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Seven ways to make your resume better

In a tough economy, resumes hold a great deal of weight. Making your resume stand out from the crowd is a crucial step that can mean the difference between a job offer and getting lost in the slush pile. These tips on how to make your resume better can go a long way toward getting you the position you really want.

How to make your resume better

You probably already know the basics of a good resume: clean layout, classic format, simple and straightforward information, and editing each part so often that you actually start to dream about it. But what is good can always be made better. Here's how to get there:

  1. Tweak your resume based on the position. Make certain that you are qualified for the position, then play up the things that make you an excellent choice for the job. For instance, if you have experience in both sales and management but the job focuses on sales, give more weight to your sales experience.
  2. Research the company. By understanding the company culture, you can tweak your resume even further. Use industry terms that will appeal to the decision-makers. Spell out accomplishments that will strike a chord. If you have an interests section, word it in a way that makes your hobbies relevant to the work.
  3. Use the right keywords. With so many resumes hitting the HR desk every day, most big companies now use keyword programs to weed out those who don't meet the criteria. Use keywords that are relevant to the position you are seeking to help ensure your resume stays in the running.
  4. Focus on accomplishments. All too often applicants focus on their duties, not their accomplishments. If you did something great for your last company, mention that. If you improved customer relations, streamlined a process or created something new, let it shine. If you can quantify it -- such as "brought twelve new clients into the company" -- that's even better.
  5. Use your words. Action verbs get attention, so use them liberally in your resume. Words like "planned" or "implemented" or "achieved" have the ring of a serious applicant with a stellar job history. Sprinkle these throughout the page.
  6. Consider your job list. If you have a long employment history, potential employers might not take the time to read through it all. To ensure their attention, keep your list of previous jobs down to those that are relevant to the new position. For instance, you might drop that fast food jaunt you had in college, but if you were a manager there and you're looking for a management position now, play it up instead.
  7. Add a hook. Your objective is clear -- you want a job. But what makes you stand out? A hook can show potential employers what they might get. For example, "Seasoned, dedicated professional with ten years of management experience" can be included at the top of your resume, thus showing off your history in a nutshell.

Finally, don't forget the cover letter. No matter how much hard work you put into the resume, the cover letter is where your personality has a chance to shine. In addition to the cover letter, make sure to include anything else requested, such as writing samples or references. A well-written resume, complete with all the details potential employers want, can get you the attention you deserve.

Sources:

"How to Make Your Resume Better Than the Competition," FOXBusiness, January 22, 2013, Donna Fuscaldo
"Most Big Companies Have a Tracking System that Scans Your Resume for Keywords," Business Insider, January 24, 2012, Aimee Groth
"Recent Grads: Here are 5 Ways to Make Your Resume Stand Out," Business Insider, September 21, 2012, Vivian Giang
"3 Things that Will Get Your Resume Thrown in the Trash," Forbes, January 24, 2013, Angela Smith