Resume action words

You’ve heard it over and over again – a well-written resume is a winning resume. What does that mean? How can you determine whether your resume is written in a tone and style that employers will respond to? Synthesizing your educational achievements, years of your professional experience, and numerous qualifications you have acquired over the years into one to two pages is not easy to accomplish. Every phrase or statement you write has to convince your potential employer that you are the best candidate for the job. To do so, you will need to use action or power word.

Action words, or power words, are keywords (verbs) that add strength and positive implication to your job responsibilities or qualifications. When you submit your resume to your potential employer, there are two scenarios that will occur. One, your application will be ran through a computer software program, which searches your resume for key terms as indicated by the employer. If your resume contains those key words, your resume will be pulled aside for further review. Two, a hiring manager, or most often a human resources associate, will receive a stack or resumes and scan through them quickly to pick out those that stand out the most, again based on certain key words. It should now be clear why these action words are critical to your success in job hunting.

When listing your employment history, each job’s responsibilities should be listed in bullet point form, with each statement starting with an action word. Using power verbs or phrases will indicate to your employer that you are driven by action and results, and that you can effectively articulate your professional experience (thus, showcasing your communication skills).

Here is a small sample of action words:

– created

– developed and implemented

– managed

– delivered

– designed

– facilitated

– negotiated

– coordinated

– budgeted

– acted

– communicated

– consulted, etc.

This is a very short sampling of action words. Many resources on the Internet contain extensive listings of action words or phrases. Do some research and use only those terms that are relevant to your field of experience. Your best bet would be to locate samples of resumes by professionals in your industry. Review those resumes for ideas on how to list your responsibilities. Important note: do not copy exact statements from someone else’s resume; while you can do your research, you will want to make your resume personalized to your professional experience.

Don’t fall into the trap of using the same action word over and over. If you have in fact managed multiple projects, you may want to be a bit more specific about your role in each. For example, maybe you were the communication liaison in one project, while you were the project manager for another task. Begin the first bullet point with “communicated,” and the second bullet point with “managed.” However, be aware of the words that you are using and consider their value in your resume. Do not go overboard with using varying terms, especially those that may change your role or your responsibilities.

Additionally, you can find key action words in job descriptions. Review your resume against a job description and make sure that all required qualifications are addressed in your statements. This will also help you identify action words that the employer uses, which you can in turn use to customize your resume or cover letter to that specific job.

Always make sure that you are consistent in the way you list all of your responsibilities and qualifications, and make sure that your statements exude positive attitude and focus on actions and results. By doing so, you are guaranteed to create a winning resume that will get you noticed.

Hobbies and interests – is there a place for them on your resume?

There are two types of resumes: chronological and functional. As its name implies, a chronological resume is one that lists your experience and education in order, starting with the most recent jobs or achievements. This type of resume is sometimes also referred to as reverse chronological resume, because the order of the listing starts with your current employment. Functional resumes focus on your qualifications, not your career timeline. This style of the resume highlights what skills you have, rather than where and when you acquired or utilize them. In other words, instead of listing your experiences by your job titles, your resume will contained sections titled by your skills such as verbal and written communication, customer satisfaction, project management, etc.

The functional resume style is recommended for college students seeking internships or their first jobs out of college, for those with no professional experience, those who have not worked for some time, or for career changers. This resume style allows you to reference your hobbies and interests in a way that apply to your career objective only; listing hobbies and interests outside of your career objective is not recommended as it doesn’t promote you as a professional in any way.

Any time you are composing a resume, it is important to keep in mind your career objective. You want to present yourself in a best possible light to your potential employer. Thus, the information on your resume has to answer one question: Why are you the best candidate for the job?

The biggest mistake people make on their resumes is including information that is not related to their professional experience. Facts pertaining to your volunteer positions, community work, interests and hobbies that disclose your race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or any personal descriptors that do not directly impact your professional performance must be excluded from your resume. The functional resume does not require you to list names or organizations you have worked or volunteered for; thus, you can list the experience you have acquired there without potentially disclosing any demographic information. Additionally, don’t create a separate section on your resume for hobbies and interests. This is typically seen as amateur, and gives your resume less credibility.

