Resume Tips: How to Rehab Your Resume and Sell Your ‘House of Skills’

Your resume is your house of skills, experience, knowledge, and education. Just like the professional house flipper or decorator on HGTV, with some resume tips from a professional, you can have a shiny resume that makes you stand out as a superior candidate. Because so many are inadequate, poorly written, and use mundane common templates, creating a winner that stands out is within easy reach with some professional polish.

Most resumes are boring and say very little that inspires an employer. In order for you to get a better picture let me explain what my job was like in HR. Every morning I came in and opened my email to find hundreds of resumes that had been submitted since the day before. Most were obvious common templates off the web or from software programs which can often produce a tiresome look. Most of these templates look like cookie cutter houses. As you drive through the subdivision every house looks the same.

After hours of reviewing one after another that all look pretty much the same, in order to make your job easier you soon start picking out which resumes to eliminate. That becomes a game. You look for misspellings, poor formats, wrong types, bad grammar, and unattractive layouts. As you do this day after day you get pickier just to have less pages that you will have to read. Similar to looking through multiple listing pictures of homes for sale and ruling out any that do not have enough curb appeal to be worth getting in your car and driving out to see.

Then as you are reviewing resumes and hitting either the delete or save button, one catches your eye. Maybe the format and layout is perfect or the candidate used an attractive attention getting resume template. So you give your finger a rest and stop to review this one. The objective intrigues you right off the bat. In fact the wording is so great you stop looking for grammar and punctuation mistakes and start reading and wondering about the person.

As you read about this person’s accomplishments your curiosity grows and you scan back up to the name. You visualize what this person might look like. Now you scan down for any clue of their age by possible graduation dates in the education section. Not because you want to discriminate but because your mind is fantasizing. This is perfectly natural. After all your underlying dream is to find the right candidate and end this madness with a successful hire.

If you have ever purchased a home this is just like walking into one you are considering and suddenly imagining yourself living there. When your resume can pull this off an employer will stop at almost nothing to interview you. The good news is with the right formula, you can perform this feat. Just like homes you are unique and with some professional touch ups your resume can shine.

Your resume must do more than state cold hard facts. You want to create a story and picture with your statements. Using accomplishment statements with the right words are like staging a house to make it look like a home. When a person has begun fantasizing about living in a home, almost nothing will stop them from buying the property. Only a major defect such as the discovery of a cracked foundation too expensive to repair will stop them. In the case of your resume once the employer is ‘sold’ only a major blunder such as blatant misspellings or obvious lies will stop the employer from interviewing you.

Resume Tips List for Rehabbing Your Resume

Foundation
So the first of the resume tips is to inspect your foundation. Have you chose the correct or best format type for you and the type of job you are seeking? Chronological resume, skills or functional, or a combination?

Layout and Design
Just like a house appearance is important for your resume. Make sure your margins accommodate your text without running off the page or leaving white space bigger than sky. If you are printing resumes try different high quality papers. Preparation for resume printing does differ than preparing a virtual resume.

File Type
There are numerous file types for saving and sending your resume such as html, pdf., Text, multi versions of MS Word, and so on. Review the job posting to see if the employer is requesting a particular file type. Make sure you inspect your document after any file type conversions.

Resume Tips for Fonts
Font size 11 or 12 are usually the best choices. Larger fonts appear odd and make your page look like you were trying to take up more space. Fonts any smaller can be hard to read and make your page look crammed. Do not justify your text and use tools like “fit to page.” Use a common font. An unusual font is not the way to try and stand out.

Structure: Headings
The second of the resume tips is about checking your structure. What are you including and excluding? The foundation you have chosen will be a factor in what headings and sections should be included. Headings and sections include:

Contact Information
If your name leaves doubt as to your gender, such as Kim or Pat, use a Mr. or Ms. Prefix.
You want to create a picture of yourself in the employers mind often without sending a picture of yourself.

Your Resume ‘Utilities’
Just like a home need to have working utilities you need to Inspect your resume to make sure everything is ‘working.’ Check your contact information for the correct email, address, and phone number. Make sure all links are working. Use a professional e-mail address that does not use goofy nicknames or an embarrassing host.

Resume Objective
Most employers do not care about most resume objectives. If you have included an objective on your make sure the writing is employer focused. See more about how to write a resume objective that employers will care about.

Summary of Skills
This section is often a few statements or bullet list at the top of the resume just under the objective to highlight specific skills. If your resume is lacking substance or enough volume to fill the page, investing in this addition can pay off.

As an employer I like seeing this section on a resume when it is brief. What some job search experts suggest is changing only this section to target different jobs and employers. This can save you tons of time over rewriting your entire resume for each job.

Specific Skills or Areas of Expertise
This heading can be used in place of ‘Summary of Skills’ or I have seen this as an additional section at the end of the page. This is also a section that offers the opportunity to change to adapt to target different jobs and employers.

