Back in my corporate career, I spent considerable time recruiting new management and technical candidates, both for my IT consulting firms and also for our Fortune 500 and SMB clients.

There were times I’d swear I had seen it all, from the interviewees who came clearly unprepared to applicants who begged us for a job.

Fascinated by resumes, I scoured the structure, language, and approach used by successful (and unsuccessful) candidates. I’m sharing these findings to help you navigate the challenging task of writing your own resume:

 

A so-so resume can get you in the door – but only if you’ve made a warm introduction.

Like many employers, we constantly hired based on referrals, and even rewarded the employees who recommended candidates after the hire.

resume writing for interviewAs a result, I often interviewed IT leaders referred to us, including some whose resumes were clearly lacking. These documents were in such basic form that they would not have made it through either a human or ATS screening.

Despite the personal introductions, it was a struggle to distinguish these candidates because of the short sentences, missing keywords, and lack of accomplishments on their resumes.

Insider Resume Writing Tip:

Even if you have the most enthusiastic colleagues ready to vouch for your skills, you’ll still fare best with a keyword optimization strategy, accomplishment-driven language, and a personally branded resume approach.

Otherwise, employers and recruiters can miss the distinguishing factors (outlined in 6-Figure Resume Trends You Need to Know) that make you the best candidate for the job.

 

A great resume can bypass typical objections and actually win the job (seriously!).

I saw this happen when we screened and interviewed a candidate for both our consulting firm and a client corporation. Despite having a well-written, polished resume, I could tell this candidate was not right for our IT consulting firm. He was unable to field basic questions and I soon realized his experience was much more limited than what we were seeking.

Imagine my surprise when my client boss walked in the next week, waving this person’s resume and telling me how excited he was to find the candidate. I had to recuse myself from interviewing him again, so my manager knew I’d already passed on him. He was incredulous: “But this is a great resume!”

Later that week, several other client managers pulled me aside. Did I know the boss was interviewing this applicant? They’d already interviewed him and found his skills lacking, just as I had done.

However, my client boss actually hired this person – over the objections of his OWN STAFF – all based on a resume that was so well-done it worked in spite of the candidate’s interviewing skills!

Insider Resume Writing Tip:

No, you shouldn’t get hired if your resume is flawless and your performance doesn’t match it. But don’t discount the power of words… especially if they can help you flaunt strengths attractive to a new employer.

Spend enough time writing your resume (and avoiding  outdated resume writing myths) to confidently showcase your top achievements.

 

Resumes sometimes tell what you’d rather keep a secret.

If there’s something you don’t want to discuss (such a bad situation with a former boss or a volatile work environment at your last job), then don’t over-emphasize it on your resume.

resume secretCase in point: we screened a candidate whose employment history looked as if she’d been jumping from job to job, when in reality she had sound skills and simply a string of bad luck.

During her panel interview, one of my colleagues asked point-blank why her last job was so short. He couldn’t help it – the job entry was so minimal and void of detail.

The interview went downhill from there, with the candidate admitting that her last boss disliked her and had found a way to remove her from the team. By the end of our meeting, she was almost in tears over having to discuss the situation.

However, if her resume had focused more on her adaptability in new IT shops, diversity in programming language skills, and ability to coordinate intensive projects, she might have had a shot – without a bad situation becoming the bomb that decimated her interview.

Insider Resume Writing Tip:

Information that appears on a separate line and in bold font will catch the recruiter’s eye. Lead with your strengths: if your job dates don’t do you justice, avoid showcasing them; if you’re working in a dying industry, quit putting insider jargon on your resume.

Many people have a limitation in their backgrounds (such as an unexpected layoff or termination).

Find a way to focus on your value proposition (using these resume secrets from expert writers), rather than putting bad news front-and-center on your resume.

 

The bottom line: even if you’ve got a great shot at a new position or promotion, along with a sound network, never discount the value of a stellar resume that reinforces your personal brand message.

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