Listing hobbies and interests as they apply to the position you are applying for should be done under specific functional sections. For example, if you are seeking a position in graphic design, and have samples of work that you have done as a hobby, indicate this fact on your resume or in your cover letter. If your hobbies are related to the type of work you are seeking utilize them to your advantage. If you have read books or completed seminars at the community center that are applicable to your job, make a mention of them. Any employer will welcome the opportunity to have you demonstrate the qualifications that make you a perfect candidate for the job.

As a final step, have a friend review your resume, or if you are a college student, seek assistance from a career center at your school. Having another person review your resume will help uncover any items that may raise questions about your experience or education, as well as address if the inclusion of your hobbies and interests works to support your career objective. Perfecting your resume will assure that you show your potential employer that you are the best candidate for the job.

Quantifying your resume

The most difficult and time consuming section of any resume is the listing of your work experience, no matter the level you have reached in your professional career. The key is to consider your career objective and prioritize your work in accordance to your goals.

Your professional experience should not only showcase the activities you have done in your previous jobs, but should demonstrate your qualifications in the way that motivates employers to want to know more. Of course, we are referring to results, any tangible, measurable items that are impacting to the bottom line. Let your employers know that your project came within budget, that you exceeded the timeline, that you acquired X number of new customers, or that you increased sales by a double-digit percentage. Employers can wrap their minds around numbers, because they are focused on them daily. You want to let your potential employer know that you can think in the same way they do and that you take results into serious consideration as your perform your job on day-to-day basis.

To get started with your work history, begin each description with a power word, such as managed, developed, communicated, etc. Do some research and use only the power words and phrases that are appropriate for your industry. Make sure that the statements you list first under your job responsibilities quantify your achievements – don’t be afraid to list sales figured, customer acquisition rates, budget and timeline successes, or any other figures which help put your responsibilities in a context of the business/field you are working in. Be specific. The only way your statements are truly quantified is if you include numbers. Saying that you acquired new customers is significantly different from saying that you increased the customer database by 10%. As mentioned above, this is the most critical aspect of listing your job descriptions on your resume. Your employer wants to know not only what you did, but how well you did it. Also, these statements should be aligned with your career objective you included at the top of the resume. If you want to get a job in project management, letting your employer know that you managed a team of 20 people and the overall results you achieved will effectively highlight your qualifications. It is important to quantify your job description statements on your resume; however, as a word of caution, do not quantify all statements, just one or two that are most critical to your job and are goal driven. This shows your employer that you think in terms of exceeding your goals. All subsequent descriptions of your responsibilities should support the first one or two items on your list.

As a final test, put yourself in the shoes of your employer. Cross-check the job description and make sure that you address the qualifications required for the job with the information on your resume. Let your potential employer know you have what they are looking for, and you’ll be sure to make a great impression.

Transferable skills – what they are and how to demonstrate them in your resume?

People put a lot of thought into changing careers. After all, it is one of the more important decisions one can make. We have to consider our families, our living and financial situations, our competitive advantage in the new field, etc. Making a career change typically means starting with a blank canvas; while you have the freedom to paint that canvas any which way you wish, you have to invest time, energy, make sacrifices and prove yourself as a credible professional in your new field. You have to be competitive, and motivated, and sustain the drive that is necessary to be successful. After you convince yourself that changing careers is the right thing to do, you will have to convince your potential employers to give you the job you are seeking.

To do so, you have to do your research. Demonstrate to your employer that you have an extensive knowledge of the industry, even if you don’t have the accompanying experience. Before you begin your new career, make sure that you understand what professional paths are available for you, and determine what your ultimate goal is. This will help you form the career objective for your resume. Additional, make sure to do your research on the company you are interested in, as well as their competition (if you are interested in non-profit organizations, make sure to brush up on other organizations with similar missions); if invited for an interview, you will want to appear very knowledgeable not only about their company, but about the industry as a whole. You will have to convince your potential employer that you the best person for the job, better than the candidates with experience – to do that, you have to showcase not only your enthusiasm for the opportunity, but your eagerness to learn and your knowledge about the field.