Resume Tips for the Employment Section/Work Experience/Job History

What Should You Tell Prospective Employers About Your Job History?
Your resume is your opportunity to tell employers exactly what you want them to hear, or read.
Check each resume to make sure you have included relevant work experience. Unless you have some fantastic super relevant job experience more than fifteen years ago you can stop there without dating yourself to the eighties. (Most job experience more than fifteen years old is dated anyway because of the changes in technology.)

While you cannot find out prospective home buyers tastes are and paint and decorate your house accordingly each time a new shopper is on the way over to see your house for sale, you can do that with your resume! If you have multiple jobs and job titles you want to emphasize the jobs and skills most relevant to the position you are seeking each time you send a resume. This means you will need to make adjustments.

Gaps in Employment History
Home buyers don’t like mysteries; neither do employers. Gaps in employment history can seem like doors to rooms that are locked while house shopping. If you have a chronological resume look at the gaps in your work history. If you have Rumpelstiltskin gaps of missing time that is obvious, (usually a year or more) you could change to a skills or functional resume. You could also insert explanations:

2008-09 Studying and Traveling Abroad
2008-09 Maternity Leave
2008-09 Freelancing Assignments

What if You Have Had Only One Employer For The Last Decade or Two?
If this is the case hopefully you have held different positions with various job titles you can use to break up your accomplishment statements into sections. If you have held only one position, you can break up your resume into skill sections. Use a subheading for a particular skill and include two or three accomplishment statements showing how you used each skill to benefit your employer.

What If You Are A New House (No Work Experience)?
If you have no work experience you can still write a resume. Just because a house I brand new with no previous owners to question will that make the property harder to sell? usually not. A clean house is a clean slate and so is a person new to the workforce.

The number one things employers look for in new candidates they want in experienced candidates also:

A new job seeker with no work experience can have all of these attributes!

For resume writing look at anything you have done that will prove you have the above attributes and any relevant experience for the job:

See the resume skills checklist for more skills you might have.

What If You Built the House?
If all or the bulk of your work experience comes from self-employment, that does not mean you don’t have a house of skills to sell, just that you gained your experience differently, as if you built the house. If this is your case there are specific considerations to address about how you will be viewed and questioned by employers. Depending on the position you are seeking, employers often have some trepidation when considering candidates who have been business owners.

Former business owners can be tremendously valuable assets to employers. See how to write a business owner resume what the issues are and how you can address them to create a resume that will highlight your business owner skills while assuring potential employers. You want to be sure to describe your business owner resume skills in the best light for employment opportunities.

Resume Tips for Rehabbing Your Job Titles

Job titles are like advertisements for homes for sale. If your house for sale is a single story home with yellow siding you could just advertise it as a ‘ranch home.’ However you cannot advertise your ranch house as a ‘two story.’

Some consultants suggest leaving titles off your resume altogether. Unless you can easily see what your job title was, for example you have ‘Dr.’ in front of your name, this can make things difficult for the employer reviewing resumes. The last thing you want to do is make anything difficult in this process.

In Richard Bolles’ book, What Color Is Your Parachute?, he estimates there are over 20,000 job titles for America’s 135 million workers. In job hunting, job titles can work for or against you.
Often titles do not reflect job responsibilities or fit well with your target job. In many cases you can ‘adjust’ your job titles to better fit the position you are seeking. Review your job titles to see if they limit you for the job you are seeking, then if you think they do, determine if they are ‘fixed’ or ‘flexible.’

Fixed job titles are those that are difficult to change. For example:

Now there might be synonyms for these titles such as plane operator, certified health care giver, or food preparer, but those are usually not going to help you.

Flexible job titles are those which can be adaptable or changed. Titles such as:

Using Field Descriptions for Titles
If you were an assistant manager and you are applying for a manager position, you could list your field of employment rather than the position title. In this case you would list ‘Management.’ A work site laborer could be listed as ‘Construction’ and a cashier could be ‘Retail Sales’ or ‘Customer Service.’

Before you take too much liberty from resume to resume with your job titles, make sure you are not straying too far from what you actually did on the job or creating a discrepancy when posting on the web.

Resume Tips for Rehab Writing

The Fastest Way to Improve Your Resume
The fastest and most dramatic ways to improve a house is to clean, paint, and decorate.
Thus is also true for your resume. Once you have checked all the above most of your rehabbing will be in the area of the writing. Some words such as adjectives are like colors for the home rehab. You can change the entire look of a house or room with the colors of the paint and decorations and you can do the same for your resume by choosing the right words.

Skill words are the utilities, structure, and appliances of resume writing. Employers want specific skills that will do the job just like home buyers want to see specific items in their home.
Your job specific resume skills are those that are required for the particular job. Just like people have specific needs for their home. Try selling a one bedroom home to a family of five looking for four bedrooms. That will be about as successful as a job hunter trained in IT applying for a job as a nurse.

