If you asked 10 different people for feedback on your resume, you might just get 10 different, and sometimes opposing, opinions about how long it should be, and what exactly should be on it. The rage for the last several years is to have the “right” key words on your resume so those presumably sophisticated applicant tracking systems will “see” them and screen you in. Well, there really are no gimmicks in this business. Your resume needs to be a well-crafted marketing piece and not your autobiography or something written for an automated system.
I’m frequently stunned by the sheer volume of words and phrases in many resumes, and how much of the language is activity oriented not results oriented. I happen to think well written accomplishment statements are the common language between employers. Most employers, large and small, share a relatively common set of problems and challenges, or have similar unaddressed opportunities. Your resume should have accomplishments written is such a way as to show that you’ve made some headway on those common problems. For example, if you imagine what might be the pressing concerns of senior business leaders, you could probably come up with your own list: costs, revenues, productivity, emerging competition, customer satisfaction and retention, relationship with the Board, new product development, innovation, employee morale, turnover, getting top talent. Now, see if you have any accomplishments that relate to those topics or issues. Maybe you increased customer satisfaction a certain percent by driving a new program or set of processes. Or, perhaps you reduced processing expenses related to specific customer transactions thereby lowering costs and simultaneously improving customer satisfaction (or turnaround time or error rate, you get the idea). With statements like these, you can have business leaders thinking, “we have those issues here, maybe this person can help” (perhaps not those exact words mind you). Bottom line, you should have accomplishments on your resume, they should be brief and results oriented and related to common problems shared by employers.
One of the first things I do when people ask me about their resume is look for all of the non-essential words to “rake out”. There are usually many of them. For example, if you note under specific job titles that “Responsibilities included directing…” why not just start with “Directed…” you’ve just eliminated two words that do nothing but clutter your resume. Rake out those filler words like “Duties included” and get right to the point.
I also think you should have a well written summary at the top of your resume and (generally speaking) not an objective. You can leverage a short summary paragraph to start shaping the opinion of the reader. It’s simply good marketing… start telling the person what you want him or her to be thinking about you, concluding or assuming about you. Then, go about proving it in the rest of your resume starting with your first work experience and your first few accomplishment statements. That makes for a tidy little package.
Just remember, most people go overboard on the number and volume of words on their resume. Be clear, concise, results-oriented and judicious with your words. And, remember that employers have problems too and are more concerned about solving their own than solving yours.