Transferable skills, those skills that can be utilized in numerous fields, are also a key to a successful career change. Consider your qualifications to date. What experience have you acquired that can be transferred across industries? Transferable skills include verbal and written communication, people management, customer relations, organization and project management, development of new processes, generation of new ideas or concepts, etc. Such skills can be adapted to all organizations, and you should utilize them to showcase your qualifications for the job you are seeking. For example, if you would like to ditch the 9-to-5 desk job for a hectic, unpredictable life of a high school teacher, let your potential employer know that your previous experience in leading by motivation makes you a perfect candidate for the job (even if that marketing project you managed has nothing to do with teaching English composition). Making a list of all your professional experiences and the qualifications needed for the job you are seeking will help you in determining which skills are transferable to your new career. Once you define your transferable skills, use a functional resume to assure most (if not all) of the qualifications needed for the new job are met in your resume.

In addition to your resume, use your cover letter or email to let your potential employer know why you are changing careers, and that your new interest is not a passing one. Make sure that your resume reflects your newfound interest in a genuine and professional manner, and you are sure to have a successful career change.

Resume review – asking and getting help

Writing a resume is a process of self-discovery in many ways. You have to market yourself to your potential employer, which is a very difficult task because we have to walk the fine line of objectivity and self-promotion.

Your resume must summarize your educational achievements, professional experience, and qualification in a way that best meets your career objective. Composing your entire professional history on one or two pages can be time consuming; thus, we sometimes spend hours and days writing and re-writing our resumes in order to perfect the content and the format before it reaches our potential employer. However, after looking at the same content over and over, it becomes easy for us to miss very simple typos or grammar errors, or even poorly written statements that may raise questions in the eyes of the hiring manager. Before posting your resume on job search web sites, or submitting it to companies you are interested in, it is in your best interest to have someone else review it. This can be a scary thought – while you may want help and feedback from your friend, you are concerned they will dislike something aesthetic and you’ll feel the pressure to make formatting changes. And since you have already spent a lot of time on your resume, you don’t want to have to start over.

Since you know you can benefit from having someone else review your resume, the key is to set some boundaries and goals for that review. Ask about specific things that are of the concern to you – if you know that grammar isn’t your strength, ask your friends to proofread the content. If you have gaps in your work history, ask your friend to act as a potential employer and review the resume and cover letter together. Do they have any questions about your work history, or have you addressed everything in your cover letter? Accept feedback about content, but make sure that your friends are raising valid questions about the statements you are making. If they suggest that you change an action word, can they give you a valid reason behind the change, or is the reasoning based on their personal preference? Don’t get into an argument over formatting – do your research ahead of time and know what the acceptable resume style is for your field. It is also beneficial that you have more than one additional person review your resume before you send it to your potential employers. This helps you in recognizing if the feedback is based on personal preferences or professional concerns. Ideally, the person you ask for help has experience in your field, and can help assure that the action words or phrases you have chose are appropriate for your industry and position level.

If you are unsure that you are even on the right track with your resume, and you feel that the research you have done is overwhelming and not helpful, seek assistance from a professional resume writing service. A professional resume writer should be able to help guide you in the right direction, revise your current resume or create a new resume for you. Make sure that the professional you are working with can provide you with references and samples, and that they are versed in writing resumes for professionals in your field of work. While this option requires you paying for someone’s assistance, it can prove to be a more beneficial one in the long run.

You can always serve as your own resume editor. Step away from your resume for a while; give yourself some time, usually a day or two, between writing the resume and reviewing it. This allows you to be more objective as you review the final draft of your resume, because you are not as intimately involved with it at the moment of review (the way you would be immediately after completing the draft).