The employer’s job posting is like the home buyer’s wish list:

Three bedrooms Stainless steel refrigerator, gas stove, 220 amp electric service, and double car garage

Teamwork and communication skills with good organization to work in fast paced environment.

Create job resume statements that focus on a specific job and employer by reviewing the skill words the employer is using.

Use Power Words For Your Skills and Support Your Statements
Use power words to rehab your statements but make sure the rooms (statements) are structurally sound first. Do not just paint over a ceiling about to fall! Quantify or support your accomplishments with hard numbers whenever possible.

Let me show you what I mean. Here is a statement about customer service or sales that needs rehabbing:

Sold prospects with well put together sales presentations.

We want to improve this statement with power vocabulary. A power word for customer service in the Resume Dictionary is “stimulate.” So we replace the old tired paint (word) “sold” and decorate with “stimulated:”

Stimulated prospects with well put together sales presentations.

This sentence is a bit better though offers no measurable results. We have not added any support to our ceiling to keep it from falling, only made the surface look better.
By changing the arrangement of the words adding the adjective “dynamic” to describe the sales presentations we support the statement with measurable results:

Presented dynamic sales presentations that so stimulated prospects sales increased 182% in the first  six   months.

The statement has new paint and decorating with the power words and is now supported with the measurable results of 182% in six months.

Here is another example with a statement to demonstrate communication skills:

Shopped polices and then explained the differences in employee benefit packages at company meetings.

Here is the same sentence with some new paint and support:

Compared polices and Illuminated the differences in benefit packages at company meetings resulting in saving 2.8m in company health insurance costs in the next two years.

You can further support your statements with the resume skills tier method.

Removing Pronouns
While pronouns are not the end of the world, they are like personal pictures on tables and hanging on the walls in the home you are trying to sell. Home staging decorators suggest removing these photos and mementos. So remove the pronouns in your resume statements.

Resume Tips for Tone

We often become accustom to any scents and smells in our own homes. The only way to find out if your home smells appealing or displeasing is to bring in new noses (visitors.) The same is true of resume writing. The tone is often obscure to the subject person or writer. Your tone needs to be professional and positive. Bring in some new eyeballs. Have several other people whose opinions you respect read your resume for tone. Ask then specifically what statements or words they do and do not like.

If your tone seems boring or even unprofessional, the way to change the tone of your resume is with statement restructuring and words. First see The 197 Words You Should Not Use On Your Resume. The ebook is free from Resume Dictionary. Review the book for the words and why they are unfavorable and check your writing for any of them. Then replace any negative words with synonyms or by rewriting the statements that contain them.

Education
Check your education section for accurate information and format . Start with your most relevant or highest degree first. If you have just a high school diploma or GED include that. If you are a freshman or sophomore in college, you can include your high school. When your education includes a college degree you can exclude any high school information.

Basic education information to include:

A recommended format:

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, Edwardsville, IL
Bachelor of Arts, May 2008
Major: Journalism
Minor: Marketing
GPA: 3.67/4.00

Here is what you can state if you do not have your degree yet but are working towards it:

Graduation Date: May 2012
or
Masters Completion: 2011

Honors and Awards
Often the decision to include honors and awards on a resume is based on space. When adding honors and awards pushes your summation beyond two pages this is a consideration. Otherwise honors and awards can be important inclusions on your resume.

These might include:

Academic honor societies such as Phi Beta Kappa or Phi Kappa Phi
Scholarships
Membership and offices held in Professional Societies
Awards

Examples of awards:

First Aid Certificate
Lifesaving Certificates
Eagle Scout
Sports Awards
Team Captain
Major Military decorations and ranks
Employee of the Month
Salesperson of the Month

Associations
Include memberships in associations that support your job objective or the employer’s goals.
Mention offices held in any of these organizations. This is also a great place to demonstrate a skill you might not have a statement for in your work history section. If you obtained an important skill not mentioned elsewhere on your resume include a skills statement here.

Hobbies
Avoid listing hobbies unless they are relevant to the employer or your career. If you are applying for a retail position in a train hobby store and you are the vice president of your local chapter of the Model Train Club, that is important.

Proofread!
Before home shoppers arrive or your open house, you are wise to do a final walk through of your property. The same is true of your resume. Proofread your writing and enlist the help of others to proofread your work also. There are tricks on how to proofread resume writing.

There is no excuse for missing or misspelled words on your resume. There are also many commonly misused words such as ‘affect’ and ‘effect,’ ‘accept’ or ‘except’ and ‘than’ and ‘then.’ Many spell check program will not pick these up.

Also make sure you have proper punctuation. Bullet points do not require ending punctuation.

The Resume Dictionary is your writing hardware store and has the tools, words, and examples you need to describe your skills and rehab your resume. Browse the website and search the skill power words and numerous helpful articles available. Roll up your sleeves and with a little bit of reviewing and rehabbing you can have a highly marketable resume that makes employers desire you.

Phil Baker   Copyright 2010

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