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Five Ways to Improve Your Resume

Five Ways to Improve Your Resume
John Cain
Course Coordinator, SPIE, USA


1. Tailor your materials.
One of the most frequent mistakes people make with their resume and cover letter is to create a single version and use it for every job they apply for. With rare exception, each job is going to have a unique set of criteria and qualifications, even when the position is essentially identical from company to company. Take the time to emphasize the areas of your background that match up with the advertised position description.

2. Use a two-page format with a summary.
Most hiring managers don't read your entire resume. Instead, they'll skim through it looking to see if you have the basic criteria the position asks for. If they find that, they'll slow down and read the entire document carefully. This means that if you create a summary of your qualifications as the first section of the resume -- ideally, tailored to the position -- it places this crucial information right where the reviewer is able to easily access it.

3. Go easy on the bullet points.
Just as with PowerPoint presentations, overuse of bullet points destroys their intended purpose, which is to call attention to selected items. Many resume templates, including the basic ones contained within Microsoft Word, use bullet points for practically every item on the page. A much more effective way to use them is to write a descriptive paragraph to describe your job duties, and save the bullet points for your most attractive accomplishments.

4. Research the company and the job.
One way you can help make your resume stand out is to do some research. If you can learn the name and position of the person who will likely read your resume, address it to them. If you have a good idea of what the company's mission statement and recent history are, you can use these to help tailor your materials, especially the cover letter. This will also give you an edge when interview time comes, as you'll be able to demonstrate your knowledge of the company's needs and how your skills can help achieve them.

5. Check it, double-check it, and have someone else check it.
Spelling and grammar errors send the message that you have poor written communication skills and don't pay attention to detail. Don't rely solely on Word's spell- and grammar-checkers. These tools are a good first step, but make sure you also ask at least one person who is a skilled writer to review your resume for errors.


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