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Dana WilsonWriting your first resume isn’t fun. Whether it’s after you graduate high school, or a community or four-year college, it’s a tedious, time-consuming chore requiring thought and concentration.

It comes down to hard work. Considering that the average recruiter spends only seconds skimming resumes, grabbing a human resource or hiring manager’s attention long enough to trigger interest isn’t easy.

Think of your resume as your personal advertising/marketing tool. A compelling resume is a positive representation of you on paper. It should be a concise, well-written statement of your abilities. And it should tersely explain how your skills will benefit an organization. Great resumes succinctly sell job candidates.

Technology has dramatically changed the process of evaluating resumes. Two decades ago, resumes were snail-mailed to companies. In turn, organizations responded either negatively or positively by mail. Fantastic resumes often elicited an immediate positive phone response.

Today, the resume-evaluation process has been streamlined for speed and efficiency.  Most resumes are e-mailed or completed online, and scanned by a computer’s applicant tracking system software that searches for key words, which are traits, skills and abilities employers are looking for. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) dramatically speeds the candidate-sorting process, while at the same time identifying qualified candidates. If the software fails to pick up the key words it’s searching for, candidates are out of the race.  Most often, these resumes are never seen by a human being.

If you want to land great jobs and build a career, learn to write compelling resumes that markets your abilities and immediately establishes you as a candidate worth hiring. Get used to the idea that you’ll be writing many resumes throughout your career, and constantly updating them as you move up the career ladder.

Here are helpful resume-writing tips:

Do your homework. Prior to writing a first draft, talk to professionals in your field to find out what employers want to see in a resume.

Use a chronological format. List only jobs, in chronological order, that best sell your abilities and strengths.

Write a succinct objective. Ideally, it should be an employer’s essential job requirements in six words or less.

List strongest skills. These are the skills you enjoy as well as mastered.

Mention accomplishments on prior jobs (part-time or summer). If possible, highlight accomplishments with comparative numbers or statistics.

Use plain English. Avoid jargon, buzzwords or tech-speak.

Double-check grammar and spelling. Don’t rely on your software’s spell-check. It’s not infallible.

Do not include irrelevant personal information. Only include information relevant to the job you’re applying for. Membership in a poetry club, for example, is only relevant if you’re applying for a job with a book publisher.

Avoid resume prototypes or templates. Create your own resume from scratch. You stand a better chance of standing out from the crowd.

Seek feedback. It’s hard to be totally objective about your resume. Ask a professional or a career counselor to critique it. Chances are he’ll spot problems or suggest changes that will strengthen and improve your resume. Keep an open mind so that you’re always receptive to constructive criticism.

Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.

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