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4 secrets of writing a short, sweet and successful resume

A resume is just a stepping stone to an interview, not an all-inclusive record of your career. With that in mind, here are a few easy tips to keep your resume short, sweet and successful.

4 secrets of writing a short, sweet and successful resume

Whether you’re just about to leave your first job or making your 10th career transition, chances are your resume could use some editing. Recruiters and hiring managers receive a staggering number of resumes for each job posted. The ones that grab their attention are often short and simple—and convey candidates’ value immediately.

A resume is just a stepping stone to an interview, not an all-inclusive record of your career. With that in mind, here are a few easy tips to keep your resume short, sweet and successful.

Focus on text, not formatting

Automated applicant tracking systems (ATS) do the first read of many resumes employers receive. These robots won’t be impressed with all your fancy formatting, so just skip it.

Draft your resume in a word processing program so you’ll get the spelling and grammar assistance, says Kevin Hoult, business services manager for the Small Business Development Center at Western Washington University. Then, he suggests, paste it into Notepad or a similar program and saving as plain text. “A plain text resume has the best chance of surviving all of the storage, retrieval and automatic review processes resumes are put through these days.”

Use bullet points and keywords

Bullet points with facts and figures will better demonstrate your skills and experience than long sentences, says David Esposito, managing partner at Harvest Time Partners, a professional development and venture capital firm.

Consider adding a career summary near the top of your resume that includes two or three bullet points demonstrating the key skills and the value you’ll bring the employer. Not only will this give you an opportunity to use the keywords robots love, but it also will force you to put some serious thought into your elevator pitch, Esposito says.

Elsewhere in your resume, bullet points can be a quick and effective way to show the results you delivered or key experience you’ve acquired at previous jobs. “Bullet points within each position should be listed in order of importance relative to the job you want next, not chronologically,” says Bettina Seidman, president of career coaching service Seidbet Associates.

When in doubt, trim a little more

Now that your keywords and plain text have gotten past the robots, it’s time for your resume to pass the human test. This is the Twitter era and “tl;dr” is a real phenomenon. That’s “too long, didn’t read,” in case you didn’t know.

The human with the authority to offer you an interview doesn’t want to read lengthy paragraphs and descriptions of your old job duties. “Rewrite and rewrite until your value proposition jumps out at a glance, because that's all you’re going to get,” Hoult recommends.

Cut the clutter

Carefully evaluate whether your early career experience is relevant to the job you’re applying for now. If it’s not relevant, don’t include it.

“Summarize early career experience in one bullet point per job or position. For the most part, listing the details of early positions is irrelevant and takes up space on the page,” Esposito says.

The same is true for most college information, Seidman says. If you held a leadership position in an extracurricular organization or received any honors, you can include that information. Otherwise, most information beyond your school and degree is unnecessary. 

Get a review

We get it: You want to impress a hiring manager, so you tend to go overboard on your resume. But you really might not need to. Not sure what to put on your resume and what to leave off? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. It's a quick and easy way to make your resume short and sweet and give you a great shot at success.


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