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Résumé Writing Tips

As your résumé is your sell sheet, it should be a compellingly crafted, stand-alone writing sample that immediately evidences what a talented wordsmith and clear, logical thinker you are

The following advice is also intended to facilitate your résumé’s being saved in the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) now utilized by all good-sized companies. Additionally, if you name your Word résumé “Jones, Mary 4.2.12.doc” you will increase the chances that it will be saved. ATS’s prefer résumés as singleWord files, not pdf’s.

A résumé also sets the agenda for the interview. Consider the recipient a target audience so customize it for particular positions or companies. Given that it must titillate the recipient and inform interview questions, it ought to prompt what she should ask so that your responses position you as an expert in your field.

Thus, don’t assume everyone knows about the companies you mention. Give corporate descriptions or epithets. Never forget to mention exactly which product lines/products you work(ed) on and what their channels of distribution are. If you’ve been AD/PR/Digital agency-side, mention by proper name the accounts you’ve handled and what precisely you did per each significant client. Don’t simply give the general job description of an account executive. Detail what you accomplished for each important client in such a manner that the reader instantly “gets” the scope and magnitude of your responsibilities.

Bland HR-type job descriptions (instead of anecdotal bullets specifying accomplishments) are a waste of space because those reading your résumé already understand your role. A résumé should not be a compilation of job descriptions but rather an engaging document that highlights your strengths and what challenges you’ve met and skills you’ve mastered.

Use only Arial 10pt typeface as it is sans serif and easiest for older eyes to read on the screen. Except for newspaper/book titles, etc, skip italics. To increase the likelihood that ATS’s retain your masterpiece avoid visual elements including half-tones, boxes, underlining, arrows, asterisks, logos and overly stylized fonts for your name. Plain, solid black bullets are best.

Résumés should be reverse-chronological. HR professionals and recruiters detest functional résumés because they obfuscate job histories (and are viewed as hiding or downplaying something), and force the reader to wander around the résumé trying to place your accomplishments under the appropriate employer or figure out what you did when and where.

Include month/year for all degrees so that they can be quickly verified, and month/year for start/finish of all positions held. Use numerals such as 7/06-2/12.

Each bullet under each employer should begin with a strong, descriptive action verb, and be anecdotal. For example, alternate “crafted” with “wrote” or “polished” instead of “edited”. Forget that hideous cop-out verb “responsible for”. Don’t diminish your writing skills or bore the reader by reiterating verbs such as managed, developed, wrote, or assisted. Prove that your vocabulary is educated and diverse, and that you script with flair.

Avoid personal pronouns and numerous self-descriptive adjectives. Permit the reader to reach her own conclusions. Delete the words “executive” or “senior executive” unless you earn 200K+. Exaggerated attributes or hyperbole automatically trigger thoughts of “prima dona” or “high maintenance” or “immature” in the résumé-screener. And, if your name is writ too large, HR will conclude your ego isn’t compatible with its corporate culture.

For junior-level candidates, your “Objective” should be employer centered, not self-centered…what’s in it for the employer, what will/can you do for him and his company? What’s in it for you is obvious and trite.

Example: To use my education, skills & talents in a challenging position at a growth-oriented company.
Solution: To positively impact an employer’s bottom line by contributing superior problem-solving skills, business acumen and stellar writing to a corporate communications department.

For seasoned professionals, a “Summary” statement is more appropriate and should concisely describe the depth and breadth of your experience in which industries or channels and concisely summarize you value proposition.

Example: Astute marketing communications professional with global Consumer Packaged Goods Branding/Advertising/Communications experience. MBA fluent in French and Russian with well-honed strategic planning, analytical and leadership skills.

Your résumé MUST immediately engage the reader, stimulate curiosity and an invitation to interview. For entry-level or junior candidates one page should suffice. Two or three pages are fine for more seasoned professionals. Most companies run thorough civil, criminal and BMV background checks, and conduct comprehensive reference checks so don’t stretch dates or fake degrees. Lying on an employee application is grounds for immediate dismissal.

After you establish a firm interest in joining a company or when filling out an application, provide business (not personal) references. Ban the phrase “references available” at the end of the résumé as it is understood that you will proffer them when appropriate. Do not take advantage of those good-hearted souls who have volunteered to validate your accomplishments. Guard their time and privacy to be able to use them again.

If your résumé establishes you as a stellar thinker and gifted writer, you will win an interview. If your résumé is misleading, disingenuous, boring, trite or oozes ego, you will continue your job search. Follow these tips for best results. Good Luck.

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