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By Terry Lende, careers specialist

A solid, accomplishment-based resume is an important element of a successful job search. Your resume is your calling card. It is a reflection of you and how you can add value to a prospective employer.

In this article I will share a process to help you develop a powerful accomplishment-based resume that will put you in the 'follow-up' category, not the 'discard' one. First, a couple of general comments to keep in mind:

  • Everyone has a particular bias around the resume. If your resume gets the results you expect, then keep it as is.
  • You are more than a job description. Make sure your resume reflects this.
  • Your resume will not get you the job. It will however, get you the interview.
  • Be succinct. On average, the first visual scan of your resume takes around 25 seconds.
  • Do not end with 'references available upon request'. That's a given. And don’t include your date of birth, marital status/children or personal data.
  • Proof read, proof read, proof read. Don’t rely on spell check. 'From' and 'form' have two entirely different meanings!

An internet search will uncover multiple versions of resumes. Which one to use? Chances are if your resume looks like mine, I’ll tell you it’s a good resume. We all have biases.

It is generally agreed that you only have two pages maximum to hook the reader, and chances are they’ve already made up their mind if you are on the 'follow-up' list by the end of the first page.

When I review a resume, my mantra is: does it help, does it hinder, does it make a difference? If there isn’t a compelling reason to keep something in, delete it and use the space for another accomplishment or to allow for more white space on the page. So with that in mind:

Start with your contact information

Your address is optional. In most cases, I recommend you leave it out to reduce the possibility of identity theft. Use your mobile number rather your land line to ensure you never miss a call. Watch your email address, make sure it sounds professional and include your LinkedIn URL.

I don’t recommend career objectives 

That’s what your cover letter is for. And besides, everyone wants a position that recognizes your unique talents and gives you an opportunity to grow. Companies are not interested in what you want. They are, however, interested in what you can offer. So instead, consider using a profile. A profile is a written snap shot of you. If you only had four to five lines to tell someone about yourself, what would you say? Try to be as specific as you can. What are you known for? What particular skills do you have?

List your job history in chronological order

Feedback from industry indicates most employers agree with this approach. Employers want to know where you worked and for how long. If you make it too hard for the reader to find that information, they will move on to the next candidate.
Start with your most recent position and work backwards.

If you are a recent grad, include P/T and summer employment. Think about your coursework. What did you enjoy most? Did you excel in certain subject areas? Were you involved in class projects? Do you do volunteer work or have hobbies that speak to your accomplishments? Now is the time to develop a compelling message that clearly articulates your value to a potential employer. Begin with a brief job description and then list relevant accomplishments. Even if your work experience does not relate directly to the role, use accomplishments that demonstrate transferable skills such as work ethic, reliability, attention to detail, ability to learn a new skill. What are you proud of? What are your successes? How did your actions impact the business or company?

Education is next

Include any degrees and other significant education or training (i.e. coursework toward a not-yet completed degree, or a two-week leadership training course). Make sure you mention if you graduated with Honours, were on the Dean’s list, had a particular specialization or won any awards.

The final section (Interests) is optional

Use only if it can set you apart from other candidates by revealing insights into your character such as competitive marathon runner or volunteer adult literacy coach.

And that’s it! You now have the outline for a successful resume. Now it’s up to you to fill in the details!

More great career tips from Terry Lende:

Terry Lende is Vice President Professional Services & Operations with global talent mobility firm Lee Hecht Harrison, providing operational leadership for career transition services in Western Canada. She is an accomplished business leader with 25 years’ experience in program development, facilitation, client relationship management, training and coaching at all organizational levels.