Resume Fixes

How to fix common flaws in your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Posted Dec 03, 2019

FreeSVG, Public Domain
Source: FreeSVG, Public Domain

A few seconds. That’s all your resume and LinkedIn will probably get before the employer or recruiter decides to read on or press “delete.” So you better make the most of those few seconds.

Many of my clients come in with a resume that doesn't. Here’s how they fixed their resumes, and how you can fix yours.

Many of their resumes had no headline, summary, or highlights. Your resume must have a headline plus a summary or highlights at the resume's top, and they need to be customized for each job you apply for and for each networking contact to whom you send your resume.

What should be in the headline, summary, or highlights? Your guiding principle should be, “While being honest, will this phrase or sentence make that specific employer more likely to hire me or that networking contact to recommend me enthusiastically?”

For example, let’s say your target job is an organizational psychologist, and you’re answering an ad that stresses the importance of expertise in employee selection. A weak headline, not likely to levitate your application to the top of the pile, would be “Experienced Organizational Psychologist.” Many applicants for that job likely could say at least that.

A little better would be “Highly Rated Organizational Psychologist.” But better still would be, if true, “Highly Rated Organizational Psychologist, Employee Selection." And if not true, you probably shouldn't be applying for that job.

Similarly, your summary or highlights section needs to be customized. Choose a summary over highlights if your most impressive highlights can be placed into a logical narrative of 25-50 words. If not, have a highlights section, which lists three one-line bullets.

Resumes and LinkedIn profiles are often first searched by software that screens for keywords. So, as usual, put yourself in the employer’s shoes: What keywords would s/he likely enter into that software? For the aforementioned job, it might be “simulations,” “assessment,” "structured interview,” “cognitive ability,” “drug testing,” and more general terms, like “promoted,” “successful,” or the names of universities with a high-quality organizational development training program. To the extent you honestly can, weave those into your resume and cover letter. I’ve seen resumes that at the bottom say, “Keywords,” and list a dozen. Nope—integrate them.

Tip: Often, online application forms don’t have a place for a cover letter or collateral material, such as a work sample. A workaround is to insert the cover letter at the beginning of the file containing your resume and append the collateral material at the end of the file.

For each of your previous jobs, you need two to four bullets describing your accomplishments or key skills. Those, too, need to be customized or at least placed in order of likely impressiveness to the specific recipient.

Alas, all that customization isn’t possible in a LinkedIn profile. There, you have to aim for the middle: the kind of job that balances your preferences with the kind of job for which employers are most likely to select your resume. What you should do in a LinkedIn profile that is considered inappropriate in a resume is to include a headshot.

I recommend not using a professional photographer: Too often, their professional wallpaper backdrop, Photoshopping, and your not appearing natural argue for your having your friend take your picture. Just wear what you’d wear on the target job that makes you feel confident and comfortable. Practice some smiles in front of a mirror until you find one you think would make the target employer want to interview you. Then practice that smile until muscle memory enables to you reproduce it at will. Then, have your friend take a couple dozen shots in a well-lit location, no shadows, and voila—Your picture may indeed be worth 1,000 words.

Time well spent

Some job seekers spend tens of hours on their resume and LinkedIn profile, perhaps because it's less stressful than networking. Wiser to take just a few hours to create a master resume and LinkedIn profile using this article's tips. Then turn to networking and to customizing your resume and cover letter. That should help you land a job faster. 

I read this aloud on YouTube.