1. Clear Out the Clutter
Instead of a laundry list of job responsibilities and daily tasks, focus your resume on how you've solved problems for employers, says Donald Burns, executive career coach at Executive Promotions, LLC. "These success stories are one of the most important elements of a resume. You not only need to show results you've accomplished for employers, but be sure to show the context, especially if these results were achieved under less-than-ideal conditions. It's not about the quantity of information you present, it's about telling your career story through your achievements and results, says Burns.
2. Know Your Audience
One of the keys to good writing, even resume writing, is tailoring the message to your audience, according to Stephen Van Vreede, executive solutions architect at IT Tech Exec, a career management, resume and job search firm, but when the subject is you, and you're writing your own resume, even professional writers can get stymied. "The most important element in a resume, to me, is considering your audience. Even with an impressive list of employers, contract projects and successful consulting work, not to mention glowing references and testimonials, there's no way you'll be considered if your audience isn't getting the message," says Van Vreede.
Van Vreede advises candidates to ask themselves, "Who is going to read this resume, and what do they expect to see? Is the message you're conveying resonating with the intended audience? If the answer is 'not quite,' it can signal that your resume needs a revision that will resonate with recruiters, hiring managers and HR professionals," Van Vreede says.
3. Tell a Compelling Personal Story
Developing a personal brand based on your own career story is critical to avoid what career expert, Donald Burns calls "all bland and no brand."
"I see this type of resume so often that I had to invent a shorthand description for it; with these resumes, I have no idea on first glance what candidates are looking for or what they're really good at," Burns says.
He advises candidates to dig deeper and to find a story within their work history and experience that will make their career narrative more interesting and engaging for potential employers.
4. Use Sales Tactics to Sell Yourself
The most important element in a sales resume are metrics like sales figures, number of deals closed, revenue targets achieved and so on. "What's needed is clarification on important details; metrics regarding performance. If you're in sales, and your performance measured on sales results, you need to include some numbers," says Ross Macpherson, president of Career Quest and an expert in advanced career strategies.
Without these metrics, Macpherson says, there isn't a way to differentiate youself from other candidates with similar backgrounds and experience. "If the content included under each position only focuses on your responsibilities, you're missing the chance to 'sell' not just what you've done, but how well you did it - that's critical in sales," Macpherson says.
5. Keep Your Resume Fresh and Updated
At least once a year, make time to review and refresh your resume, says Caitlin Sampson, CHRP, CPRW, CEIP and Career Consultant with Regal Resumes. You should revisit the document's formatting, make sure all information about current and past employers and responsibilities is correct and add any new skills, experience or knowledge you've gained over the last twelve months.
You also should remove any work experience that's more than 10 to 15 years old and toss any work experience that's not relevant to the positions for which you're currently applying. "If you worked at a grocery store for three months 22 years ago, you don't need to include that information," says Sampson. And don't forget to proofread. A few missed commas or misspelled words may not seem like a big deal, Sampson says. To a hiring manager or employer, however, these details can make a huge difference. If you're not certain, have a friend or colleagues take a peek and make sure to accept and incorporate their feedback.
6. Don't Sell Yourself Short
There's a time and a place for modesty and humility -- your resume isn't one of them, according to Cheryl Lynch-Simpson, executive career coach and resume expert with Executive Resume Rescue. "If your resume is too generic, it's going to get lost in a sea of almost identical content that could be true of any candidate seeking similar roles," Lynch-Simpson says.