7 Tips For Sending Your Best Resume to Achieve Career New Year Resolutions

writingA week or so into the New Year and the gyms are still full, networking events are brimming and connection requests are flying. Many are working hard on those New Year’s Resolutions!

If one of your resolutions included making a change in your career there is one thing you need to do before sending out your resume:

Conduct a year-end review

This review should include your past year of experience, schooling or volunteering and the visual aspects and readability of your resume.

Following these seven steps will help tweak your 2015 resume to a forward-moving, value driven 2016 resume.

1. Question

If it has been longer than a year since your last resume update, start at that time. Look back at your history and for each position and time period, answer the following questions:

• What did I improve?
• How did I grow?
• What did I learn?
• How did I contribute?
• What changed in my role?

If you realize that your current resume is simply a copy of your job description, you will want to redefine that before identifying improvements. Redirect your bullet points to address the following questions:

• What is my role/what do I do?
• How do I perform these responsibilities?
• Who benefits?
• How do they benefit?
• How do I work with them?
• What is the value that I add as an individual contributor?
• What is the result?

Answering these questions transforms duties (I was hired to do this) into value statements (this is what I do, how and how it creates value). Your bullet points will now be demonstrative statements of your expertise, skills and abilities.

2. Update

Revise any credentials and expertise including training, degrees or certifications earned or attended should be updated and included.

Have you learned new skills that should now be included in your ‘Proficiencies’ section or included in your opening statement?

3. Combine

If you have had more than one position within the same company, consider combining the positions under one heading of the company rather than listing them independently.

At first glance, they will look like two separate jobs so combining gives visual strength.

If the move is more in alignment with where you want to go, combining the positions allows you to tell the story of being at the company with the emphasis on the most recent position. It is not necessary to give each position equal space.

If you have had several positions within the same company moving up along the way, you can utilize an opening statement for the company stating that you began in X position and through a series of promotions into positions of increased authority and accountability lead to the current position of Y.

This allows you to direct your career history with the company to emphasize the elements that are most important to your next move.

4. Cut

A general rule of thumb is ten years for your career history. There are exceptions; this is just a generally acceptable expectation to detail the last 10 years of experience.

Work history prior to that time can be included as line items without detailed explanations.

Is it time to either remove ancient history, or just condense to make more room for more recent accomplishments and value?

5. Revamp

Right under your letterhead you should have an opening paragraph answering an employer’s most important question: “What can you do for me?” How has this changed since your last revamp? Does it still represent what you have to offer and what you want to do?

If your resume begins with an objective statement detailing what you are looking, revamp it to answer the ‘what can you do for me’ question.

This is your introduction; it should entice the reader to continue reading your resume. This is where you demonstrate and introduce your skills, abilities, expertise and value.

A potential employer does not care what you want; they want to know how you can help them.

6. Research

Research similar or desired positions. Look at job descriptions, job postings and LinkedIn profiles. Are there any phrases, key words or ideas that align more with what you want to say or represent you in your resume? Incorporate those into your resume.

7. Reformat

Is your resume feeling a little stale when you look at it? Try Googling “resume sample” and click on images. Look at, do not read, all the examples that are flooded onto your screen. Is there one that really catches your eye? Recreate the format for your own resume.

If the format stood out to you, there is a good chance it will stand out to potential employers.

It is your resume, make it your own.

Utilizing these seven tips can help get your resume into a much more ready state to leverage your resume to realize your New Year’s Resolution for your career.


As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc, a national career coaching and practice firm, I am a Brand Strategist, Professional Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, sales teams, leadership and companies to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

In other words: I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about Career Polish and what we can do to help you.

15 Resume Tips to Hate Applicant Tracking System (ATS) a Little Less

Computer FlowersJust when you thought you could not get any more frustrated with job searching, along comes software that may hold your fate in its bytes.

Technology is fabulous, except when you feel like it is working against you.

Welcome to the world of Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Hate it and all that it stands for, but it is here and it is not going away anytime soon.

Before you suit up for battle it is important to know the rules, your opponent and how to create a good offense. Here is a breakdown of automated tracking systems: what they are, their flaws, why they are used and how to play nice with them to help increase your odds of getting your resume into the hands of a recruiter or hiring manager.

