How to Rock Your Resume (Even if You’re Unemployed)
Listing the wrong degree on his resume just cost Scott Thompson millions – and his job! The former CEO of Yahoo! resigned this weekend after several days of “should he stay or should he go” discussion among board members. Thompson’s resume listed a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Computer Science when it should have just listed a degree in Accounting. When inquiring minds sought to verify the information, it ultimately led to Thompson’s resignation.
Having the wrong degree listed on your resume may be a much smaller error than the $2B trading loss that led to Ina Drew’s resignation as Chief Investment Officer at JP Morgan Chase over the weekend – but the end result is the same: job loss.
Writing a resume that sells your skills and experience can be tricky – especially if you are unemployed, meet most but not all of the requirements for the job – and have less than 10 seconds of your potential employers’ attention as they scan through your resume. You need to stand out. You need to show what you can do. And you need to provide all of this information without misrepresenting your experience, skills, or training. It can be tricky.
To this end, here’s a crash course in how you can write your resume with accuracy and impact. Use these six strategies to make sure your resume stands up to scrutiny.
1. First things first: Start your resume with a short, tight summary that shows what you offer.
Start your resume with a concise header that includes key words relevant to the job – and a summary of how you fit those requirements. Here’s an easy way to find the right key words and a quick overview of how you can write a summary in three bullet points with what you need to include.
If the job is seeking specific technical skills and you have them – make sure you include this information in your resume summary.
2. Amp up your descriptions: Don’t just say what you did; say how your work was used!
One of the best ways to lose out on a potential job interview is to say exactly what you did on a job.
Here’s an example from my own work experience.
In a college internship, I edited a phone book and spent much of my day calling people to verify their phone number. Boring, right?
My supervisor helped me put this into perspective: The phone directory was actually the primary director for a Fortune 250 company – and I was one of two people who worked on it. Doesn’t “One of two fact checkers for global Fortune 250 phone directory” sound more impressive?
Even if you’re doing monotonous work with a high volume of routine tasks, the work can sound more exciting – and relevant to your next job – if you say how your work was used by the company, and what business impact that it made.
3. Mind the time gaps!
If you’ve been out of work for a while, it can be helpful to provide information on how you’ve used your time. (Just make sure any information shared is accurate and correct.)
If you’ve been volunteering, include this information in a “Volunteer” or “Leadership” section.
If you’ve taken time off to help a family member with an illness, add an “Additional Information” section and say “Caregiver” then list the dates – as if the Caregiving responsibility was a job…
If you’re unemployed, one way you can fill any gaps in employment is to become a consultant or freelance contractor – and list this on your resume. You may also want to consider starting your own business. Free resources on how to do this are available from several organizations, including Score and Small Business Development Centers located throughout the U.S.
4. Include as much education as you have!
Don’t have a college degree? Don’t beat yourself up – only 30.4% of all Americans have Bachelor’s degrees. A larger percentage of people have finished “some college.”
If you don’t have a degree but have attended college, you can list the school on your resume as well as details on what you studied – and indicate clearly that you did not graduate. Example:
Clemson University, Clemson, SC 2004 – 2007
Completed 17 classes towards a Bachelor of Science in Financial Management
Note that this does not list a graduation date – or say you earned a degree?
Before you list on your resume, verify the accuracy of any programs you list on your resume – don’t list a potential degree if you didn’t declare a major!
5. Be your own fact checker.
Who wants to lose a job on an error, incorrect date or other inaccuracy? No one! Verify your details as you apply for jobs.
If your school or company has changed names – list the one that is accurate for you when you were there and then the new name immediately after.
Dartmouth Medical School (now Theodore Geisel School of Medicine), Hanover, NH
If you can’t remember past dates, call up and verify them – as if you were applying for a job yourself.
6. Seek advice on what to say when you don’t know how to say it.
When in doubt, get a second opinion! If you feel awkward about how to say something, seek out others who have been in similar situations or ask individuals who won’t be in on the decision making process – before you apply. Find someone you trust and ask – you can do this through StartWire or on your own.
Follow these six tips and you’ll be on your way to mistake-proofing your resume. Got other questions? Run them by us in the Comments section – and we’ll get back to you!