No matter what option of review you chose, make sure that you do in fact review your resume before submitting it to your potential employer. You don’t want your hiring manager catching your mistakes, do you? A well-written, error-free resume is more likely to get you noticed, and get you the job that you want.

Why you need a resume even if you own your own business

As a business owner, you may think that having an up-to-date resume is not as important as it would be if you were actively seeking a new job. However, having an updated resume is critical for any professional, even if you are not looking for a job. Small business owners should have an updated resume in order to be able to share their professional experience with potential investors, vendors, clients, etc.

If you have a viable business idea and are looking to start your own business, it is important that you have a very well written, polished, professional resume. You will need to use your resume, along with your business plan, in order to gain investment opportunities for your business and gets started. Your resume should be written as if you are applying to be a business owner of the organization you wish to start. While this may sounds silly, as you would of course be working for yourself, it is important to show your investors that you have professional experience to run the business you are proposing. Your qualifications, career goals, education and prior experience should all be aligned with your business venture.

Once you have started your own business, you will come in contact with vendors, independent contractors, and clients who will want to know what you are about before they decide to do business with you. While you can promote your business through a web site, or other advertising mediums, if you are new to what you do, people will want to know about you. To help assure then in your abilities, you can use a resume to let them know of your qualifications. You can use the same resume for your vendors or clients as you used you’re your investors. Keep in mind that any financial goals pertaining to the business, that may be necessary for your investors, should never appear on the resume or personal letter you send to your clients or business partners. Your professional summary should be changed to show how you would service your clients or your vendors; a statement about client satisfaction would be necessary in a resume you are to share with your clients, for example.

Additionally, as a small business owner, you may have an opportunity to branch out into another business, start a new location of your existing business, partner with another company, or even have an opportunity to go work for a larger company in your field. In each of these scenarios, you may need an up-to-date resume highlighting your professional and entraprenureal experience. It is best to have a prepared resume, and keep updating it or customizing it for specific audiences as necessary. Avoid finding yourself in a position of not having a resume when requested, or having to develop a resume from a blank page in a short period of time. This exposes you to appearing unprofessional, and not representing yourself or your business in a professional and serious light. Thus, you will want to have a well-written and a well-formatted resume even if you own your own business; marketing yourself well, in addition to marketing your business well, will assure your success as a business owner.

Reviewing your final resume – what to look for and who to ask for help

One of the most commonly made mistakes in resume writing that many professionals make is not taking the time to proofread the document before sending it to the potential employer. While writing a resume is a time consuming process, not reviewing your final document with fresh eyes may cause your resume to end up in a recycling bin. To assure that all your efforts are not wasted, make sure that you take the following three steps to assure your resume is in top shape before it reaches your potential employer.

1. Proofread the content for grammar and spelling mistakes. This step is the most critical in the resume review process. It is often hard to catch composition errors after you send hours writing and re-writing all parts of your resume. There are two ways to catch these errors: ask someone else to proof your resume, or give yourself time between writing and reviewing your resume. If you ask a friend or a family member for help, make sure that their strengths include spelling and grammar; they should be able to edit your resume for content and consistency in style. Asking others to review your resume, however, should be done with parameters. For example, let your friend know what you are struggling with, so that they can help you address those concerns. Because personal preferences can come into play when you are discussing resumes, make sure that the changes you make are the kind you are comfortable with in terms of content. Another step in proofreading, which should be thought of as a must, is stepping away from your resume for a day or two, and coming back to it for a final review. This gives you some space from the content, and will allow you to review for grammar and spelling errors with fresh eyes.

2. Print our and email your resume so that you know what your potential employer will receive after you submit your resume. Make sure to print your resume from the file that you are emailing to your employer. Make sure that the margins are set properly and are not cutting off any content. Look for spaces, and adjust the text in case of any large gaps on the paper. E-mail your resume to a number of your friends; have them open the file and let you know how it appears on their screen, as well as how it prints out. Addressing any formatting issues before your resume reaches the employer is ideal, so doing a couple of test runs will only assist in developing a winning final resume.

