and compensation you are seeking. This is your marketing document. The font, borders, and layout choices of your resume should properly organize and clearly present your information to convey the appropriate image.
4. Place your contact information at the top of the resume but not in the header. Resume databases and email previewers typically do not pick up information in headers or footers. Include your physical address, personal email address, and cell phone number.
5. Include your social media links with your contact information. Include a personalized version of your LinkedIn Profile URL link, Facebook page and/or Twitter account under your name, address, phone number(s) and email address. Make sure that the links support your professional purpose and are not personal.
6. If you went to a top school and/or a school with a robust alumni network, use your school’s email address (firstname.lastname@example.org). It’s the best tool for objective branding without appearing like a braggart. Otherwise, make sure that your email address is neutral and professional, such as a Gmail email address.
Branded summary section
7. Remove any section titled “Objective” that states what you are looking for in your next role or company. Employers want to learn what value and skills you will bring to their organization—not what you are looking for in your next role.
8. Create a branded title or heading for yourself that relates to the job you are applying for. EXAMPLES: Project Manager; Business Analyst; Versatile Office Manager; Marketing Communications Specialist. Make it easy for the reader to position you in the context of their company. This will also help communicate the job for which you are applying, even if your resume is separated from your cover letter.
9. Under your branded heading, create a bulleted keyword section using phrases, topics, and skills that you derive from job ads for the position you are targeting. Resume databases and recruiters use key phrases to source candidates; this list will help them find you and will make sure you are offering them exactly what they are asking for.
10. Use action verbs and nouns when writing your title and keyword section like ‘profitable’ and ‘optimized.’ Avoid subjective descriptions, such as reliable, excellent, best, and cooperative.
11. Save space on the first page by not using the heading ‘Experience.’ This will be obvious to the reader. However later in your resume, do use headings such as Skills, Interests, Education, Licenses, Certifications, Training/Professional Development, or Volunteer, as they make that information clear to the reader.
12. All employment bullets need to start with an action-driven verb. Do not list job description responsibilities or a list of tasks. Do not use nouns to begin your bullets. Do not start with phrases like, “Duties included…” or “Responsible for,” as this does not conjure an image of action, but a passive list of boring tasks.
13. Use present tense verbs for current positions currently held and past tense verbs for all past positions. Do not use first-person pronouns anywhere in the resume … ever.
14. Do your bullets demonstrate how you can solve problems experienced by the prospective company? Ask this question for each bullet that you have listed on your resume. Review ads that describe the job you are seeking to ensure you are customizing your resume appropriately.
15. Include employment experience within the last 15-20 years. Do not cite jobs from more than 15-20 years ago. Exceptions to this rule can be jobs that resulted in earning a professional certification (i.e. CPA) or jobs with a top-tier company that demonstrate exceptional caliber and depth of experience (i.e. early Microsoft or Fortune 100 experience).
16. Ensure your employment bullets cite measurable achievements. Show the results of your work using quantifiable references. Answer the question, “How do I know I did a good job?” with numbers for each bullet. Outline how you reduced expenses, increased revenue, optimized services or streamlined a process. EXAMPLE: “Drove membership to the highest level in the organization’s history” does not give a sense of from how many to how many. If you write “Drove membership from 50 to 75” or “Drove membership from 1,500 to 4,500,” those are two different experiences, despite both starting the sentence with “Drove membership … ” The numbers give context to your achievements.
17. Give a sense of size and scope of your previous and/or current employer. EXAMPLE: If you list, ‘Managed financials for this start-up division of this progressive Fortune 500 firm,’ there is no sense of the size of the budget. It is better to write the bullet as, ‘Managed the $400,000 budget for this start-up division of this progressive Fortune 500 firm.’ This gives a greater sense of the size and scope of the environment where you worked.
18. Structure your promotions at one company under a single company heading. Do not show them as jobs under separate company headings. Using separate headings gives the impression that you had roles at different companies when, in actuality, you were promoted. Listing your progress under one heading demonstrates that you had career progression at one company versus different companies.
19. Accentuate the positive attributes in your background and de-emphasize the negative with placement, font treatment (bold, italics, and underlining). EXAMPLE: If you worked for great companies, make the company names more prominent by listing them first. If you have relevant job titles but you are looking to switch industries, downplay the company names where you worked and emphasize the titles you held.
20. Schooling should be at the bottom of your resume unless (a) you graduated within the last year or (b) you graduated within 2-3 years from an area of study that is related to the work you are pursuing and it is a different field from your past/current work experience.
21. Include your GPA if you graduated within the past 5 years and your GPA was above a 3.0.
22. If you graduated from school over 15 years ago, you do not need to include the year of graduation. Always include honors and honor societies from universities/colleges.
23. Unless you are a recent college graduate, you do not need to include job experiences or activities performed while in school.
24. Once you have obtained your Bachelor’s degree, don’t list your Associate’s degree.
25. When listing volunteer/professional affiliations, utilize the same parameters as listing an employer. Give yourself an appropriate title like ‘Membership Coordinator’ or ‘Financial Manager’ instead of ‘Volunteer.’ If you have this experience listed in a section entitled Volunteer, it is understood you are/were a volunteer. Craft achievement-driven bullets outlining goals met in fundraising, membership increases, budgets managed, programs administered, groups coordinated and other crucial functions that had an impact.
26. Remove any clubs/associations that relate to religious, political or controversial issues.
27. Ensure that any software skills you list are current and relevant to today’s marketplace.
28. If you have them, list language skills other than English on your resume. If you are bi-lingual, do not list English as one of your languages for domestic positions. It is implied. If the bi-lingual skills are highly pertinent to the position being applied to, consider including this in the branded summary at the top of the resume.
29. Do not add any references to your resume and remove the ‘References Available Upon Request’ statement at the bottom of your resume. It is understood that references will be provided if asked during the interview process—so do not waste the space stating the obvious.
Overall analysis & review
30. If you have a 2+ page resume, ask yourself, ‘Am I keeping the reader interested in 5-10 second increments to ensure they read the subsequent pages?” Just because you have a two- or three-page resume does not mean it will be read.
31. Do not insert graphics, text boxes or tables into your resume. These are not digested by resume databases very well. Use the borders/shading function in MS Word to simply create design elements without inserting lines or complex graphical components.
32. Test your resume online and on paper. Print it out and see that it lays out the way you expected. Open up the document to view it on your computer screen—does it format as you expected?
33. Put your name, contact information (email/phone number only) and page number on subsequent pages and addendums of your resume.
34. Can your resume be read on most commonly used PDA devices and within resume databases? This is worth exploring since most people do not work in front of a PC all day anymore. To create a text-only resume (called an ASCII Resume) for entering into online job applications that populate resume databases, save your resume as a .txt file.
35. Put your bullets to the test: Are they easy to understand? Could you say the bullet phase aloud and it makes sense? Would it make sense to someone who is not in the industry?
Now that you have finished auditing your resume, you can take the next step to rebuild the sections of your resume — or start over — that need more work. This will ensure you have the best ‘Branded Resume’ to showcase your skills effectively. And remember if you need help, you can always enlist the help of those who specialize in executive resume writing.
Lisa Rangel of Chameleon Resumes® LLC, www.chameleonresumes.com, a Forbes Top 100 Career Website, is a 10-time Certified Resume Writer, Job Search Consultant & Former Recruiter.