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Yes, No, Maybe? How to Get Your Resume In the Right Pile

Hired vs. ignored, resume
Follow these tips to make sure your resume gets noticed by hiring managers. / Credit: Image via Shutterstock

Writing a résumé can be nerve-wracking. It's hard to convey everything you want to say about your skills and career experience in a couple of pages. But what you put on those couple of pages can be the difference between landing an interview and getting your résumé tossed in the literal or digital trash can.

As president of Executive Career Services and author of nine career books, including "Top Secret Resumes and Cover Letters" (ECS & DTP Inc., 2013), Steven Provenzano knows what hiring managers are looking for in the 10 to 60 seconds they spend looking at each résumé they receive.

"You may be the perfect candidate for a position and still not get the interview, for no other reason than your résumé," Provenzano said. "Résumés are typically used to weed out people from positions. What employers really want to know from each candidate is: What can you do for me? How can you fill this job effectively? Why should I talk to you over anyone else? Are you a good fit for my company?"

[How to Write a Resume]

Provenzano said his company sorts résumés into "yes," "no" and "maybe" piles. He offered these tips for crafting a résumé that will earn you a spot in the "yes" pile.

Use a title. Think of a basic title for the top of your résumé. It should be very brief and comprise two to four words: Sales/Marketing, Accounting/Finance or Executive Leadership, for example. It gives the reader some idea of where you're coming from and generally where you want to go, without blocking yourself from consideration for other positions.

Leverage keywords in your "skills" section. Include three or four bulleted sentences that develop your essential skills and abilities related to the job you're seeking. This section should not be a rehash of your job history or education, but rather the value of that experience. Use basic keywords, such as sales, marketing, client relations and project management, since an applicant tracking system will most likely scan and sort your résumé well before it's seen by human eyes.

Market actual talent, and avoid the fluff. Steer clear of pointless, catch-all phrases such as "self-motivated, hands-on professional with an excellent track record of..." Let's face it. The first two items in this sentence could apply to almost anyone. As for your track record, let the employer decide if it's excellent by reading about your abilities, duties and accomplishments. Your skills section must be based on solid, objective facts derived from actual experience. If it can't be verified through education, volunteer work or business experience, then rewrite it, or you'll lose credibility.

Accompany it with a great cover letter. Contrary to popular belief, cover letters are, indeed, read by many potential employers. They like to get a feel for your personality, career goals, motivation for seeking a new position, and what makes you different from other candidates with similar skills and experience. Tell employers what you know about their operation, and why you want to work specifically for that company. Make them feel like their company is the only one getting your résumé.

"Résumé writing is an art form in itself, and there are few hard and fast rules," Provenzano said. "You need a complete, professional job-search strategy, and your résumé must be a key part of that strategy."

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and now leads Purch's B2B copy and production team. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.