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What Employers Want to See on Your Resume

December 17th, 2009

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Your resume is usually the first impression a hiring organization gets of you, and since hundreds of resumes might cross their desk in any given month, it needs to be sharp, informative and to-the-point. Here we will discuss the sort of things hiring bodies (or their electronic scanners) will be looking for on your resume.

First of all, they will want to see a straightforward objective, reinforced in both the cover letter and the top of the resume. Don't dance around the idea of what you want. It should look something like this: "My objective is to become the [position title] at [company name]." You only need to carry the objective forward one more sentence, to leave room for the information that really matters. Leave all other clever and creative content for your cover letter.

Employers will want to see your most recent work experience, not your first job pumping gas at the local convenience store. This helps you limit your resume to 1-2 pages (anything longer and it won't get read). You may also want to omit jobs that are not relevant to the position — after all, your part-time bartending job last fall may not be of interest for the entry-level accounting position for which you are applying.

The work experience section of your resume is no place for paragraphs; put your experience in more easily-digestible bullet points for quick skimming. Instead of emphasizing your mundane responsibilities, highlight your skills, accomplishments and any recognition you received on the job. Hiring agents will be interested in short sound bites, e.g., "increased sales by 15 percent" and "employee of the quarter for 2009" or "received excellent reviews." Use strong verbs like "managed" and "organized," even if all you "managed" was a cash register and all you "organized" was your workspace.

The most golden words and phrases you can include in your resume are "strong communication skills," "works well with others/teamwork," and "leadership skills." Try to incorporate them.

Employers will want to see that you completed a degree. This shows them that you are capable of finishing out what you started. Only include your GPA if it was above 3.5. Explain in brief bullet points any extracurricular activities in college that demonstrated your leadership skills.

Finally, don't be afraid to include a short bit about your hobbies. You never know what tidbit about yourself — from cycling to scrapbooking to volunteering — will strike a chord with the hiring agent.

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