Your Opponent – The What of ATS

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a recruiting software system used to organize, contain and evaluate resumes. It contains database field and assigns data within your resume to the fields within the software.

Original ATS software utilized a semantic search technology that basically counted keywords; however the software is evolving. Many systems now run contextualization searches that weigh the use of keywords in the context of the information.

This means that older systems may have given higher rating for having “Logistics” appear all over a resume, but newer systems are looking for demonstrated experience. They can incorporate and interpret depth of experience and time frames.

These systems can also differentiate between someone who has five years demonstrated experience as a Logistics Manager versus someone who took a class in logistics a decade ago.

The more advanced systems are not just recognizing a title or company name, they are analyzing your content to match your skills and value compatible to that role.

In 2010, it was believed that half of all mid-sized companies were using some form of an ATS; current studies estimate that between 75-90% of large companies use ATS, including 70% of Fortune 100 companies.

Their Trick Plays- The Flaws of ATS

This is not going to come as a surprise – the systems are flawed. One company performed a test by submitting the resumes of their top five existing employees and two were screened out. Another director of a company tested their system by submitting his resume for his own organization and it was rejected.

As many as 75% of qualified applicants’ resumes are discarded by ATS systems according to Forbes.

Why? Often the system is misreading the resume or the resume is missing key information.

Flawed as they may be, ATS make recruiters lives easier by automating the initial review of resumes. They help organizations remain compliant with required equal opportunity reporting and prevent charges of discrimination.

Creating a Good Offense

Now that we have gotten the bad news out of the way we can start to prepare a good offense. Here are 15 factors that can help keep your resume in the system and get to a real person.

The Look
1. Tracking systems do not know how to process images, fancy fonts or characters which makes it difficult for the system to assign the information to relevant categories therefore eliminate graphics, tables and images.
As most ATS reads text only you will need to reformat tables, graphs or charts, which will increase the length of your resume. It is acceptable to be longer and hit the relevant requirements rather than be pretty and be dismissed. Bring the pretty version to the interview.
2. Use common fonts like Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Garamond, Calibri, Georgia or Tahoma. Again, a content translation thing.
3. Use simple bullets and formatting, getting too creative will prevent a system from analyzing information and apply it to critical areas.
4. Systems are evolving to begin to read PDF files; however, many organizations still have versions that do not; therefore, upload a Word document, not PDF.
5. Use section headers for each area of your resume: Professional Experience, Education, Professional Development and Community Involvement. The system will determine what to do with the information on your resume based upon the heading it is found under.

The Content
1. Use the keywords, industry jargon and phrases as listed in the job description; the system is looking for these. Use relevant keywords in the skills section, summary and bullet points.
Need help identifying core keywords from a description? Copy and paste the job posting into Tagcrowd.com and it will create a word cloud of the most frequently used words for you. Make sure these keywords are in your resume.
2. Use keywords appropriately and in context, do not sprinkle them throughout your resume or hide them by using white text.
3. If the posting mentions “programmer with XYZ experience” do not assume that the system will understand “XYZ programmer”. Use both phrases within your resume to make sure it is picked up.
4. Focus on relevancy of your qualifications to the position eliminating any descriptions of past duties that do not support you in this role. Eliminate fluff – it confuses the system and wastes valuable space on your resume.
5. Create a skills section and include strengths, competencies, specialized and technical skills. Spell out and use abbreviations for industry specific acronyms.

The Basics
1. Check your spelling. Misspelled keywords will be missed by an applicant tracking system.
2. Put your contact information in the body of the resume on the top of the first page and include name, email address and phone number. Tracking systems do not always read headers and footers.
3. Customize your resume for each submission tweaking your skills, experiences and qualifications to match the keywords and phrases within the specific job description. One job description may use leader, another uses manager – make sure your resume is a match to the description.
4. Use consistency in formatting pertinent employment information for all positions.
5. Save your resume with your name and the position title as a word document or text file: i.e. John Doe Logistics Manager Resume

At the end of the day these tips can help avoid having your resume kicked out of the system, but there is no magic bullet to beat a system and it is not a system only approach, there is still a human element. If your resume makes it through the screening, it will then be viewed by a person. It is important that it is written in a way that a software system and individual can identify and evaluate your value.


