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February 20, 2012

Turn Resume Fluff into Marketable Facts

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Turn Resume Fluff into Marketable Facts

Don Goodman, Certified Career Management Coach and Expert Resume Writer

Your resume is the most important document to advance your career. And given employers will only scan it for 15-20 seconds, you need to make sure you scream, "Here's what I can do for you!"

There's a difference between a resume that only showcases your personality and characteristics and one that demonstrates specific achievements and accomplishments. Unfortunately, too many resumes are filled with fluff statements anyone can say and they don't really distinguish you as a top candidate.

A resume filled with terms such as "visionary (how many of these do you really know?), "motivated," "team player," "problem solver," "results-oriented," "dynamic" and many other phrases are examples of overused words.

To avoid creating a resume complete with fluff, try to turn to marketable facts:

1. Don't rely on terms that describe character.

Replace the use of terms that describe character with specific content to demonstrate how you accomplished or achieved something. Shed some light on your method of execution. For instance, to show you were "results-oriented," indicate on your resume how you increased sales in your department by XX percent within a year or increased the number of attendees to an annual conference by XX percent compared to previous years. If you don't actually have numbers, you can approximate percentages: "Introduced new procedures that slashed cycle times approximately 20%."

2. Use numbers and symbols.

Numbers and symbols quickly jump out at employers so use them whenever you can. Resumes have their own special rules and I always show all numbers as digits as they catch the eye. Percentages are always best as they show the impact of your efforts. For example, saying "Increased sales $750K over prior year" is nice but to some companies that is petty cash and your company might not like your giving out their private information; better to say "Increased sales 43% over prior year." Simply avoid words that don't define, such as "many," "few" and "several."

3. Don't list responsibilities of your previous jobs, demonstrate outcomes.

The problem with writing responsibilities you held on the job is it doesn't tell an employer how successful you were at executing your plans. An employer only cares about how good you did your job and how what you did can apply to the job they are offering. Rather than list responsibilities, demonstrate your performance.

Are you the most senior member of your team? Do people turn to you for the more challenging issues? Is your productivity level higher than your peers? Do you resolve issues on the first call versus others needing 2-3 calls? Is your level of accuracy and the quality of your work at the highest level? Have you demonstrated the ability to meet aggressive deadlines? Statements like "consistently recognized for delivering quality results at less cost than budgeted" showcases your effectiveness even when you don't have the actual numbers.

4. Only detail specialized technical skills.

Today's employers expect candidates to know basic computing skills and programs, so only list specialized technical skills that are relevant for the job. An employer does not need to see you know programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint. Also, when you do list any technical skill, tell an employer how well you know the specific program by detailing what you may have created or did with it. Simply listing a specific program will not help an employer understand how well you know it or what your capabilities are.

Fill your resume with performance statements instead of fluff and you will see a dramatic improvement in your job search results.

Don Goodman, president "About Jobs" is a nationally recognized career expert. Don has assisted thousands of people with their career search. A Certified Career Management Coach and Expert Resume Writer, he has been a Featured Keynote Speaker at dozens of Job Fairs, Executive Conferences, and State Agency events and has worked with several the Career Placement Services. Learn more about Don at his website.

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