3. Compare your resume to the job requirements, and make sure that all requirements are addressed in either your resume or your cover letter. Essentially, review what the employer is looking for and make sure that your resume addresses all of their needs. When your potential employer receives your resume, they will look for key terms from their job description in order to match your qualifications to their available position. If possible, use some of the same terminology on your resume as the employer used on the job description. This will let the employer know that you are in synch with their needs, and make them more interested in you as the ideal candidate for the job. Ask one of your friends to review the job description and your resume as well, and give you their impression on how well the two match.

Poorly written or formatted resumes let your employer know that you don’t pay any attention to detail. Taking the extra time to do a final review of your resume is the key to getting employer’s attention and getting the job you always wanted.

Qualifications – what do employers look for?

When applying for jobs, it is important that you read through the job description thoroughly before submitting your application. A lot of what employers are actually looking for in their potential associate is written right in the job description and requirements. In fact, you should review your resume against the requirements listed in order to make sure you have covered everything the employer is looking for. If you can address all the requirements by the information in your resume or in your cover letter, you will be on the right track for getting the job.

However, there is a whole list of skills employers look for that are never spelled out in the job description. These skills are typically referred to as employability skills, which are skills beyond your technical knowledge and qualifications that make you a great professional in your field. Don’t panic, you already have employability skills, you just may not think of them as critical for getting a job.

The employability skills have been grouped in eight categories:

• Communication skills

• Teamwork skills

• Problem-solving skills

• Initiative and enterprise skills

• Planning and organizing skills

• Self-management

• Learning skills

• Technology skills

Now that you have read the categories, you are thinking to yourself, yes, I have those skills. But did you ever think to list them on the resume? Most people focus on their professional achievements and responsibilities, and they often skip these skills in favor of those that are job specific. However, more and more employers look for these skills in resumes. Your potential employer wants to know that you are a team player, that you communicate well, and will show initiative when needed. While you may think this is implied by your interest in the available position, employers like to see these skills called out on your resume or cover letter.

The best way to demonstrate these skills is through your experience and under your qualifications. Point out the initiatives you have participated in that required you to work in a team, under a deadline, or as a self-starter. Demonstrate your loyalty through pointing out your accomplishments at an organization and how they benefited your team as a whole (not just you). You can showcase the employability skills in your cover letter by openly showing your enthusiasm for the available position, stating your commitment to your career objective, indicating your motivation and your integrity, and showing that you are above all un-selfish and credible. These skills are just as critical to your ability to do a great job as your professional experience and education – employers are looking for someone who will be a great fit on their team and in their organization, someone who works well under pressure but also has a sense of humor and has a balance between their personal and professional life.

Review your existing resume. Does it contain any employability skills? If not, make revisions to incorporate those employability skills you feel you excel in. If you are unsure, ask your friends or family for an objective opinion, so that you can get a better idea of how people around you see you as a person as well as a professional. Keep these attributes in mind as you compose your resume and your cover letter, and especially as you are taking part in interviews. These skills can make a difference between knowing how to do a job and being qualified to exceed goals and grow in your career.

Printed resume – dos and don’ts

As professionals, we rely on the Internet to search for jobs and on e-mail to apply for them. We create our resumes and cover letters to fit the electronic format, so it is not a surprise that having to print out a resume can result in concerns and mistakes.

First, let’s discuss when a printed resume is needed. While you are completing numerous job applications online, you still need to have a printed resume to bring on an interview with you. You also must keep in mind that it is very likely your potential employer will print out your resume from a job search web site or from the message you sent expressing your interest in the job. Thus, it is very important that you print out a test copy before submitting your resume to employers to assure the layout is what you want it to be.

As a rule, when printing out your resume, make sure to use white or ivory paper. You can get a stack of resume paper at any office supplies store. You will want your resume to appear as clean and professional. Do not use color paper, or change the color of the font in order to make your resume stand out; your employer will find this unprofessional and childish, which is not the first impression you want to make. If your resume is longer than one page, print out multiple pages. Don’t print on the front and the back of a single page; rather, include headings in your resume file, indicating page numbers and print each page on its own sheet of paper. You should not have any handwriting on your resume; make sure that page numbers are in fact printed along with the rest of the resume content.

