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Resume Checklist: 10 Critical Elements of a Standout Resume

little_engineer_yoh_blog.jpgIn many instances, the first set of eyes on your resume will be made by an electronic scanner looking for specific elements. Is your most up-to-date resume up to snuff when it comes to modern HR technologies?

Who will read your resume? It's a valid question. If it gets through the electronic reader, it will be sent on to a human to be read – someone who will decide if you get that call for an interview. In other instances, it will go straight to a human, where it will get about 8 seconds of face time. After that, if there has been something about it that stood out, the resume will get a further read and maybe result in an interview. To get through both of these processes, your resume needs to have some very specific elements.


10 Elements of a Modern Resume

Here are 10 things for you to use as a checklist, whether you are writing a resume for the first time or updating one for today’s employment market.


Keywords – Accept that You May Write Several Versions

Every position posting and job description will have certain keywords and keyword phrases that relate directly to the nature and responsibilities of the opportunity. Your job is to identify those keywords and to imbed them into your resume for each position. If your resume is electronically scanned, those keywords will be picked up, and it will be forwarded on. If not, it is trashed.


Focus on Your Future, Not Your Past

Of course, you will be listing your professional experience, and that is in the past. However, you will need to focus on those areas of experience that relate to the position you are after. Highlight and spend more time on those things, especially your accomplishments and any relevant certifications/credentials. Give only brief mention of those experiences that do not relate. If you have a lot of previous experience, you may want to divide that section into two parts with sub-headings – “Related Experience” and “Other Experience.”


Open with a Summary, Not a Career Objective

For a long time, having a clear statement of your career objective was considered a good thing for an opening. The problem with doing this is that it focuses the attention totally on your needs and wants. You want to focus on the organization’s’ needs and wants and how you can meet those. So, open with a short summary of your successes and background in the specific areas of the job description. Again, you may need more than one version of your resume.


Change Your Contact Information

In the past, it was appropriate to include your mailing address on your resume. This is no longer necessary – no one will be contacting you by mail. Provide a link to your email address, and have an address that sounds professional; include your cell phone number – even if you still have a landline don’t include it – one number is enough.


Make Your Resume Scannable

In 8 seconds, a reader has to get a general idea of who you are. This means that you will need to use bold headings and sub-headings and lots of bullet points to present your information. Put a decent amount of white space in between your elements, so that moving from one position to the next is clearly obvious.



Be Really Frugal with Your Words

You don’t have much space. No resume should ever go beyond two pages, and most of the best ones are one page in length. Short, bulleted phrases, please. No one wants to read long sentences. Trash words such as “task responsibilities” or “duties included.” These say nothing. Use action verbs and speak to your accomplishments in the position. For example: “Re-organized HR department, saving $136,000 over three years.” That’s all in one line, you have eliminated those little article words (a, an, the), and you provided a quantifiable achievement.

For those positions that don’t relate to the opening, be even more frugal, but use the same format and focus only on accomplishments. Another way to be frugal is to trash the “skill” or “strengths” sections. No one cares about them anyway. You can always provide lots of detail on any aspect of your background during the interview – that’s where it belongs.


Use Call Out Boxes

When you have an accomplishment or a position that so completely relates to the opening, you want to bring added attention. Put it in a box to attract the reader’s attention even more than just the bold headings you are using for everything. This has been quite effective at highlighting relevant data for the reader.


Include Your Social Media Profiles, Website, Blog, etc.

If you have professional presences on social media, be certain to provide links to them. They’re going to check anyway, so you might as well provide the links up front and save them the trouble. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is current and that it shows your participation in groups that relate to your profession and to the opening.


Focus on Biggest Achievements and Awards, etc.

In honing in on the experiences and background that relate to the opening, be certain to highlight the “biggies,” those things that will get a “wow” response. As yourself, what are the most important achievements that you want a future employer to know about? What achievements can I describe with real results? If you have a number of achievement awards and official positions within your niche, list them separately.

Put your biggest achievement into your summary at the top of your resume.


Think About Design

If you are thinking about adding some pizazz to your document, do so carefully. Small amounts of color and shading may be fine for a bank or other conservative organization (a dark navy or maroon border, for example), but you can get a bit more creative with infographics and images if the organization is progressive and in a creative niche.

Don’t let a “faulty” resume knock you out of the running, especially when you really want the position and know you are a great candidate. Use these 10 tips as your checklist before you send it off.

Author Bio: Luisa Brenton is a freelance writer. She was born in Italy, graduated from The St. Louis School of Milan and went to Chicago to pursue higher education at the Chicago's Public Research University. She had been working as a brand developer for 4 years. Luisa is interested in modern literature and new films. She is interested in journalism as well. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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