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Job Fair Yields Cold Truths about Resumes

If you happened to catch Good Morning America on Wednesday, you know that hundreds of job seekers braved the bone-chilling cold of a pre-dawn New England winter morning to attend GMA's Great American Job Fair and Career Camp in Boston.  The event paired recruiters from a mix of Fortune 500 companies, medium-sized businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies with men and women looking for work in a wide range of disciplines.

I was invited to critique resumes at the job fair. For more than four hours, I came face to face with some of the pain caused by today’s recession, as I consulted with a steady stream of job seekers concerned about the "health" of their resumes.

After seeing dozens of resumes in that short space of time, here are three lessons I came away with:

  • Always Have a Professional Summary or Objective at the Top of Your Resume. Some of the resumes I reviewed didn’t have either; a few that did were vague. If you’re unemployed, I can’t overstress how important this is: To land a new job, you need to be as specific as possible with your summary or objective. Know what you want and be very aware of the value you bring to an employer. As I advised those whose resumes I critiqued: Write a personal “mission statement” or 30-second “elevator pitch.” Once you’ve got it nailed down, edit it to about half its length and use it as a “boilerplate” summary or objective. Then, adjust the wording to fit each job you apply for.
  • Volunteer Experience Counts. This came as a revelation to a handful of the people I met. If you’re looking for a different line of work, maybe in a different industry, think about anything you’ve done as a volunteer in your community, for a charity, or with a professional group or association. For instance, if you would like a sales position, but have little to no work experience in sales, it can make a difference if you did fundraising as a volunteer. How much you did or did not get paid is irrelevant if you have the skills.
  • Accomplishments over Duties. There were many resumes that listed the job seeker’s duties rather than what they accomplished or how they made a difference in their previous roles. If you generated more revenue for an employer, saved money, or made a process more efficient, say so, with numbers (e.g., “Generated $4 million in new revenue by recruiting 10 new clients.”) and list them above your duties and responsibilities. Other improvements might include streamlining an awkward process, improving customer satisfaction, reducing accidents, or any other result that helped the business.

Jobs are hard to come by in a recession. So, look for any way you can gain an edge over other candidates. Your resume is – first and foremost – a marketing document and you are the product. Make it easy to for employers to see that you are the product they need. With the added competition a recession generates, that's a cold, hard truth for an equally cold winter day.

What other lessons would you add to this list? Please add them below in a comment.

RELATED LINKS
You Can (and Should) Put Volunteer Work on a Resume
Resume Objective or Summary: You Need One, But Which?
Good and Bad Resumes: Want to See the Difference?

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