Make sure that you let your resume sit on the printer for a few moments before picking it up. This will help you avoid smudging the ink of the paper, especially if you are using an Ink Jet printer. You want to assure that the resume doesn’t have any smudging, stains, or crumpling when you are handing it to your potential employer. First impressions are important – you don’t want yours to be that of someone who is sloppy and careless.

When going in for an interview, you should bring multiple copies of your resume with you. Some people think this is not necessary because your potential employer already has your resume. This is a common misconception. You should always have several copies of your resume printed out and with you when at an interview. Often times, the hiring manager may ask another associate to meet you during the interviewing process, and he/she may not have a copy of your resume. Having extras makes you look professional, prepared and organized, which helps you set your best foot forward. Additionally, it is helpful that the copy of the resume you bring in for an interview has a complete list of references. You can include the references directly on your resume (typically at the bottom of the page), or you can include a separate sheet of paper with the list. The first option is preferred, because it provides the employer with all of the critical information about you in one place. Including your references preempts the employer from asking you for this information; it also shows that you are seriously interested in the available position.

Having a well-formatted, clean and professional resume will only help you make a great first impression, and help you get the job you are truly interested in.

What to do when your job title doesn’t match your job responsibilities

A friend of mine asked for my help recently in composing her resume. She works as an Office Manager for a small business. In her role, she assumes all responsibilities of an Office Manager. In addition, she partners with the company owner to set policies, works with freelancers on marketing materials, serves as a liaison between vendors and shipping service companies, and conducts calls for sales leads that are collected at trade shows. In other words, her title doesn’t encompass all of her job responsibilities. Several potential employers have in fact had concerns about the difference in her title and her overall position in the company, wondering if she had exaggerated her responsibilities on her resume.

Many professionals run into situations where the title they have at their current job is so specific to the company that it carries no meaning outside of the organization, or it implies that they are a level or more below their actual work responsibilities. The difficulty we face in these situations is accurately accounting for our professional experience on our resume in order to advance in our careers. There is no easy way to address this as you want to remain truthful on your resume; you wouldn’t want your potential employer calling for a reference check and getting an impression you lied about your work history, do you?

There is a debate among professionals about listing job titles versus job functions on your resume. Some people prefer listing their title as it is, followed by a list of responsibilities, while others strongly prefer finding a way to rephrase your title to encompass your job function(s). The best option, however, is to find a happy medium and list your job title along with a few words that describe your job function, before you begin listing your job responsibilities.

First, let’s explore making changes to the job titles as you include them on your resume. If your title unusual, or very specific to the organization, you should try to find an equivalent title that is well accepted and understood within your industry. For example, if you work as a customer support representative supporting a specific product and your title contains the product name, you can simply list Product Support Representative on your resume. However, be careful not to exaggerate your title. Do not change your title so that it implies change in responsibility or salary level; do not change the area of the organization where you work, or change your title in a way that suggest you are directly reporting to a person in a higher position than that of your manager. Any such changes on your resume are dishonest, and will negatively impact your credibility with your potential employer.

If your title implies less responsibility than you hold, chose the middle ground option described above. List your actual title on your resume. For example, if you are a Product Support Representative but are also responsible for training new hires for your team, list your title as follows: Product Support Representative/Customer Support and New Hire Training. All you are doing here is elaborating on your job title by including a brief description of your job function. Following this title, make sure that your resume includes power statements describing your actual job responsibilities, in order of their importance and relevance to your career title. This method is preferred because you are honest about your title, but you are also indicating to your employer that your responsibilities are slightly different than what the title implicates. When background checks and reference calls are conducted, you will not have to worry about misrepresenting your title, or causing raised questions about your credibility. Above all, your resume must be honest. Do the best you can to remain objective when it comes to your job titles and functions – focus on the positives, and you are sure to have a winning resume.