Career Resource Center

5 Components of a Successful Resume

Having a successful resume is critical to your career.  If your current resume isn’t generating the results you’re looking for, then you could be missing out on lucrative job opportunities and potentially tens of thousands in lost compensation during your career.  Think about it like this, if you’re only getting one or two job offers, it’s much more difficult to negotiate a higher salary, more time off, and better benefits than if you can pick and choose from multiple options.

So, what are the key components of every successful resume?  It turns out that there are several useful strategies you can employ to help your resume stand out above the rest of the applicants.  This is especially important in our current job market.  Even though the market is historically tight right now, companies still receive an average of 250 applications per job posting.  This means that you need to take your resume seriously if you want to receive interviews.

How to make your resume stand out:

Studies have shown that employers only review a resume for an average of six or seven seconds.  Unfortunately, this simply isn’t enough time for anyone to review your qualifications – especially if you have a career spanning more than ten years – and remember anything about your experience.  That means you’ll need to convince the employer to spend more time looking at YOUR resume than they normally do.

To make your resume stand out, use a splash of color rather than boring black & white.  You don’t want to use overly bright colors, but a nice-looking blue or green can help catch the eye of an employer without distracting them from the actual content.

You can further spruce up your formatting by adding borders around the edges of the resume and using boldfaced font for your headers.  Finally, don’t forget to add clear section breaks between your skills, education, and experience sections.  Horizontal lines or tables can help make the resume easier to read quickly.  These section breaks also ensure that when an employer reviews your resume for a second time that they can return to the section that they’re most interested in.  For example, maybe they want to review your education again but weren’t that interested in your skills.  If you’ve made the education section easy to find, they’ll be more likely to return and review it.

How to quickly engage your reader:

Once you’ve captured the attention of the employer, you need to hold that attention and encourage them to read through your qualifications.  You can increase engagement with your resume by using bullet points, reducing sentences to a maximum of 35 words, and putting your most important experience at the top of the resume.  If you include your most important accomplishments first, an employer will be more willing to read through your less interesting responsibilities in greater detail.  For example, if you earned an award for “Most Motivated Employee 2022”, that’s something you’ll want to include at the top of your resume.

Furthermore, if you have some qualifications that perfectly match what the job description asks for, make sure to put them close to the top of the resume where they’re easily visible.  One way you can do this is by creating a strong headline that showcases why you’re the best person to hire.  Here’s an example:

United States Army Combat Veteran offering 10+ years of store management experience and numerous awards of revenue growth, team development, and hands-on leadership.

A headline like this is sure to capture the attention of an employer; however, if you bury your accomplishments and expertise in lengthy paragraphs in the middle of the resume, it’s likely this great information will never even be read!

Take the time to submit a cover letter:

Studies have shown that only 39% of applicants submit a cover letter – even when the job posting requires it.  This is unfortunate because a cover letter gives you an entire extra page of space to explain why you’re the right person for the job.  Take the time to write a cover letter – even if you don’t write a different one for each position you apply to – and make sure to submit it with your resume.  Including a cover letter demonstrates to employers that you’re serious about applying for the position.  If you demonstrate that you’re serious, they’ll be more likely to spend THEIR time reviewing your resume.

Here are some great tips from DeVry University on cover letter writing.  If you’re still not sure how to put together a cover letter, our team at the Resume Writing Group Career Resource Center also has some great tips on cover letter writing!

Don’t give away too much information:

It can be very tempting to include everything you’ve ever done on your resume.  Sadly, an employer with limited time isn’t interested in reading about your high school education, your career history from 30 years ago, or your certification that expired in the early 2000s.  This type of information can drag down the rest of your resume by decreasing the likelihood that an employer will read it and increasing the chances that they’ll forget something important.  For example, would you rather have them remember that you won your high school basketball tournament or that you recently graduated magna cum laude with an MS in Technology Management?

Everything you include on your resume should be carefully evaluated to determine if it’s worth telling an employer about.  Remember, your resume should be less than two pages long, but you’ll have more time during an interview to discuss anything you left off!

Read your resume aloud to someone else:

At Resume Writing Group we work on thousands of resumes every year that are filled with typographical errors.  In most cases, these errors could have been found and fixed simply by reading the resume allowed.  Every good editor knows that the human eye can be incredibly forgiving when it comes to mistakes – however, the human ear immediately picks up mistakes and sends a warning signal to the brain that something is wrong.  For example, you don’t need to be a famous composer to know when you hear music that is off key; but most people couldn’t tell from reading the sheet music if there were mistakes.

If you’re reading the resume to a friend or family member, you’ll be more likely to read it carefully from top to bottom rather than quickly skimming the document as most people do when they’re reading to themselves.

If you still aren’t sure whether you resume has the right components – or whether it might have some hidden typos that are keeping you from getting hired, send it in to our review team at Free Resume Critiques.  We’ll let you know what may be holding your resume back!

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