Job Block – Can’t See the Forest for the Trees


What I often discover when talking to clients about their current situations and thoughts about how they want to move forward is one of two things:


Tunnel Vision

Forest Syndrome


Their tunnel vision is a self-imposed captivity of only being able to see themselves in their current position.


The forest syndrome is not being able to see the forest from the trees.  They have become so entrenched in what they are doing or the “failures” of the past to be able to see a positive direction to move forward.


When you boil it down it is a matter of perspective.  We are sometimes too close to the situation that we can not evaluate it objectively or even in a hopeful manner.


Just because you have been doing a certain job for some time does not mean that is where you will always be – you are not stuck unless you allow yourself to be stuck.


This is a point when it is important to get another view point.  You need someone else to look objectively at your situation, skills and help you identify what you really want and not just what you think you can do.


Friends and spouses are well meaning but sometimes unable to help us, not of their own fault but our own.  Of course, sometimes they are not the best help because they want to be supportive and any type of criticism, even positive, would seem like a negative and unsupportive.


For example if you have asked a friend to review your resume and give input and the only thing they tell you is: it looks great, they are not helping.  You need constructive criticism.  If it was so great why are you not getting the call?


They need to tell you when what you have written does not make sense or does not really portray your value.  But they probably won’t because they don’t want to upset or challenge you.


Of course, you may not be able to take constructive criticism well because you are personally involved with them and take it as a personal attack.  Or you may brush off their helpful tips because you don’t think they really know what they are talking about.  If that is the case, why on earth did you ask for their help?


Sometimes we negate the ability for friends and family to help us because we are embarrassed.  Maybe we don’t really know what we want to do next.  Or maybe you have this crazy idea and don’t want them to think you have completely gone off the deep end.  So you keep it to yourself.


If job searching was easy you won’t need the help.  If you are not getting the results you want than odds are you need help.  Get over yourself and ask!  I have a wonderful support system, yet sometimes they can be a total pain in the rear when asking for help.


For example, if I am trying to fix something mechanical, electrical or structural in my house I know exactly who to ask.  He is an expert on these things and just happens to be my ex-husband – and one of my best friends.


This means he knows me very well.  If I need help with anything he is always there and always helps.  Recently, I had a bit of flooring work to do and asked for his help.  One of the first comments was something to the effect of “you think you know what you are doing but you don’t”.  It was not meant to be mean it was simply just a comment.  I just smiled and said I knew, that is why I was asking for his help.


I have learned to bite my tongue, remember it is not a personal jab, just a comment.  Let it go.  I also know that he will be very honest with me if I am doing something wrong and help me correct it because bottom line is he wants it done right and in my best interest.  So I learn to bob and weave the comments and sometimes, give a little jab back.


But he also gets me to see the bigger picture.  Maybe I could fix something my way, but it will cause problems for something else that I never even thought of.  I hate when that happens but that is why I ask him – because he can see the forest for the trees.


This is the person you personally know to help you.  If you have someone in your circle of friends that is honest, willing to give constructive criticism and you trust then ask them for help.  If the personal feelings are going to get in the way then don’t.


Ask for professional help.  We are not as scary as you think.


If nothing else there are plenty of career coaches or resume writers that will give you a critique of your resume.  Many for free – I do.  I think it important to give someone an objective viewpoint in order that they have the information they need to move forward.


One word of caution on the reviews – there are many sites out there that will give you a review and quite a lengthy one; read it carefully.


I have worked for national sites that offer these critiques and they are pretty much a standard format.  They give broad statements that make you feel like you have the worst thing penned to paper ever.  Wide reaching statements like “you have spelling and grammatical errors throughout the resume”.


Really?  Where?  I want to know you actually read it to point these things out.  Don’t fall for general statements that are scare tactics.


Whether it is a friend or professional assisting you ask questions!  Why do they think something needs to be changed?  What would they suggest and why in changing format, verbiage or anything else?


I want to know the whys.  Not just change this or do it this way but why.  What difference will it make or is it just something that they are saying to make themselves feel that they are adding value.


When you think you need help that is the time to ask.  But don’t just stop at asking for help, ask for clarification.  If their reasoning does not resonate with you then it is not a change you should make.  But you need to be willing to listen because maybe, just maybe, they are seeing something that you cannot and that could make all the difference.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW



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