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Your resume should communicate vital information to a potential employer, but how do you know if yours is up to par and will compete with other resumes?

Consider your resume an example of the quality of work you will produce on a company's behalf. Take the time to make sure that your resume is perfect in all the details that make a difference to those who read it.

Today's hiring managers have stacks of applications to get through quickly, so job seekers need to make each moment count when presenting themselves to prospective employers. While every candidate wants to give a thorough picture of accomplishments and skills, is it necessary to go back to the very beginning when presenting one's job history.

Never put anything negative on your resume. Don't include your reasons for leaving. If you left the position due to a layoff or you were fired, for example, bring it up only if asked. Never write anything bad about a previous employer. Don't explain gaps on your resume by stating unnecessary information. Keep your resume all positive, all the time.

Employers are trying to determine whether you're a good fit for their organizations, so everything on your resume should point to your experience. Employers would rather see a summary of qualifications that displays your accomplishments and background than a generic objective statement like "To gain experience in..."

Consider the following points while writing the resume:

Content standards

Writing style: Always write in the active, not passive, voice. Phrases to avoid: Do not use "responsible for" or "duties included," which are passive.

Presentation standards

Font: Use a clean, conservative, easy-to-read font. Some suggestions include Tahoma, Arial and Verdana.

Type size: 10- to 12-point fonts are generally easy to read.

Accuracy and perfection

Your resume must be well-written, visually pleasing and free of any errors, typographical mistakes, misspellings

Focus on achievement

Finally, remember that you are trying to show why you are the best person for this job. Presenting your most relevant skills and your greatest accomplishments is vital.

The Key to Getting an Interview

  • You only have one chance to make a good first impression.
  • Fill your resume with facts that jump out at the recruiter. "Avoid empty boasts that can't be quantified,"
  • You've got to show how you've contributed to a company's bottom line and how you've added value.
  • Don't make your resume into a novel. One to two pages are best. Three pages max
  • Since the call can come at anytime, candidates should to be ready beforehand by practicing what you might say in a calm and confident voice.

Today's job seeker is on a steep learning curve to successfully launch and sustain a career search process. But focusing upon one's career, skills, abilities and goals is not enough. The key issue to address is the company goals and job specs. At each step of the resume/phone screen/interview process, the job seeker is challenged to integrate the job specifications with his/her core competencies, fully demonstrating the connectivity between their skills and company needs. Doing so effectively enables the job seeker to get the "spaces between the notes" right and greatly increase the potential for success in the interview/selection process.

Writing a resume is a lot like hitting the gym: It requires initiative, energy and dedication, and, at times, it can be daunting. In the long run, however, the hard work pays off and allows you to put your best foot forward with prospective employers.

The hiring process can be opaque, but one thing is clear: A well-written, targeted resume gives you the best chance of being called for an interview and, ultimately, landing the position you desire. Before you submit your next application, think like a hiring manager to ensure your resume doesn't get lost in the crowd.

You want to focus on the words most likely to be used by a HR administrator, hiring manager or recruiter. They search resumes by keywords. The greater number of relevant keywords you can include, the higher relevancy score your resume will be given.

The idea here is to put in as many relevant, searchable keywords that describe your potential job title, technical skills, management or organizational skills, relevant software and/or mechanical abilities and expertise. Include anything that might be important to the particular job.

Your resume may be scanned into a database and searched for keywords relevant to the job you seek. More and more companies are using this technology to quickly evaluate applicants. Examples of keywords include specific tasks or responsibilities, job titles, computer programs, or certifications.

Avoid Common Mistakes

Job seekers would be wise to avoid the mistakes most often committed on resumes. The following are the most common resume mistakes:

  • Typos or grammatical errors
  • Including too much information
  • Not listing achievements in former roles
  • Poor layout and/or design
  • Including too little information

Cover Letter

Many job seekers today are tempted to skip the cover letter. Think twice before doing so. Experienced candidates may find that they don't need a cover letter to sell their skills to prospective employers. But this cover letter can be invaluable for entry-level professionals or individuals who seek a career change. A thoughtfully written letter can distinguish these individuals from the crowd by allowing them to go into greater detail about the unique skills and qualifications that make them the best fit for the role.