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Four Steps to a Cleaner Resume


It’s so easy to clutter a resume. When you’re fresh out of school and starting out, your resume is clean and proud. Then you start collecting experiences and successes, or degrees, sometimes both if you’re determined. Before you know it, your resume is jumbled with military phrases and acronyms and could even possibly contain dated phrases like “proficient with Fortran and Cobol.” Yikes.

When you’re looking for a job, you want to present your best possible self. Whether you’re at the beginning of your career or the beginning of a new career, make sure your resume looks like one that potential employers want to read. Nobody wants to read a wordy, jumbled, convoluted mess (trust me). They want to read relevant information that demonstrates you are suitable for their job opportunity. They want to read concise information that demonstrates you understand their industry, their company, and the job itself.

What’s on your resume now might have been the cat’s meow for your previous career. How do you repurpose it for employers in your shiny new career field? Here’s some ways to clean it up:

1. Be specific about the job you want.

When you’re specific about what industry, career, and job you want, that tells a potential employer that you’re motivated and interested in their industry. Broad statements about vague objectives don’t increase your chances of getting a job. They leave people wondering if you know what you want. The message you want to get across is that you have the skills and experience that qualify you for a job with your potential employer. If you have more than one field of interest (and most people do), create other resumes that speak directly to each one.

2. Evaluate your work history.

This is especially critical for transitioning military candidates. Your potential employer is only interested in the strengths, abilities and skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. The rule of recency is important if you have more than 10 years of experience. Highlight the most recent applicable experience and summarize early career achievements in a separate section.

3. If you can’t quantify it, delete it.

Employers seek measurable value. If you do not have accurate, factual, quantifiable selling points with your achievements (i.e., reduced expenses by 20%; increased efficiency by 30% in 18 months), either add them or remove the achievement. You have to demonstrate that you’ve delivered quantifiable results.

4. Present essential educational and technical information/skills.

Employers expect you to be proficient in basic software programs, so don’t waste valuable space with a list of software programs or office skills unless they are highly specialized or unique.

For candidates who have a few years of professional experience, educational information should include simply the name of the institution and the degree or certification obtained. If you’re currently pursuing a degree, list the name of the institution, degree/certification and expected graduation date.

Once you’ve completed these four steps, give your resume a final once-over to make sure your contact information is current. And by current, I mean not only is your address, phone number and email address up-to-date and typo-free, but if you have a fax number or a note on the end that says “references available upon request” it’s time to delete those.

Clutter happens. Clean it up easy with these four tips, and you’ll have a resume that’s relevant, targeted, and easy for employers to read.

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